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Title: The Letters of S. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan
Author: Ambrose, Saint, Bishop of Milan
Language: English
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                          LIBRARY OF FATHERS
                                OF THE
                         HOLY CATHOLIC CHURCH,



  Illustration: ( ‡ Untitled image.)


                          JAMES PARKER & CO.,
                            AND RIVINGTONS,
                    LONDON, OXFORD, AND CAMBRIDGE.

                             TO THE MEMORY

                                OF THE

                      MOST REVEREND FATHER IN GOD



                        PRIMATE OF ALL ENGLAND,


                             THIS LIBRARY









                       GRATEFULLY AND REVERENTLY





                              S. AMBROSE,

                           BISHOP OF MILAN,


                        WITH NOTES AND INDICES.

                         JAMES PARKER AND CO.,
                            AND RIVINGTONS,
                    LONDON, OXFORD, AND CAMBRIDGE.

                       HOLY ROOD, OXFORD. 1881.


The Translation of S. Ambrose’s Epistles was made in the early days of
the Library of the Fathers by a friend, now with God, before the check
which the Series received through various sorrowful losses. It has now
been revised by an accomplished scholar, the Rev. H. Walford, M.A., one
of the Masters at Hayleybury.

Over-work prevented the writing of some introductory remarks.

                                                            E. B. P.

  _Lent, 1881_.


  ⭘ [Letter of Gratian to AMBROSE.]

      AMBROSE Bishop to the Blessed Emperor and most Christian
      Prince Gratian.

      AMBROSE to Constantius.

      AMBROSE to Felix.

      AMBROSE to Felix, health.

  ⭘ LETTERS V. and VI.
      These Letters to Syagrius appear in the original Latin at the
      end of the Book.

      AMBROSE to Justus, health.

      AMBROSE to Justus.

  ⭘ [The proceedings of the Council of Aquileia against the heretics
      Palladius and Secundianus.]

      The Council which is assembled at Aquileia to our most beloved
      brethren, the Bishops of the Viennese and the first and second
      ♦Narbonese Provinces in Gaul.

      The holy Council which is assembled at Aquileia to the most
      gracious Christian Emperors, and most blessed Princes, Gratian,
      Valentinian, and Theodosius.

      To the most gracious Emperors and Christian Princes, the most
      glorious and most blessed Gratian, Valentinian, and Theodosius,
      the Council which is assembled at Aquileia.

      To the most gracious and Christian Emperors, the glorious and
      most blessed Princes, Gratian, Valentinian, and Theodosius, the
      holy Council which is assembled at Aquileia.

      To the most blessed Emperor and most gracious Prince Theodosius,
      AMBROSE and the other Bishops of Italy.

      To the most blessed Emperor and most gracious Prince Theodosius,
      AMBROSE and the other Bishops of Italy.

      AMBROSE to Anatolius, Numesius, Severus, Philip, Macedonius,
      Ammianus, Theodosius, Eutropius, Clarus, Eusebius, and Timotheus,
      Priests of the Lord, and to all the beloved Clergy and people of
      Thessalonica, health.

      Bishop AMBROSE to his brother Anysius.

      Bishop AMBROSE to the most blessed Prince and Christian Emperor

  ⭘ [The Memorial of Symmachus, prefect of the city.]

      Bishop AMBROSE to the most blessed Prince and gracious Emperor,
      his Majesty Valentinian.

      AMBROSE to Vigilius.

      To Marcellina.

      To the most clement Emperor, his blessed Majesty Valentinian,
      AMBROSE, Bishop, sends greeting.

      Against Auxentius on the giving up the Basilicas.

      To the lady his Sister whom he loves more than his life and
      eyes AMBROSE her brother sends greeting.

      To the lords, his brethren most beloved, the Bishops throughout
      the Province of Æmilia, AMBROSE, Bishop.

      AMBROSE to the Emperor Valentinian.

      AMBROSE to Studius.

      AMBROSE to Irenæus. [Studius?]

      AMBROSE to Irenæus, greeting.

      AMBROSE to Irenæus, greeting.

      AMBROSE to Irenæus, greeting.

      AMBROSE to Irenæus, greeting.

      AMBROSE to Irenæus, greeting.

      AMBROSE to Irenæus, greeting.

      AMBROSE to Irenæus, greeting.

      AMBROSE to Horontianus, greeting.

      AMBROSE to Horontianus.

      AMBROSE to Horontianus.

      AMBROSE to Simplician, greeting.

  ⭘ [Calanus to Alexander.]

      AMBROSE to Simplician, greeting.

      AMBROSE to Faustinus, greeting.

      To the most precious Prince and blessed Emperor his Majesty
      ♦Theodosius, Bishop AMBROSE sends greeting.

      The Brother to his Sister.

  ⭘ [The Letter of Pope Siricius to the Church of Milan.]

      To their lord, their dearly beloved brother, Pope Syricius,
      AMBROSE, Sabinus, Bassianus, and the rest send greeting.

      AMBROSE to Horontianus.

      AMBROSE to Horontianus.

      AMBROSE to Sabinus.

      AMBROSE to Sabinus.

      AMBROSE to Sabinus.

      AMBROSE to Sabinus.

      AMBROSE to Sabinus.

      AMBROSE to Chromatius.

      AMBROSE, Bishop, to his Majesty the Emperor Theodosius.

      AMBROSE to Titianus.

      AMBROSE to the Emperor Theodosius.

      AMBROSE to Eusebius.

      AMBROSE to Eusebius.

      AMBROSE to Theophilus.

  ⭘ [Letter on the case of Bonosus.]

      To the most gracious Emperor Eugenius, AMBROSE, Bishop, sends

      AMBROSE to Sabinus, Bishop.

      AMBROSE to Severus, Bishop.

      AMBROSE to Paternus.

      AMBROSE to the Emperor Theodosius.

      AMBROSE to the Emperor Theodosius.

      AMBROSE, servant of Christ, called to be Bishop, to the Church
      of Vercellæ, and to them who called on the Name of the Lord
      Jesus Christ, grace unto you from God the Father and His
      Only-begotten Son be fulfilled in the Holy Spirit.

      AMBROSE to Irenæus, greeting.

      AMBROSE to Simplicianus, greeting.

      AMBROSE to Romulus.

      AMBROSE to Simplicianus, greeting.

      AMBROSE to Romulus.

      AMBROSE to Irenæus, greeting.

      AMBROSE to Horontianus.

      AMBROSE to Horontianus.

      AMBROSE to Constantius.

      AMBROSE to Irenæus.

      AMBROSE to Irenæus.

      AMBROSE to Clementianus.

      AMBROSE to Irenæus, greeting.

      AMBROSE to Horontianus.

      AMBROSE to Horontianus.

      AMBROSE to Bellicius, greeting.

      AMBROSE to Bellicius, greeting.

      AMBROSE to certain of the Clergy.

      AMBROSE to Marcellus.

      AMBROSE to Sisinnius.

      AMBROSE to Cynegius.

      AMBROSE to Siricius.

      AMBROSE to Siricius.

      AMBROSE to Bishops Sigatinus and Delphinus.

      AMBROSE to ♦Atticus.

      AMBROSE to Alypius.

      AMBROSE to Antonius.

      AMBROSE to his brother Candidianus.

  ⭘ INDEX.


  p. 20. heading for ‘_skekel_’ read ‘_shekel_.’

  p. 152. l. 15. for ‘_Arianism_’ read ‘_Ariminum_.’

  p. 183. l. 8. for ‘_unrestored_’ read ‘_unstained_.’

  p. 217. At the end of § 12 add the following sentence. ‘_A good
      mother of souls in that Jerusalem which is in heaven._’

  ib. l. 18. for ‘_life_’ read ‘_wife_.’

  p. 219. note, for ‘_a_’ read ‘_f_,’ and for ‘_cic._’ read ‘_Cic._’

  p. 258. marg. for ‘_distonxisti_’ read ‘_distinxisti_.’

  p. 285. last ref. for ‘_1 Col._’ read ‘_Col._’

  p. 298. l. 29 after ‘_partly full_,’ add ‘_fulness in the Gospel,
      half-fulness in the Law_,’ and for ‘_thus_’ read ‘_as_.’

  p. 368. l. 10. for ‘_sinless_’ read ‘_senseless_.’

  ib. marg. for ‘_Ezra viii_,’ read ‘_Ezra viii. 2_.’

  pp. 370, 374 are printed 270, 274.

  p. 429. mag. for ‘_S. John i. 86_,’ read ‘_S. John i. 29_.’

                              THE LETTERS
                              S. AMBROSE
                           BISHOP OF MILAN.

                     LETTER OF GRATIAN TO AMBROSE.
                               A.D. 379.

  IT is in answer to this that Letter 1 was written by S. Ambrose.
  It was written by the Emperor Gratian in his 20th year, four
  years after his succession to the Empire in partnership with his
  Uncle Valens and his younger brother Valentinian the 2nd, on the
  death of their father Valentinian the first, 375 A.D. Tillemont
  (Hist. des Emp. vol. v. p. 158.) calls it ‘une lettre toute
  pleine de piété et d’humilité, et d’ailleurs mesme écrite avec
  beaucoup d’esprit et d’elegance.’


1. GREAT is my desire that as I remember you though far away, and in
spirit am present with you, so I may be with you in bodily presence
also. Hasten then, holy Bishop[1] of God; come and teach me, who am
already a sincere believer; not that I am eager for controversy, or
seek to apprehend God in words rather than with my mind, but that the
revelation of His Godhead may sink more deeply into an enlightened

  Sidenote: creaturam.

2. For He will teach me, He Whom I deny not, but confess to be my God
and my Lord, not cavilling at that created nature in Him, which I see
also in myself. That I can add nothing to Christ I acknowledge, but I
am desirous by declaring the Son to commend myself to the Father also;
for in God I can fear no jealousy; nor will I suppose myself such an
eulogist as that I can exalt His divinity by my words. Weak and frail,
I proclaim Him according to my power, not according to His Majesty.

3. I beg you to bestow upon me the Treatise[2] you gave me before,
adding to it an orthodox discussion on the Holy Spirit: prove, I
beseech you, both by Scripture and reason, that He is God. God keep you
for many years, my father, servant of the eternal God, Whom we worship,
even Jesus Christ.

                               LETTER I.
                               A.D. 379.

  IN this letter S. Ambrose replies to the preceding. He
  apologises for not coming at once to Gratian, and, after
  praising his humility and faith, promises to come before long,
  and meanwhile sends him the two books (duos libellos) of the
  Treatise De Fide, which he had before composed at Gratian’s
  request, begging for time to write on the subject of the Holy


1. IT was not lack of affection, most Christian Prince, (for I can
give you no title more true or more illustrious than this,) it was not,
I repeat, lack of affection, but modesty which put a restraint upon
that affection, and hindered my coming to meet your Grace. But if I
did not meet you on your return in person, I did so in spirit, and with
my prayers, wherein the duties of a priest more especially lie. Meet,
did I say? Nay, when was I absent? I who followed you with an entire
affection, who clung to you in thought and heart; and surely it is by
our souls that we are present to one other most intimately. I studied
your route day by day; transported by my solicitude to your camp by
night and day, I shielded it with my watchful prayers, prayers, if not
of prevailing merit, yet of unremitting affection.

2. And in offering these for your safety we benefited ourselves. This
I say without flattery, which you require not, and I deem unbefitting
my office, but with the greatest regard to the favour you have shewn
me. Our Judge Himself, Whom you acknowledge and in Whom you devoutly
believe, knoweth that my heart is refreshed by your faith, your safety,
your glory, and that not only my public duty but my personal affection
leads me to offer these prayers. For you have restored to me quiet in
the Church, you have stopped the mouths (would that you had stopped
the hearts) of the traitors, and this you have done not less by the
authority of your faith than of your power.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xxv. 40.

3. What shall I say of your late letter? the whole is written with your
own hand, so that the very characters tell of your faith and devotion.
Thus Abraham of old, when ministering entertainment to his guests,
slew a calf with his own hand, and had not, in this sacred service, the
assistance of others. But he, a private man, ministered to the Lord and
His Angels, or to the Lord in His Angels, you, the Emperor, honour with
your royal condescension the lowest of Bishops. And yet the Lord is
served when His minister is honoured; for He hath said, _Inasmuch as ye
have done it unto one of the least of these, ye have done it unto Me_.

4. But is it only this lofty humility which I praise in the Emperor,
and not rather that faith, which you have rightly expressed with a mind
conscious of your desert, or which He Whom you deny not hath taught
you? For who but He could have taught you not to cavil at that created
nature in Him which you see in yourself? Nothing could have been said
more pious or more accurate; for to call Christ a creature savours of a
contemptuous cavil, not of a reverent confession. Again, what could be
more unworthy, than to suppose Him to be like as we ourselves are? Thus
you have instructed me, from whom you profess your wish to learn, for I
never read nor heard anything better.

  Sidenote: S. John xiv. 21.

5. Again, how pious, how admirable that expression, that you fear
no jealousy in God! From the Father you anticipate a recompense for
your love of the Son, yet you acknowledge that your praise of the Son
can add nothing to Him, only you wish by praising the Son to commend
yourself to the Father also. This He alone hath taught you, Who hath
said, _He that loveth Me, shall be loved of My Father_.

6. You go on to say that you, weak and frail as you are, do not suppose
yourself such an eulogist as that you can exalt His divinity by your
words, but that you preach Him according to your power, not according
to His Majesty. This weakness is mighty in Christ, as the Apostle
has said, _When I am weak, then I am strong_. This humility excludes

7. Certainly I will come, and that speedily, as you command, that I may
be present with you and hear and read these things, as they are newly
spoken by you. But I have sent two small volumes, for which, approved
as they have been by your grace, I shall have no fears; I must plead
for time to write on the Spirit, knowing as I do what a judge I shall
have of my treatise.

8. Meanwhile however your sentiments and belief concerning our Lord
and Saviour, transferred from the Son, form an abundant assertion to
express our faith in the everlasting Godhead of the Holy Spirit, in
that you cavil not at that created nature in Him which you find in
yourself, and suppose not that God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
can be jealous of His own Spirit. For that which is separated from
communion with the creature is divine.

9. If the Lord will, I will in this also comply with your Majesty’s
wishes; that as you have received the grace of the Holy Spirit, so also
you may know that He, holding so high a place in the Divine glory, has
in His own Name a right to our veneration.

10. May Almighty God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, vouchsafe, my
Lord the Emperor, chosen by Divine providence, most glorious Sovereign,
may He vouchsafe to keep your majesty in all happiness and prosperity
to an advanced age, and establish your kingdom in perfect glory and in
perpetual peace.

                              LETTER II.
                               A.D. 379.

  WE gather from the letter itself that Constantius, to whom it
  is addressed was a newly appointed Bishop, but of what see does
  not appear. In § 27 S. Ambrose commends to his care the see of
  Forum Cornelii, which was vacant at the time, as being in his
  neighbourhood. The grounds on which the Benedictine Editors
  fix the date seem rather vague. Its interest however is not
  historical: it is simply hortatory, urging on Constantius
  the fulfilment of the duties of his new office, and setting
  before him the chief subjects to which his preaching should
  be addressed. From S. Ambrose calling him ‘my son’ (§ 27) it
  would seem that he was either one of his own clergy, or had been
  in some way under his guidance. It is interesting as shewing
  how a great Bishop of that age dwelt upon the relations of the
  Episcopate, not merely to the Clergy under him as their superior,
  but to the laity of his diocese as their chief teacher.

                        AMBROSE TO CONSTANTIUS.

  Sidenote: Ps. xxiv. 2.

1. YOU have undertaken the office of a Bishop, and now, seated in the
stern of the Church, you are steering it in the teeth of the waves.
Hold fast the rudder of faith, that you may not be shaken by the heavy
storms of this world. The sea indeed is vast and deep, but fear not,
_for He hath founded it upon the seas, and prepared it upon the floods_.
Rightly then the Church of the Lord, amid all the seas of the world,
stands immoveable, built as it were, upon the Apostolic rock; and her
foundation remains unshaken by all the force of the raging surge. The
waves lash but do not shake it; and although this world’s elements
often break against it with a mighty sound, still it offers a secure
harbour of safety to receive the distressed.

  Sidenote: Ps. xciii. 4.

  Sidenote: S. John vii. 38.

  Sidenote: Isa. lxvi. 12.

  Sidenote: Ps. xlvi. 4.

2. Yet although it is tossed on the sea, it rides upon the floods; and
perhaps chiefly on those floods of which it is said, _The floods have
lift up their voice_. For there are _rivers_, which _shall flow out of
his belly_, who has received to drink from Christ, and partaken of the
Spirit of God. These rivers then, when they overflow with spiritual
grace, lift up their voice. There is a river too, which runs down upon
His saints like a torrent. And there are _the rivers of the flood_,
which _make glad_ the peaceful and tranquil soul. He that receives,
as did John the Evangelist, as did Peter and Paul, the fulness of this
stream, lifts up his voice; and like as the Apostles loudly heralded
forth to the farthest limits of the globe the Evangelic message, so
he also begins to preach the Lord Jesus. Receive to drink therefore
of Christ, that your sound may also go forth.

  Sidenote: Prov. xvi. 24.

3. The Divine Scripture is a sea, containing in it deep meanings,
and an abyss of prophetic mysteries; and into this sea enter many
rivers. There are sweet and transparent streams, cool[3] fountains too
there are, _springing up into life eternal_, and _pleasant words as an
honey-comb_. Agreeable sentences too there are, refreshing the minds
of the hearers, if I may say so, with spiritual drink, and soothing
them with the sweetness of their moral precepts. Various then are the
streams of the sacred Scriptures. There is in them a first draught for
you, a second, and a last.

  Sidenote: Ps. cxlviii. 5.

  Sidenote: Eccles. xi. 3.

  Sidenote: Ib.

4. Gather the water of Christ, that which _praises the Lord_. Gather
from many sources that water which the prophetic _clouds pour forth_.
He that gathers water from the hills and draws it to himself from the
fountains, he also drops down dew like the clouds. Fill then the bosom
of your mind, that your ground may be moistened and watered by domestic
springs. He who needs and apprehends much is filled, he who hath been
filled waters others, and therefore Scripture saith, _If the clouds be
full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth_.

  Sidenote: Ib. xii. 11.

  Sidenote: Acts ix. 5.

5. Let your discourses then be flowing, let them be clear and lucid;
pour the sweetness of your moral arguments into the ears of the people,
and sooth them with the charm of your words, that so they may willingly
follow your guidance. But if there be any contumacy or transgression
in the people or individuals, let your sermons be of such a character
as shall move your audience, and prick the evil conscience, for _the
words of the wise are as goads_. The Lord Jesus too pricked Saul, when
he was a persecutor. And think how salutary the goad was which from a
persecutor made him an Apostle, by simply saying, _It is hard for thee
to kick against the pricks_.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. iii. 2.

6. There are discourses too like milk, such as Paul fed the Corinthians
with; for they who cannot digest stronger food, must have their infant
minds nourished with the juice of milk.

  Sidenote: Prov. xv. 7.

7. Let your addresses be full of understanding. As Solomon says,
_The[4] lips of the wise are the weapons of the understanding_, and
in another place, _Let your lips be bound up with sense_, that is, let
your discourses be clear and bright, let them flash with intelligence
like lightning: let not your address or arguments stand in need of
enforcement from without, but let your discourse defend itself, so to
speak, with its own weapons, and let no vain or unmeaning word issue
out of your mouth. For there is a bandage to bind up the wounds of
the soul, and if any one cast it aside, he shews that his recovery
is desperate. Wherefore to those who are afflicted with a grievous
ulcer administer the oil of your discourse to soften the hardness
of their heart, apply an emollient, bind on the ligature of salutary
precepts; beware lest by any means you suffer men who are unstable and
vacillating in faith or in the observance of discipline, to perish with
minds unbraced and vigour relaxed.

  Sidenote: Eph. v. 3.

  Sidenote: 1 Thess. iv. 4.

  Sidenote: Gen. iii. 18.

  Sidenote: Ps. lxxxv. 13.

8. Wherefore admonish and entreat the people of God that they abound in
good works, that they renounce iniquity, that they kindle not the fires
of lust, (I say not on the Sabbath only, but never,) lest they set on
fire their own bodies; that there be no fornication or uncleanness in
the servants of God, for we serve the immaculate Son of God. Let every
man know himself, and possess his own vessel, that, having, so to say,
broken up the fallow ground of his body, he may expect fruit in due
season, and it may not _bring forth thorns and thistles_, but he too
may say, _Our land hath given her increase_; and on this once wild
thicket of the passions a graft of virtue may flourish.

9. Teach moreover and train the people to do what is good and that
no one fail to perform works which shall be approved, whether he be
seen of many, or be without witness, for the conscience is a witness
abundantly sufficient unto itself.

  Sidenote: Gen. iv. 10.

10. And let them avoid shameful deeds, even though they believe they
cannot be detected. For though a man be shut up within walls, and
covered with darkness, without witness and without accomplice, still
he has a Judge of his acts, Whom nothing ever deceives, and to Whom all
things cry aloud. To Him the voice of _blood cried from the ground_.
Every man has in himself and his own conscience a strict judge, an
avenger of his wickedness and of his crimes. Cain wandered about in
fear and trembling, suffering the punishment of his unnatural deed; so
that death was to him a refuge, relieving the wandering outcast from
that terror of death which he felt at every moment. Let no man then
either alone or in company commit any shameful or wicked act. Though
he be alone, let him be abashed before himself more than before others,
for to himself is his greatest reverence due.

  Sidenote: Hab. ii. 9–12.

  Sidenote: Ps. cxxii. 3.

  Sidenote: Prov. xv. 16.

  Sidenote: Isa. xliii. 2.

  Sidenote: Prov. vi. 27.

  Sidenote: Ib. xxii. 1.

11. Nor let him covet many things, for even few things are to him as
many; for poverty and wealth are words implying want and sufficiency.
He is not rich who needs any thing, nor he poor who needs not. And
let no man despise a widow, circumvent a ward, defraud his neighbour.
_Woe unto him, whose substance has been collected by guile_, and _who
buildeth a town_, that is his own soul, _with blood_. For this it
is, which _is built as a city_; and this city avarice builds not but
destroys, lust builds not but sets on fire and consumes. Wouldest thou
build this city well? _Better is little with the fear of the Lord, than
great treasure without that fear._ A man’s riches ought to avail to the
ransom of his soul, not to its destruction. And a treasure is a ransom,
if a man use it well; on the other hand it is a snare, if a man know
not how to use it. What is a man’s money to him but a provision for
his journey? Much is a burthen, a little is useful. We are wayfarers
in this life; many walk, but it is needful that we walk aright, for
then is the Lord Jesus with us, as we read, _When thou passest through
the waters I will be with thee, and through the rivers, they shall not
overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire thou shalt not be
burned_. But if a man take fire in his bosom, the fire of lust, the
fire of immoderate desire he _walketh not through_, but burns this
clothing of his soul. _A good name is rather to be chosen than great
riches, and loving favour than silver and gold!_ Faith is sufficient
for itself, and in its own possession is rich enough. And to the
wise man nothing is foreign, but what is contrary to virtue; wherever
he goes, he finds all things to be his own. All the world is his
possession, for he uses it all if it were his own.

  Sidenote: Prov. vi. 26. (not quoted ad verbum).

  Sidenote: S. Luke xv. 17.

  Sidenote: v. 19.

12. Why then is our brother circumvented, why is our hired servant
defrauded? Little it is said, is gained by the wages of an harlot, that
is to say, of frailty so delusive. This harlot is not an individual,
but something general; not one woman, but every idle lust. All perfidy,
all deceit is this harlot; not she alone who offers her body to
defilement; but every soul that barters away its hope, and seeks a
dishonourable profit, and an unworthy reward. And we are hired servants,
in that we labour for hire, and look for the reward of this our work
from our Lord and God. If any one would know how we are hired servants,
let him listen to the words, _How many hired servants of my father
have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger_, and again,
_Make me as one of thy hired servants_. All are hired servants, all
are labourers; and let him, who looks for the reward of his labour,
remember that if he defraud another of the wages due to him, he also
will be defrauded of his own. Such conduct offends Him Who has lent
to us, and He will repay it hereafter in more abundant measure. He
therefore who could not lose what is eternal, let him not deprive
others of what is temporal.

  Sidenote: Prov. vi. 2.

  Sidenote: Ib. xxii. 14 Sept.

  Sidenote: Ib. xiv. 15.

  Sidenote: Prov. xi. 1.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xvi. 26.

13. And let no one speak deceitfully with his neighbour. _There is a
snare in our mouths_, and not seldom is it that _a man is entangled_
rather than cleared _by his words_. _The mouth of the evil-minded is a
deep pit_: great is the fall of innocence, but greater that of iniquity.
The simple, by giving too easy credit, quickly falls, but when fallen
he rises again; but the evil-speaker is so cast down by his own acts
that he never can recover himself and escape. Therefore let every man
weigh his words, not with deceit and guile, for _a false balance is
abomination to the Lord_. I do not mean that balance which weighs
the wares of others, (though even in lesser matters deceit often
costs dear,) but that balance of words is hateful to the Lord, which
wears the mask of the weight of sober gravity, and yet practises
the artifices of cunning. Great is God’s anger, if a man deceive his
neighbour by flattering promises, and by treacherous subtlety oppress
his debtor, a craft which will not benefit himself. For what is a
man profited, if he shall gain the riches of the whole world, and yet
defraud his own soul of the wages of eternal life?

  Sidenote: 1 Tim. v. 24.

14. There is another balance which pious minds ought to consider,
wherein the actions of individuals are weighed, and wherein for the
most part sin inclines the scale towards judgement, or outweighs good
deeds with crimes. Woe unto me, if my offences _go before_, and with
a fatal weight incline to the judgement of death! More terrible will
it be if they _follow after_, though they all be manifest to God, even
before judgement; neither can things good be secret, nor things full
of scandal be concealed.

  Sidenote: Ib. vi. 10.

15. How blessed is he who can extirpate avarice, the root of all evil!
he truly need not fear this balance. For avarice is wont to deaden
man’s senses, and pervert his judgement, so that he counts godliness
a source of gain, and money the reward of prudence. But great is the
reward of piety, and the gain of sobriety to have enough for use. For
what do superfluous riches profit in this world, when you find in them
neither a succour in birth nor a defence against death? For without a
covering are we born into the world, without provision we depart hence,
and in the grave we have no inheritance.

  Sidenote: Zech. v. 7.

16. The deserts of each one of us are suspended in the balance, which a
little weight either of good works or of degenerate conduct sways this
way or that; if the evil preponderate, woe is me! if the good, pardon
is at hand. For no man is free from sin; but where good preponderates,
the evil flies up, is overshadowed, and covered. Wherefore in the Day
of judgement our works will either succour us, or will sink us into
the deep, weighed down as with a millstone. For iniquity is heavy,
supported as by a _talent of lead_; avarice is intolerable, and all
pride is foul dishonesty. Wherefore exhort the people of God to trust
rather in the Lord, to abound in the riches of simplicity, wherein they
may walk without snare and without hindrance.

17. For the sincerity of a pure speech is good, and rich in the sight
of God, although it walk among snares; yet, because it is innocent of
laying wait or enthralling others, it escapes itself.

  Sidenote: Ecclus. xix. 23, 24. Vulg.

  Sidenote: Rom. v. 19.

18. A great thing too it is if you can persuade them to know how to be
abased, to know the true garb and nature of humility. Many possess the
shew of humility, but not its power; many possess it abroad, but oppose
it at home; colourably they pretend it, but in truth they renounce
it, in regard of grace they deny it. For _there is one that humbleth
himself wickedly and his inward parts are full of deceit. And there is
one that submitteth himself exceedingly with a great lowliness._ There
is no true humility then but such as is without colour and pretence.
Such humility is that which hath a pious sincerity of mind. Great is
its virtue. Finally _by one man’s disobedience death entered_, and by
the obedience of our Lord Jesus Christ came the redemption of all.

  Sidenote: Ps. cv. 18.

19. Holy Joseph knew how to be abased, who, when he was sold into
bondage by his brethren, and purchased by merchants, _whose feet_ as
the Scripture saith, ‘_they hurt in the stocks_,’ learned the virtue
of humility and laid aside all weakness. For when he was bought by
the royal servant, officer of the household, the memory of his noble
descent as one of the seed of Abraham did not cause him to disdain
servile offices or scorn his mean condition. On the contrary he was
diligent and faithful in his master’s service, knowing in his prudence
that it matters not in what station a man renders himself approved, but
that the object of good men is to merit approbation in whatever station
they are placed; and the point of importance is that their character
should dignify their station rather than their station their character.
In proportion as the station is low the merit becomes illustrious. And
such attention did Joseph exhibit that his lord entrusted to him his
whole house, and committed to him all that he had.

20. And so his wife cast her eyes upon Joseph, captivated by the beauty
of his form. Now we are not in fault, if either our age or our beauty
becomes an object of desire to wanton eyes; let it be artless, and no
blame attaches to beauty; if enticement be away, seemliness and grace
of form is innocent. But this woman, fired with love, addresses the
youth, and at the instigation of lust, overpowered by the force of
passion confesses her crime. But he rejects the crime, saying that to
defile another man’s bed was consonant neither with the customs nor
the laws of the Hebrews, whose care it was to protect modesty, and
to provide chaste spouses for chaste virgins, avoiding all unlawful
intercourse, And that it were an impious deed for him, intoxicated by
impure passion, and regardless of his master’s kindness, to inflict a
deadly injury on one to whom he owed obedience.

21. Nor did he disdain to call the despised Egyptian his master, and
to confess himself his servant. And when the woman courted him, urging
him by the fear of betrayal, or shedding passionate tears to force his
compliance, neither was he moved by compassion to consent to iniquity,
nor constrained by fear, but he resisted her entreaties and yielded not
to her threats, preferring a perilous virtue to rewards, and chastity
to a disgraceful recompense. Again she assailed him with greater
temptations, yet she found him inflexible, yea for the second time
immoveable; yet her furious and shameless passion gave her strength,
and she caught the youth by his robe and drew him to her couch,
offering to embrace him, nay, she would have done so, had not Joseph
put off his robe; he put it off, that he might not put off the robe of
humility, the covering of modesty.

  Sidenote: Eph. v. 14.

22. He then knew how to be abased, for he was degraded even to the
dungeon; and thus unjustly treated, he chose rather to bear a false
accusation than to bring the true one. He knew how to be abased, I say,
for he was abased for virtue’s sake. He was abased as a type of Him
Who was to abase Himself even to death, the death of the cross, Who was
to come to raise our life from sleep, and to teach that our human life
is but a dream: its vicissitudes reel past us as it were, with nothing
in them firm or stable, but like men in a trance seeing we see not,
hearing we hear not, eating we are not filled, congratulating we joy
not, running we attain not. Vain are men’s hopes in this world, idly
pursuing the things that are not as though they were; and so, as in a
dream, the empty forms of things come and go, appear and vanish; they
hover around us, and we seem to grasp yet grasp them not. But when a
man has heard Him that saith _Awake, thou that sleepest_, and rises up
from the sleep of this world, then he perceives that all these things
are false; he is now awake, and the dream is fled, and with it is fled
ambition, and the care of wealth, and beauty of form, and the pursuit
of honours. For these things are dreams which affect not those whose
hearts wake, but affect only them that slumber.

23. And holy Joseph certifies this my assertion, that the things of
this world are not perpetual or lasting, for he, noble by birth and
with a rich inheritance, suddenly becomes a despised servant, and (what
enhances the bitterness of servitude) a slave bought for a price by an
unworthy master. For to serve the free is esteemed less disgraceful,
but to be the servant of servants is a double slavery. Thus from
being nobly born he became a slave, from having a wealthy father he
became poor, from love he fell into hate, from favour into punishment.
Again, he is raised from the prison to the court, from the bar to the
judgement-seat. But he is neither depressed by adversity nor elated by

  Sidenote: Ps. cxix. 71.

24. The frequently changing condition of holy David also testifies how
fleeting are the vicissitudes of life. He, overlooked by his father,
but precious in the sight of God, exalted by his success, thrust down
by envy, summoned to the service of the king and chosen to be his
son-in-law, then again disguised in face and appearance, banished from
the kingdom, flying from death at his own son’s hands, weeping for
his own offences, atoning for those of others, nobler in winning back
the affection of the heir to his throne, than if he had disgraced him.
Having thus tried every condition he says well, _It is good for me that
I have been humbled_.

  Sidenote: Phil. ii. 6, 7.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. xv. 28.

  Sidenote: Ib. xi. 1.

25. This sentence however might well also be referred to Him Who
_being in the form of God_, and able to bow the heavens, yet came down,
and _taking upon Him the form of a servant_, bore our infirmities.
He, foreseeing that His saints would not think it a prize to claim
the honour that belonged to them, but would give place to their equals
and prefer others to themselves, said, _It is good for me that I have
been humbled_; it is good for me that I have subjected myself, that all
things _may be subject unto me, and God may be all in all_. Instil this
humility into the minds of all, and shew yourself an example to all
saying, _Be ye followers of me, even as I am also of Christ_.

  Sidenote: Phil. iii. 8.

  Sidenote: S. Luke ix. 23.

26. Let them learn to seek the wealth of good wishes, and to be rich
in holiness; the beauty of wealth consists not in the possession of
money-bags, but in the maintenance of the poor. It is in the sick and
needy that riches shine most. Wherefore let the wealthy learn to seek
not their own things, but the things of Jesus Christ, that Christ also
may seek them, and recompense to them what is their own. He spent for
them His blood, He pours forth on them His Spirit, He offers to them
His kingdom. What more shall He give, Who gave Himself, or what shall
not the Father give, Who delivered up His Only Son to die for our
sakes? Admonish them therefore to serve the Lord soberly and with grace,
to lift their eyes with all diligence to heaven, to count nothing gain
but what appertains to eternal life; for all this worldly gain is the
loss of souls. He who desired _to win Christ, suffered the loss of all
things_, which saying, marvellous as it is, falls short of what he had
received, for he speaks of external things only, whereas Christ hath
said, _If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself_; let him
lose himself so that Christ be gained. Fleeting are all things here,
they bring loss and not gain; that only is gain, where enjoyment is
perpetual, where eternal rest is our reward.

27. I commend to your care, my son, the Church which is at Forum
Cornelii[5]; Being nigh thereunto, visit it frequently until a Bishop
for it be ordained; I myself, engaged with the approaching season of
Lent, cannot go to such a distance.

28. There you will find certain Illyrians imbued with the false
doctrines of Arius; take heed of their tares, let them not come near
the faithful, nor scatter their spurious seed. Let them remember what
their perfidy has brought upon them[6], let them be quiet and follow
the true faith. Difficult indeed it is for minds imbued with the poison
of unbelief to rid themselves of this impiety, for it cleaves to them;
and if the fatal venom has grown inveterate in them, you must not
readily give them credence. For the very sinews and strength of wisdom
lie in not giving credence too readily, especially in the matter of
faith, which in men is seldom perfect.

29. Yet if any one, whose frailty is suspected and inclination dubious,
desire nevertheless to clear himself of suspicion; suffer him to
believe that he has made satisfaction, show him some indulgence, for
if a man be cut off from reconciliation his mind is estranged. Thus
skilful physicians, when they observe what they deem to be well-known
diseases, do not apply a remedy, but wait their time, attending upon
the sick man, and administering to him such soothing appliance as
they can, to the intent that the disease may neither be aggravated by
neglect or despair, nor may reject the medicine applied too early, for
if an inexperienced physician touch it prematurely, it will never come
to a head, just as even an apple, if shaken from the tree while yet
unripe, soon withers.

  Sidenote: Deut. xix. 14.

30. Enjoin them too (as I have borrowed a figure from agriculture)
to preserve inviolate the laws of common boundary, and to guard those
paternal landmarks which the law protects. The affection of a neighbour
often exceeds the love of a brother, for the one is often afar off,
the other nigh at hand; the witness of your whole life, and judge of
your conduct. Allow his cattle to stray at large over the neighbouring
bounds, and to rest securely on the green herbage.

31. Let the master too temper with moderation his lawful rule over his
servants, seeing that in soul they are brethren. For he is called the
father of the family, that he may govern them as sons; for he himself
also is God’s servant, and calls the Lord of heaven, the Source of all
power, his Father.

Farewell; continue to love me, as I do you.

                              LETTER III.
                               A.D. 380.

  THIS graceful little letter, written in a tone of playful
  affectionateness, is addressed to Felix, who was, as the next
  letter shews, Bishop of Comum. It tells its own story.

                           AMBROSE TO FELIX.

1. I HAVE received your present of mushrooms; they were of an
extraordinary size, so large as to excite admiration. I did not like
to keep them hidden, as the saying is, in my bosom, but preferred
shewing them to others also. Therefore I gave part to my friends, part
I reserved for myself.

2. An agreeable present, but not of weight enough to repress
my just complaint against you for never visiting one who has so
long loved you. And take heed lest you hereafter have to bear yet
heavier fungus-growths[7] of sorrow; for such things have a double
signification; sent as gifts they are agreeable, in the body or the
mind they are irksome. Prevail with yourself to cause me less sorrow
by your absence, for my longing for you is the cause of my distress:
make yourself, if you can, less necessary to me.

3. I have made my statement, proved my case. I am forced to assail
you with that expression; no ordinary weapon, but one which will hit
home[8]. You certainly shewed alarm; but see now that I am not so much
grieved but that I can be playful about it. Hereafter however you must
not excuse yourself, though your present excuse is to be a profitable
one to me. Yet it were an ill judgment of you, and of me no better, to
suppose that your absence is to be compensated by presents, or that I
am to be bought off by them. Farewell: love me, as I do you.

                              LETTER IV.
                               A.D. 380.

  FELIX having replied to the preceding letter, S. Ambrose
  responds in the same affectionate style, rejoicing in the
  prospect of their meeting, asking meanwhile the prayers of Felix,
  and promising his own. He ends by praising Felix for ‘fighting
  the good fight of faith,’ and assures him of help and blessing.

                       AMBROSE TO FELIX, HEALTH.

1. ALTHOUGH not in a good state of bodily health, I derived no little
alleviation from the perusal of words from a heart so congenial to my
own, being refreshed by your discourse as by some soothing potion[9];
and also by your announcement that the day memorable for us both
was at hand, that whereon you took on yourself the office of the
high-priesthood of which I was just then speaking with my brother
Bassianus[10]. For having begun to speak of the dedication of the
Church which he had built in the name of the Apostles, we were led to
the subject, for he said that he earnestly desired the company of your

2. Wherefore I introduced the mention of your birthday[11], as being on
the first of November, and that it was (if I mistook not) close at hand,
and to be celebrated on the following day, so that after that it would
yield you no excuse. So I made a promise on your behalf; for you too
have liberty to do the same as regards me; I made a promise to him, and
exacted one for myself: for I feel assured you will be present, because
you ought to be. It will not therefore be so much my promise that will
bind you, as your own purpose, having resolved to do that which you
ought. You see then it was rather my knowledge of you, than any rash
confidence which induced me to give this pledge to my brother. Come
then, lest you put two bishops to shame; yourself for not coming, me
for having promised unadvisedly.

3. But we will remember your birthday in our prayers, and do you not
forget us in yours. Our spirit shall accompany you; do you also, when
you enter the second Tabernacle, which is called the Holy of Holies,
do as we do, and carry us also in with you.

When in spirit you burn incense on the golden censer, forget us not;
for it is the one which is in the second Tabernacle, and from which
your prayer, full of wisdom, is directed to heaven as incense.

  Sidenote: Heb. ix. 4.

  Sidenote: Col. i. 15.

  Sidenote: Exod. xxv. 22.

  Sidenote: Ps. lxxviii. 2.

4. There is the _Ark of the Covenant overlaid round about with gold_;
that is, the doctrine of Christ, the doctrine of the Wisdom of God.
There is _the golden pot that had manna_, the depository, namely, of
spiritual nutriment, and the store-place of divine knowledge. There
is _the rod of Aaron_, the symbol of priestly grace. Before, it had
withered, but it _budded_ again in Christ. There are _the Cherubim_
over the tables of the Covenant, that is, the knowledge of the sacred
Lessons. There is the _Mercy-seat_, over which on high is God the Word,
_the Image of the invisible God_, Who says to thee, _I will commune
with thee from above the Mercy-seat, between the two Cherubim_, for He
speaks thus with us, that we may understand His saying, or because He
speaks things not earthly but spiritual, as He saith, _I will open My
mouth in a parable_. For where Christ is, there are all things, there
is His doctrine, there the remission of sins, there grace, there the
separation of the living and the dead.

  Sidenote: Numb. xvi. 48.

5. Aaron indeed once stood in the midst, interposing himself to prevent
death passing over to the hosts of the living from the carcases of the
dead. But He, as the Word, ever stands within each of us, although we
see Him not, and separates the faculties of our reason from the carcase
of our deadly passions and pestilential thoughts. He standeth as He Who
came into the world to blunt the sting of death, to stop its devouring
jaws, to give to the living an eternity of grace, to the dead a

  Sidenote: Deut. xv. 8.

6. In His service you are warring a good warfare, His deposit you keep,
His money you lend out at interest, as it is written, _Thou shalt lend
unto many nations_; the good interest of spiritual grace, which the
Lord when He comes will exact with usury; and when He finds that you
have dispensed it well, He will give you for few things, many things.
Then shall I reap most delightful fruit, in that my judgment of you
is approved; the ordination which you received by the imposition of
my hands and the benediction in the Name of the Lord Jesus will not be
blamed. Work therefore a good work, that in that day you may receive
a reward, and we may rest together, I in you and you in me.

  Sidenote: S. Luke x. 2.

7. _Plenteous is the harvest_ of Christ, _but the labourers few_, and
helpers are difficult to be found. So it was of old, but the Lord is
powerful, Who will _send labourers into His harvest_. Without doubt
among the ranks of the people of Comum[12] very many have already begun
to believe by your ministry, and through your teaching have received
the word of God. But He Who gave those who believe will also give
them that will help: whereby all occasion will be removed for excusing
yourself for your postponed visit, and thus also the grace of your
presence will be more frequently shed around me.

Farewell: continue to love us, as you do.

                               LETTER V.

                         AMBROSE TO SYAGRIUS.

                              LETTER VI.

                         AMBROSE TO SYAGRIUS.

[To complete the character of S. Ambrose as shewn in his Letters, these
will be printed at the end of the volume, but, on account of their
subject, in the original Latin.]

                              LETTER VII.
                               381 A.D.

  THE Justus to whom this letter and the following are addressed
  is in all probability S. Justus Bishop of Lyons, who is
  mentioned below as one of the Bishops who took part in the
  Council of Aquileia: that he was a Bishop is implied by
  S. Ambrose addressing him as ‘brother.’ The letter contains
  a mystical interpretation of the half-shekel of redemption,
  (Exodus xxx. 12. sqq.) and of the didrachma and stater of our
  Lord’s miracle of the piece of money in the fish’s mouth, and
  of the penny of the tribute money. The date given in the margin
  depends on the truth of the hypothesis that Justus is the Bishop
  of Lyons. Of him it is recorded that he did not return to his
  See after the Council of Aquileia, but became a monk in the
  deserts of Egypt. See Newman’s Fleury vol. 1, p. 25.

                      AMBROSE TO JUSTUS, HEALTH.

♦1. YOUR question, my brother, as to the meaning of that shekel, half
of which the Hebrew is commanded to offer for the redemption of the
soul, is an excellent admonition to us to direct our intercourse by
letter and our converse while at a distance to the interpretation
of the heavenly oracles. For what can more unite us than to converse
concerning the things of God?

  Sidenote: S. Luke xv. 8, 9.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. vi. 22.

2. Now the half of the shekel is a _piece of silver_, and the
redemption of the soul is faith; faith therefore is that _piece of
silver_ which the _woman_ in the Gospel, as we read, having _lost,
diligently seeks for, lighting a candle and sweeping the house; and
when she finds it, she calls together her friends and neighbours_,
bidding them _rejoice with her for that she has found the piece of
silver which she had lost_. For great is the loss of the soul, if a man
lose his faith, or that grace which by means of faith he had obtained
to himself. Do thou therefore _light thy candle. Thy light is thine
eye_; that is, the inward eye of the mind. Do thou light this candle,
which is fed by spiritual oil, and _gives light to thy whole house_.
Seek that _piece of silver_, the redemption of thy soul, which he that
loses is troubled, he that finds rejoices.

  Sidenote: Prov. xiii. 8.

  Sidenote: Exod. xxx. 12–15.

3. Mercy too is the redemption of the soul; for the redemption of
a man’s soul are his riches, by which he shews mercy, and expending
them, relieves the poor. Wherefore faith, grace, and mercy, are the
redemption of the soul, which is purchased by a piece of silver, that
is, by the full price of a larger sum. For thus it is written in the
words of the Lord to Moses: _When thou takest the sum of the children
of Israel after their number, then shall they give every man a ransom
for his soul unto the Lord, when thou numberest them; that there be no
plague among them when thou numberest them. This they shall give, every
one that passeth among them that are numbered, half a shekel after the
shekel of the sanctuary: (a shekel is twenty gerahs:) an half shekel
shall be the offering of the Lord. Every one that passeth among them
that are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an
offering unto the Lord. The rich shall not give more, and the poor
shall not give less than half a shekel, when they give an offering
unto the Lord to make an atonement for your souls. And thou shalt take
the atonement money of the children of Israel and thou shalt appoint
it for the service of the Tabernacle of the congregation, that it may
be a memorial unto the children of Israel before the Lord, to make an
atonement for your souls._

4. Did then both the rich man who offered more, and the poor who had
less, fail so much, if this half shekel consisted in money and had not
hidden excellencies? Whence we are to understand that this half shekel
is not material but spiritual, having to be paid by all and rated

  Sidenote: Ib. xvi. 17, 18.

5. Again as to heavenly food (for the food and delight of heavenly
nutriment is wisdom, whereon they feed in Paradise, the unfailing food
of the soul, called in the Divine Word manna) the distribution of this
was, we read, so made to each soul as to be equally divided. For they
who gathered most and they who gathered least, all gathered according
to the direction of Moses; and they made an omer the measure, and
it did not exceed to him who gathered much nor fall short to him who
gathered little. For each man, according to the number of souls who
were with him in the tent, gathered for each an omer, that is, being
interpreted, a measure of wine.

  Sidenote: Eccles. vii. 16.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. xii. 7–9.

6. Now this is the measure of wisdom, which if it be above measure is
hurtful, as it is written, _Make not thyself over-wise_. And Paul has
taught that the division of grace is according to measure, saying, _The
manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal,
to one is given the word of wisdom, to another the word of knowledge_,
[to another the faith of wisdom by the spirit of knowledge][13] _by the
same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit_, and that this grace
is given according to the will of the Spirit. In that He divides, He
shews His equity, in that He divides as He will, His power. Or He may
will to bestow that upon each which He knows will be profitable.

  Sidenote: Ps. civ. 15.

  Sidenote: Prov. ix. 2.

7. An omer then is a measure, and a measure of wine, _which maketh glad
the heart of man_. For what is the joy of the heart but the draughts
of wisdom? This is that _wine_ which _Wisdom_ hath _mingled_ in a cup,
and given us to drink, that we may receive to ourselves temperance and
prudence, that wine which should be so equally transfused through all
the senses and thoughts and all the emotions which are within this our
house, that we may know how to abound to all and to be wanting to none.

8. More fully also it may be understood of the Blood of Christ, to
Whose grace nothing can be added nor taken away. Whether you take
little or drink much, to all the measure of Redemption is perfect.

  Sidenote: Exod. xii. 4.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. x. 30.

9. The Passover too of the Lord, that is, the lamb, the fathers are
ordered so to eat, that it might be according to the number of their
souls, neither more nor less; that more should not be given to some,
and less to others, but that it should be according to the number of
their souls, lest the stronger should take more and the weaker less.
For the grace, the gift, the redemption is distributed equally to all.
And there ought not to be too many, lest any go away defrauded of his
hope and redemption. Now there are too many, when any are beyond the
number, for the saints are all _numbered, and the hairs of their heads_;
for _the Lord knoweth them that are His_. Neither can there be too few,
lest any be too weak to receive the greatness of the grace.

  Sidenote: 2 Cor. vi. 16.

10. Wherefore He hath commanded all to bring an equal faith and
devotion to the Pasch of the Lord, that is, to the Passover. For it
is the Pasch, when the mind lays down its senseless passion, and puts
on good compassion, that it may suffer together with Christ, and take
His Passover into itself, so as that He may _dwell in_ it, _and walk
in_ it, _and may_ become _its God_. Thus grace is equal in all, but
virtue is diverse in each. Let each then take that portion which fits
his strength, that neither the stronger may lack nor the weaker be

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xx. 10.

  Sidenote: 2 Tim. iv. 8.

11. This you have in the Gospel; for the same wages are paid to all the
labourers in the vineyard; but few attain to the prize, to the reward;
few say, _There is laid up for me a crown of righteousness_. For the
gift of bounty and of grace is one thing; another the wages of virtue,
the recompense of labour.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xvii. 27.

  Sidenote: S. John i. 29.

  Sidenote: Phil. ii. 7.

12. Therefore a shekel is our ransom, nay half a shekel. He has
redeemed us from death, redeemed from slavery, that we may not be
subject to the world, which we have renounced. Whence in the Gospel our
Lord bids Peter _go to the sea, and cast an hook_, and _take the stater
which he will find in the fish’s mouth_, and _give it to them_ who
required of the Lord and of himself a shekel. This then is that shekel
which was exacted by the Law, nevertheless it was not due from the
King’s Son, but from strangers. For why should Christ ransom Himself
from this world, when He came _to take away the sin of the world_? Why
should He redeem Himself from sin, Who came down that He might remit
to all their sins? Why should He redeem Himself from servitude, Who
_emptied Himself_ that He might give liberty to all? Why should He
redeem Himself from death, Who took flesh, that by His Death He might
obtain for all a resurrection?

  Sidenote: S. Matt. iii. 15.

  Sidenote: Rom. x. 4.

  Sidenote: Ps. xii. 6.

13. Truly the Redeemer of all had no need of a redemption; but as He
received circumcision that He might fulfil the Law, and came to be
baptized that He _might fulfil righteousness_, so also did He not
refuse to pay those who required of Him the shekel, but straightway
commanded the stater to be given as the tribute for Himself and Peter.
For He chose rather to give beyond the Law than to deny the Law’s due.
At the same time He shews that the Jews acted contrary to the Law, in
exacting a shekel from one person, whereas Moses had ordained that half
a shekel should be required. On this account He commanded as it were
single pieces to be paid both for Himself and for Peter in the stater.
Good is the tribute of Christ, which is paid by the _stater_, for
justice is the _balance_[14], and justice is above the Law. Again,
_Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that
believeth_. This stater is found in the fish’s mouth, of that fish
which the fishers of men take, of that fish who weighs his words that
they may be tried by the fire before they are uttered.

  Sidenote: Exod. xxi. 5.

14. This stater the Jews knew not, giving Him up to the betrayer. But
the Law exacts half a shekel for the redemption of a soul, and devotes
it to God, for she cannot claim the whole. For in the Jew scarcely a
portion of devotion could be found. But he who is _free indeed_, a true
Hebrew, belongs wholly to God, all that he has savours of liberty. He
has nothing in common with him who refuses liberty, saying, _I love my
master, my wife, and my children, I will not go out free!_ Which refers
not only to his lord, but to the weakness of that man who shall have
subjected himself to the world, in that he loves the world as his own
soul, that is, his intelligence, the author of his will. Nor does it
refer only to _his wife_, but also to that delight which cares for
household not eternal things. This man’s ear therefore his lord nails
to his door or threshold, that he may remember these words whereby he
chose servitude.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xix. 21.

15. This man therefore, O Christian, imitate not; for thou art not
commanded to offer half a shekel, but, _if thou wouldest be perfect_,
to _sell all thou hast, and give to the poor_. Thou art not to reserve
a part of thy service for the world, but to deny thyself altogether,
and to _take up thy_ Lord’s _cross and follow Him_.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xxii. 18, 19.

16. Now we have learned that the half-shekel was required by the Law,
because the other half was reserved for the generation of this world,
that is, for secular life, and domestic use, and for posterity, to whom
it was necessary that a portion out of the original inheritance should
be transmitted. Wherefore our Lord answered the Pharisees, when they
tempted Him by the crafty question whether He would advise that tribute
should be paid to Cæsar, _Why tempt ye Me, ye hypocrites, shew Me the
tribute money_. And they brought Him a penny on which was Cæsar’s image.
He saith to them, _Render unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar’s,
and unto God the things that are God’s_; shewing that they who thought
themselves perfect were imperfect in that they paid to Cæsar before
God. They with whom the world was their first care would first pay that
which appertained to the world; wherefore He says _Render_, that is,
render ye, _the things which are Cæsar’s_――ye, among whom the image and
likeness of Cæsar is found.

  Sidenote: Dan. iii. 18. and i. 8.

  Sidenote: S. John xiv. 30.

  Sidenote: S.John xvii. 11, 14, 18.

17. Wherefore those Hebrew youths, Ananias, Azarias, Misael, and that
wiser Daniel, who would not worship the image of the king, who received
it not, nor any thing from the king’s table, were not bound to pay
tribute. For they possessed nothing that was under the power of an
earthly king. And so their followers, they whose portion is God, pay
no tribute. And so the Lord says, _Render_, that is, Do ye render, who
have brought forth the image of Cæsar, with whom it is found, but I owe
nothing to Cæsar, because I have nothing in this world. _The prince of
this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me._ Peter owes nothing, nor the
Apostles, because _they are not of this world_ though _they are in this
world. I have sent them into this world_, but now _they are not of this
world_, because with Me they are above the world.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xvii. 27.

  Sidenote: Gal. iv. 4.

18. So that which belongs to the Divine Law, not to Cæsar, is that
which is commanded to be paid. Yet even this He that was perfect, that
is, the preacher of the Gospel, no longer owed, for He had preached
more. The Son of God owed it not, nor did Peter who was by grace an
adopted son of the Father. _Notwithstanding_, says He, _lest we should
offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast a hook, and take up the fish
that first cometh up, and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt
find a piece of money, that take, and give unto them for Me and thee_.
O great mystery! He gives that half-shekel which the Law commanded,
He refuses not what is of the Law, for He was _made of a woman, made
under the Law_. ‘Made,’ I say, as regards His incarnation; ‘of a woman,’
as regards the sex; woman is the sex, virgin in the species; the sex
relates to her nature, the virgin to her integrity. For wherein He
came _under the Law_, therein He was _made of a woman_, that is, in
the body. On this account He commands a shekel to be paid for Him and
Peter, for both were born _under the Law_. He commands it to be paid
then according to the Law, that _He might redeem those who are under
the Law_.

  Sidenote: Deut. xxx. 14.

  Sidenote: Rom. x. 10.

19. And yet He commands a stater to be paid that they might have their
mouths closed, and so not commit sin by excess of talking. And He bids
that to be given which was found in the mouth of the fish, that they
might acknowledge the Word. For why was it that they who exacted what
was of the Law, knew not what was the Law? For they ought not to have
been ignorant of the Word of God; for it is written, _The Word is very
nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart_. He therefore paid the
whole shekel to God, who reserved no part for the world. For it is to
God that righteousness, which is the moderation of the mind, is paid;
to God is paid the keeping of the tongue, which is the moderation in
speech. _For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with
the mouth confession is made unto salvation._

20. The half-shekel may also be understood of the Old Testament, the
whole shekel for the price of both Testaments, for according to the Law
every one was redeemed by the Law, but he who is redeemed according to
the Gospel, pays the half-shekel according to the Law, he is redeemed
by the Blood of Christ according to grace, having a double redemption
both of devotion and of Blood. For not even faith alone is sufficient
for perfection, unless the redeemed also obtain the grace of Baptism,
and receive the Blood of Christ. Good then is that half-shekel which
is paid to God.

  Sidenote: Rev. i. 8.

  Sidenote: Deut. vi. 4.

21. The half-shekel is not a penny[15], but is different. Again, in
the penny is the image of Cæsar, in the half-shekel the image of God,
for it is of one God, and formed after God Himself. Beginning from One
it is infinitely diffused, and again, from the Infinite all things come
back to one, as their end, for God is both the beginning and the end
of all things. Wherefore arithmeticians have not called ‘one’ a number,
but an element of number. And this we have said because it is written,
_I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending_; and, _Hear, O
Israel: the Lord our God is One Lord_.

22. Be thou then, after the likeness of God, one and the same; not
sober to-day, drunken to-morrow; to-day pacific, to-morrow quarrelsome;
to-day frugal, to-morrow immoderate; for each person is changed by
diversity of manners and becomes another man, in whom that which he
was is not recognized, while he begins to be that which he was not,
degenerate from himself. It is a grievous thing to be changed for the
worse. Be then as the image on the half-shekel, immutable, keeping
daily the same deportment. Seeing the half-shekel, observe the image,
that is, seeing the Law, observe in the Law Christ the Image of God;
for He _is the Image of the invisible_ and incorruptible _God_; let Him
be displayed before thee as in the mirror of the Law. Confess Him in
the Law, that thou mayest know Him again in the Gospel. If thou hast
known Him in His precepts, acknowledge Him in works. Farewell, and if
you do not think that this shekel has been committed to me unprofitably,
doubt not to commit to me a second time whatever you may have to

                             LETTER VIII.
                               A.D. 381.

  S. AMBROSE in this letter answers the objections raised against
  the Scriptures, that they were not written according to the
  rules of art, and illustrates his argument with various passages.

                          AMBROSE TO JUSTUS.

  Sidenote: Acts ii. 4.

1. VERY many deny that the Sacred writers wrote according to the
rules of art. Nor do we contend for the contrary; for they wrote not
according to art, but according to grace, which is above all art; for
they wrote that which the Spirit gave them to speak. And yet they who
wrote on art made use of their writings from which to frame their art,
and to compose its comments and rules.

  Sidenote: αἴτιον, ὕλη, ἀποτέλεσμα. Gen. xxii. 7.

  Sidenote: Ib. 8.

2. Again, in art there are principally required, a cause, a subject,
and an end. When then we read that holy Isaac said to his father,
_Behold the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt
offering_, which of these is wanting? For he who asks, doubts, he
who answers the query pronounces and solves the doubt. _Behold the
fire_, that is the cause, _and the wood_, that is ὕλη, which in Latin
is ‘materia,’ what third thing remains but the end, which the son
asked for, saying, _Where is the lamb for a burnt-offering_, and the
father replied, _My son, God will provide Himself a lamb for a burnt

  Sidenote: Ps. iv. 5.

3. Let us discuss for a little while the mystery. _God shewed a ram
hanging by his horns._ Now the ram is the Word, full of tranquillity,
moderation, and patience; whereby is shewn that Wisdom is a good
sacrifice, and that He was well skilled in the mode of meritorious
propitiation. Wherefore the Prophet also says, _Offer the sacrifice of
righteousness_. And so it is a sacrifice both of righteousness and of

4. Here then is a mind fervent and glowing as fire which worketh; here
is the thing to be understood, that is the subject-matter, where is
the third, the understanding? Behold the colour, where is the seeing?
behold the object of sense, where is the sense itself? For matter is
not seen by all, and therefore God gives the gift of understanding, and
feeling, and seeing.

5. The Word of God then is the end or completion; that is, the
determination and completion of the discussion, which is communicated
to the more prudent, and confirms things doubtful. Well do even they
who believed not in the Coming of Christ refute themselves, so that
they confess what they think to deny. For they say that the ram is the
Word of God, and yet believe not the mystery of the Passion, whereas in
that mystery is the Word of God, in Whom the Sacrifice was fulfilled.

  Sidenote: Exod. xvi. 15, 16.

6. Wherefore let us first kindle within us the fire of the mind, that
it may work within us. Let us seek for the subject-matter, what it is
that nourishes the mind, as if we were looking for it in darkness. For
neither did the Fathers know what manna was: they found manna, it is
said, declaring it to be the Discourse and word of God, from Whom all
instruction as from a perennial fountain flows and is derived.

  Sidenote: Exod. xvi. 4.

  Sidenote: Ib. 15.

7. This is that heavenly food. And it is signified by the Person of the
Speaker, _Behold I will rain bread from heaven for you_. The ‘cause’
then we have in the operation of God, Who waters our minds with the dew
of wisdom; the ‘subject-matter’ we have in that the minds which see and
taste it are delighted, and inquire whence comes this which is brighter
than light, sweeter than honey. They have their answer from the text
of Scripture: _This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat_;
and this is the Word of God, Which God appointed and ordained, whereby
the minds of the prudent are fed and comforted, which is white and
sweet, enlightening the minds of the hearers with the splendour of
truth, and soothing them with the sweetness of virtue.

  Sidenote: Ib. iii. 11–14.

  Sidenote: 2 Cor. i. 19.

  Sidenote: Exod. iv. 1.

  Sidenote: Ib. 10.

  Sidenote: Ib. 12.

8. The Prophet had learned in himself what was the ‘cause’ of the thing
to be completed. For when he was sent to the king of Egypt to deliver
the people of God, he says, _Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh_,
and deliver my people from the king’s power? the Lord answers, _I will
be with thee_. Moses asked again, _What shall I say unto them, if they
ask, Who is the Lord that hath sent thee, and what is His Name?_ The
Lord said, _I am that I am, thou shalt say_, I AM _hath sent me unto
you_. This is the true Name of God――Eternity. Wherefore the Apostle
also says of Christ, _For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, Who was
preached among you by us, by me and Silvanus and Timotheus, was not Yea
and Nay, but in Him was Yea_. Moses answered, _But behold they will not
believe me, nor hearken unto my voice, for they will say, The Lord hath
not appeared unto thee_. Then He gave him power to work miracles, that
it might be believed that he was sent by God. A third time Moses says,
_I am not eloquent, but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue; how
shall Pharaoh hear me?_ the Lord answers, _Go, and I will be with thy
mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say_.

  Sidenote: Exod. iii. 12.

9. These intermingled questions and answers contain the seeds and
science of wisdom. The ‘end’ or ‘completion’ too is good, for He says,
_I will be with thee_! And although He had given him power to work
miracles, yet as he was still doubtful, that we might know that signs
are for them that believe not, but the promise for believers, the
weakness of his deserts or of his purpose receives this answer, _I will
be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say_! Thus a perfect
‘end’ is preserved.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. vii. 7.

  Sidenote: Ib. x. 19, 20.

10. This you have also in the Gospel, _Ask, and it shall be given
you, seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto
you_. Ask from the ‘cause,’ that is, from the Author. You have as your
subject-matter things spiritual which cause you to seek; _knock, and_
God the Word _opens to you_. That which asks is the mind, which works
like fire; it is in things spiritual that the glow of the mind works,
as fire on wood; God the Word opens unto you, this is the ‘end.’ We
have also in another part of the Gospel these words of our Lord, _But
when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak,
for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it
is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in

  Sidenote: Gen. xxvii. 20.

  Sidenote: Ib. xxxi. 33.

11. These words too of Isaac you have in Genesis, _How is it that thou
hast found it so quickly, my son? And he said, Because the Lord thy God
brought it to me._ The Lord is the end. He who seeks in the Lord finds.
And thus Laban who sought not in the Lord, for he sought idols, found

  Sidenote: Ib. xxvii. 4.

12. And he has well observed the rules[16] and distinctions as they
are called. The first is _Go and take me some venison, that I may
eat_. He excites and inflames his mind with the fire, as it were, of
his exhortation, that he may labour and seek. The second is, _How is it
that thou hast found it so quickly?_ This is in the form of a question;
the third is an answer, _Because the Lord thy God brought it to me_.
The ‘end’ is God, Who concludes and perfects all things, of Whom we are
not to doubt.

13. And there is a ‘distinction’ too as to spontaneous things; If you
sow not, you shall not reap[17]; for although culture calls forth seeds,
yet nature by a certain spontaneous impulse, worketh in them that they
spring up.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. iii. 6, 7.

14. Wherefore the Apostle says, _I have planted, Apollos watered, but
God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing,
neither he that watereth, but God That giveth the increase!_ God gives
to you in the spirit, and the Lord sows in your heart. Take care then
that He breathe life and sow in you, that you may reap; for if you sow
not, neither shall you reap. This is a sort of admonition to you to sow.
If you sow not you shall not reap, is a proverb. The end agrees with
the beginning; the seed is the beginning, the harvest the end.

15. Learn, he says, of me; nature aids the learner, and God is the
Author of nature. It is of God too that we learn well, for it is
a natural gift to learn well; the hard of heart learn not. Nature,
which is preserved by the Divine bounty, gives the increase. The final
consummation God giveth, that is, the most excellent and Divine Nature
and Essence of the Trinity.

Farewell: love us, as you do, for we love you.

                          COUNCIL OF AQUILEIA
                               A.D. 381.


  THE official Record of the Proceedings of this Council seems
  to be inserted among S. Ambrose’s Letters, partly because
  S. Ambrose took the leading part in them, and partly because
  they form the subject of the next series of letters, directly
  of the four first, and more indirectly of the two next, all of
  which, though written in the name of the Bishops of Italy, we
  may presume to have been S. Ambrose’s composition. The Council
  was held in the year 381 A.D., the same year in which the
  Second General Council was held at Constantinople. It will be
  remembered that that Council, being summoned by Theodosius, then
  Emperor of the East, consisted of Eastern Bishops only. At this
  time Arianism, though rife in the East, seems not to have been
  prevalent in the West. S. Ambrose says, (Letter xi. 1.) ‘as
  regards the West, two individuals only have been found to dare
  to oppose the Council with profane and impious words, men who
  had previously disturbed a mere corner of Dacia Ripensis.’ These
  two men were Palladius and Secundianus. Palladius appears to
  have applied to Gratian to call a General Council, on the plea
  that he was falsely accused of Arianism, in 379 A.D. Gratian
  granted his request, but afterwards, as we learn from his letter
  read at the Council, on the representation of S. Ambrose that
  such a question as the soundness or heresy of two Bishops might
  be settled by a Council of the Bishops of the Diocese of Italy,
  he so far altered his original order as to summon only these,
  giving permission for others to attend if they pleased. This
  reconsideration, and perhaps also the troubles that prevailed in
  the Empire at the time, (Tillemont Vie de S. Ambr. ch. xxiii.)
  caused such delay that it was not till towards the end of
  381 A.D. that the Council assembled under the presidency of S.
  Valerian Bishop of Aquileia. The Bishops of Italy, with deputies
  from Gaul, Africa, and Illyria, to the number of thirty two or
  thirty three (see note[37]) met at Aquileia at the beginning
  of September. The discussion recorded in the ‘Gesta’ took place
  probably on Septr. 3rd (see note[18]) but S. Ambrose’s words in
  § 2 imply that previous discussions had been held of which no
  Record had been taken, (diu citra acta tractavimus.)

  The proceedings commence by the reading of the Emperor’s Mandate.
  Palladius then raises objections on the ground of the absence
  of the Bishops from the East, and charges S. Ambrose with having
  tricked the Emperor into summoning only a small Council, and
  declines to take part in a Council which is not General. After
  some discussion on this point S. Ambrose proposes that Arius’
  letter from Nicomedia to S. Alexander should be read in detail,
  and Palladius called upon to condemn each heretical proposition.
  Palladius argues upon each, but eventually returns to his
  refusal to answer except in a General Council. In the end all
  the Bishops pronounce their decisions one by one, all agreeing
  that Palladius’ doctrine was heretical and that he should be
  deposed. Secundianus is then more briefly dealt with in the same
  way. It would seem that the Record is incomplete, as the number
  of Bishops who give their decision is only 25, and the account
  of Secundianus’ case ends abruptly without recording any
  decision. It may be from the same cause that the Record itself
  is in one or two places seemingly defective, and the sense

  Secundianus is not mentioned again in History. Of Palladius
  it is said by Vigilius, Bishop of Thapsus in Africa, who lived
  in the latter part of the 5th Century, that after S. Ambrose’s
  death he wrote a reply to his writings against Arianism, which
  Vigilius himself answered (Tillemont Vie de S. Ambr. xxvi.).

  The genuineness of the Gesta has been disputed by Père Chifflet,
  who maintained that they were a forgery of the Vigilius
  mentioned above: his arguments however are satisfactorily
  refuted by Tillemont in an elaborate note. (Vol. x. p. 738.
  note 15. on S. Ambr. Life.)

1. IN the consulship of the illustrious SYAGRIUS and EUCHERIUS, on the
3rd day of September[18], the under-mentioned Bishops[19], sitting in
council in the church at Aquileia, namely, VALERIAN, Bishop of Aquileia,

Ambrose, Bishop, said;

2. ‘We have long been dealing with the matter without any Records[20],
and now, since our ears are assailed with such sacrilegious words on
the part of Palladius and Secundianus, that one can scarce believe that
they could have so openly blasphemed, and that they may not attempt
hereafter by any subtlety to deny their own words, though the testimony
of such eminent Bishops does not admit of doubt, still as it is the
pleasure of all the Bishops, let Records be made, that no one may be
able to deny his own profession. Do you therefore, holy men, declare
what is your pleasure.’

All the Bishops said, ‘It is our pleasure.’

Ambrose, Bishop, said, ‘Our discussions must be confirmed by the
Emperor’s Letter, as the subject requires, so that they may be quoted.’

3. The Letter is read by Sabinianus a Deacon;

“Desirous to make our earliest efforts to prevent dissension among
Bishops from uncertainty what doctrines they should reverence, we
had ordered the Bishops to come together into the city of Aquileia,
out of the diocese[21] which has been confided to the merits of your
Excellency. For controversies of dubious import could not be better
disentangled than by our constituting the Bishops themselves expounders
of the dispute that has arisen, so that the same persons from whom
come forth the instructions of doctrine may solve the contradictions
of discordant teaching.

4. “Nor is our present order different from our last: we do not alter
the tenour of our command, but we correct the superfluous numbers that
would have assembled. For as Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, eminent both for
the merits of his life and the favour of God, suggests that there is no
occasion for numbers in a case in which the truth, though in the hands
of a few supporters, would not suffer from many antagonists, and that
he and the Bishops of the adjoining cities of Italy would be more than
sufficient to meet the assertions of the opposite party, we have judged
it right to refrain from troubling venerable men by bringing into
strange lands any one who was either loaded with years, or disabled
with bodily weakness, or in the slender circumstances of honourable
poverty;[22] etc.”

5. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; ‘This is what a Christian Emperor has
ordained. He has not thought fit to do an injury to the Bishops: he
has constituted the Bishops themselves Judges. And therefore since we
sit together in a Council of Bishops, answer to what is proposed to
you. Arius’s letter has been read: it shall be recited now again, if
you think proper. It contains blasphemies from the beginning; it says
that the Father alone is eternal. If you think that the Son of God is
not everlasting, support this doctrine in what manner you please: if
you think it is a doctrine to be condemned, condemn it. Here is the
Gospel, and the Apostle[23]: all the Scriptures are at hand. Support it
from what quarter you please, if you think that the Son of God is not

6. PALLADIUS said; ‘You have contrived, as appears by the sacred
document[24] which you have brought forward, that this should not be
a full and General Council: in the absence of our Colleagues we cannot

Ambrose, Bishop, said: ‘Who are your colleagues?’

Palladius said: ‘The Eastern Bishops.’

7. AMBROSE, Bishop, said: ‘Inasmuch as in former times the usage of
Councils has been that the Eastern Bishops should be appointed to hold
them in the East, and the Western Bishops in the West, we, having our
place in the West, are come together to the city of Aquileia according
to the Emperor’s command. Moreover, the Prefect of Italy has issued
letters, that if the Eastern Bishops chose to meet, they should be
allowed to do so; but inasmuch as they know that the custom is that the
Council of the Eastern Bishops should be in the East and of the Western
in the West, they have therefore thought fit not to come.’

8. PALLADIUS said: ‘Our Emperor Gratian commanded the Eastern Bishops
to come: do you deny that he did so? the Emperor himself told us that
he had commanded the Eastern Bishops to come.’

Ambrose, Bishop, said: ‘He certainly commanded them, in that he did not
forbid them to come hither.’

Palladius said: ‘But your prayer has prevented their coming: under a
pretence of benevolence you have obtained this, and so put the Council

9. AMBROSE, Bishop, said: ‘There is no occasion to wander any longer
from the subject: answer now. Did Arius say rightly that the Father
alone is eternal? and did he say this in agreement with the Scriptures
or not?’

Palladius said: ‘I do not answer you.’

Constantius, Bishop, said: ‘Do not you answer when you have so long

Eusebius, Bishop, said: ‘But you are under an obligation to express
frankly the faith you claim the right to hold. If a heathen were to ask
of you in what way you believe in Christ, you would be bound not to be
ashamed to confess.’

10. SABINUS, Bishop, said: ‘It was your own request that we would
answer: we come together this day according to your wish, and upon your
own solicitation, and we have not waited for our other brethren, who
might have come. It is therefore not open to you to wander from the
subject. Do you say that Christ was created? or do you say that the
Son of God is everlasting?’

Palladius said: ‘I have told you already: we said we would come and
prove that you have not done well to take advantage of the Emperor.’

Ambrose, Bishop, said: ‘Let Palladius’s letter be read to shew whether
he sent us this message, and it will appear that even now he is

Palladius said: ‘Let it be read by all means.’

The Bishops said: ‘When you saw the Emperor at Sirmium, did you address
him, or was it he that pressed you?’ And they added: ‘What do you
answer to this?’

Palladius answered: ‘He said to me, “Go.” We said: “Are the Eastern
Bishops summoned to attend?” He said, “They are.” Should we have come
if the Eastern Bishops had not been summoned?’

11. AMBROSE, Bishop, said: ‘Let the matter of the Eastern Bishops
stand over. I enquire at present into your sentiments. Arius’s letter
has been read to you: you are in the habit of denying that you are an
Arian. Either condemn Arius now, or defend him.’

Palladius said: ‘It is not within the compass of your authority to ask
this of me.’

Eusebius, Bishop, said: ‘We do not believe that the religious Emperor
said other than he wrote. He has ordered the Bishops to meet: it is
impossible that he said to you and no one else contrary to his own
letter, that the case was not to be discussed without the presence of
the Eastern Bishops.’

Palladius said: ‘He did, if the Italian Bishops alone were ordered to

Evagrius, Presbyter and deputy, said:[25] [It is plain] ‘that he
promised to appear within four and even within two days. What then were
you waiting for? was it, as you say, that you considered the opinion
of your colleagues, the Eastern Bishops was to be waited for? Then you
ought to have said so in your message, and not to have pledged yourself
to discussion.’

Palladius said: ‘I had come, believing it to be a General Council, but
I saw that my colleagues had not assembled. I decided however[26] to
come, in accordance with the summons, to bid you to do nothing to the
prejudice of a future Council.’

12. AMBROSE, Bishop, said: ‘You yourself required that we should sit
to-day, moreover, even this very day you have said yourself “we come
as Christians to Christians.” You have therefore acknowledged us for
Christians. You promised that you would engage in discussion: you
promised that you would either assign your own reasons or accept ours.
We therefore willingly accepted your opening, we wished that you should
come as a Christian. I offered you the letter of Arius, which that
Arius wrote, from whose name you say that you often suffer wrong. You
say that you do not follow Arius. To-day your sentiments must be made
clear; either condemn him, or support him by whatever passage you will.’

He went on; ‘Then according to Arius’s letter Christ the Son of God is
not everlasting?’

Palladius said; ‘We said that we would prove ourselves Christians, but
in a full Council. We do not answer you at all to the prejudice of a
future Council.’

Eusebius, Bishop, said; ‘You ought to state your profession of faith

Palladius said; ‘And what do we reserve for the Council?’

  Sidenote: Rom. i. 20.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. i. 8.

13. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; ‘He has been unanimously condemned who
denies the Eternity of the Son of God. Arius denied it, Palladius, who
will not condemn Arius, follows him. Consider then, whether his opinion
is approved of; it is easy to perceive whether he speaks according to
the Scriptures, or against the Scriptures. For we read: _God’s eternal
Power and Godhead_. Christ is the Power of God. If then the Power of
God is everlasting, Christ surely is everlasting; for _Christ is the
Power of God_.’

Eusebius, Bishop, said; ‘This is our faith: this is the Catholic
doctrine; who says not this, let him be anathema.’

All the Bishops said; ‘Anathema.’

14. EUSEBIUS, Bishop, said; ‘He says specifically that the Father alone
is everlasting, and that the Son at some time began to be.’

Palladius said; ‘I have neither seen Arius, nor do I know who he is.’

Eusebius, Bishop, said; ‘The blasphemy of Arius has been produced, in
which he denies that the Son of God is everlasting. Do you condemn this
wickedness and its author, or do you support it?’

Palladius said; ‘When there is not the authority of a full Council, I
do not speak.’

  Sidenote: Acts i. 18.

15. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; ‘Do you hesitate after the divine judgements
to condemn Arius, when he has _burst asunder in the midst_?’ and he
added; ‘Let the holy men too, the deputies of the Gauls, speak.’

Constantius, Bishop and deputy of the Gauls, said; ‘This impiety of
that man we always have condemned, and we now condemn not only Arius,
but also whoever does not say that the Son of God is everlasting.’

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘What says also my Lord Justus?’

Justus, Bishop and deputy of the Gauls, said; ‘He who does not confess
that the Son of God is co-eternal with the Father, let him be accounted

All the Bishops said; ‘Anathema.’

16. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; ‘Let the deputies of the Africans speak too,
who have brought hither the sentiments of all their countrymen.’

Felix, Bishop and deputy, said; ‘If any man denies that the Son of God
is everlasting, and that He is co-eternal with the Father, not only do
I the deputy of the whole province of Africa condemn him, but also the
whole priestly company, which sent me to this most holy assembly, has
itself also already condemned him.’

Anemius, Bishop, said; ‘There is no capital of Illyricum[27] but
Sirmium: I am its Bishop. The person who does not confess the Son of
God to be eternal and co-eternal with the Father, that is, everlasting,
I call anathema; and I also say anathema to those who do not make the
same confession.’

17. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; ‘Hear what follows.’ Then it was read;
“Alone eternal, alone without beginning, alone true, Who alone has

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘In this also condemn him who denies that the
Son is very God. For since He Himself is the Truth, how is He not very
God?’ And he added; ‘What say you to this?’

Palladius said; ‘Who denies that He is very Son?’

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘Arius denied it.’

Palladius said; ‘When the Apostle says that Christ is God over all, can
any one deny that He is the very Son of God?’

18. Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘That you may see with how much simplicity
we seek the truth, lo, I say as you say: but I have then only half the
truth. For by speaking thus, you appear to deny that He is very God; if
however you confess simply that the Son of God is very God, state it in
the order in which I propose it to you.’

Palladius said; ‘I speak to you according to the Scriptures: I call the
Lord the very Son of God.’

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘Do you call the Son of God very Lord?’

Palladius said; ‘When I call Him very Son, what more is wanted?’

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘I do not ask only that you should call Him very
Son, but that you should call the Son of God very Lord.’

19. EUSEBIUS, Bishop, said; ‘Is Christ very God, according to the faith
of all and to the Catholic profession?’

Palladius said; ‘He is the very Son of God.’

Eusebius, Bishop, said; ‘We also are by adoption sons; He is Son
according to the property of His Divine Generation.’ And he added;
‘Do you confess that the very Son of God is very Lord by His Birth
and essentially?’

Palladius said; ‘I call Him the very Son of God, only-begotten.’

Eusebius, Bishop, said; ‘Do you then think it is against the Scriptures,
for Christ to be called very God?’

20. PALLADIUS being silent, Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘He who says only
that He is the very Son of God, and will not say that He is very Lord,
appears to deny it. Let Palladius then, if he does confess it, confess
it in this order, and let him say whether he calls the Son of God very

  Sidenote: S. John xvii. 3.

Palladius said; ‘When the Son says, _That they might know Thee the only
true God and Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent_, is it by way of feeling
only, or in truth?’

  Sidenote: 1 S. John v. 20.

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘John said in his epistle; _This is the true
God_. Deny this.’

Palladius said; ‘When I tell you that He is true Son, I acknowledge
also a true Godhead.’

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘In this also there is evasion; for you art wont
to speak of one only and true Godhead in such manner as to say that it
is the divinity of the Father only, and not that of the Son also, which
is one only and true. If then you wish to speak plainly, as you refer
me to the Scriptures, say what the Evangelist John said; _This is the
true God_, or deny that he hath said it.’

Palladius said; ‘Besides the Son there is none other that is begotten.’

21. EUSEBIUS, Bishop, said; ‘Is Christ very God, according to the faith
of all and to the Catholic profession, or in your opinion is He not
very God?’

Palladius said; ‘He is the Power of our God.’

Ambrose, Bishop said; ‘You do not speak frankly; and so anathema to him
who does not confess that the Son of God is very Lord.’

All the Bishops said; ‘Let him be accounted anathema, who will not call
Christ, the Son of God, very Lord.’

22. The reader continued; “Alone true, Who alone hath immortality.”

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘Has the Son of God immortality, or has He it
not, in respect of His Godhead?’

  Sidenote: 1 Tim. vi. 16.

Palladius said; ‘Do you accept or no the words of the Apostle, _The
King of kings Who alone hath immortality_?’

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘What say you of Christ the Son of God?’

Palladius said; ‘Is Christ a divine Name or a human?’

23. EUSEBIUS, Bishop, said; ‘He is called Christ indeed according to
the mystery of His Incarnation, but He is both God and Man.’

Palladius said; ‘Christ is a name of the flesh: Christ is a man’s name:
do you answer me.’

Eusebius, Bishop, said; ‘Why do you dwell upon useless topics? When
Arius’ impious words were read, who says of the Father that He alone
hath immortality, you cited a testimony in confirmation of Arius’
impiety, quoting from the Apostle, _Who only hath immortality, dwelling
in the light which no man can approach unto_. But if you understand it,
he has expressed by the Name of God the dignity of the whole Nature,
inasmuch as in the Name of God, both Father and Son are signified.’

Palladius said; ‘You also have not chosen to answer what I have asked.’

24. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; ‘I ask you to give your opinion plainly, has
the Son of God immortality according to His divine generation, or has
He not?’

Palladius said; ‘In respect of His divine generation He is
incorruptible; and by means of His Incarnation He died.’

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘His divinity died not, but His flesh died.’

Palladius said; ‘Do you answer me first.’

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘Has the Son of God immortality in respect of
His Godhead or has He it not? But have you not even now betrayed your
fraudulent and insidious meaning according to Arius’ profession?’
and he added; ‘He who denies that the Son of God has immortality,
what think you of him?’ All the Bishops said; ‘Let him be accounted

25. PALLADIUS said; ‘A divine offspring is immortal.’

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘This also have you said evasively, to avoid
expressing anything clearly about the Son of God. I say to you, the Son
hath immortality in respect of His Godhead, or do you deny it and say
that He has not.’

Palladius said; ‘Did Christ die or not?’

  Sidenote: S. Matt. x. 28.

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘In respect of the flesh He did: our soul does
not die: for it is written, _Fear not them who kill the body, but are
not able to kill the soul_; seeing then that our soul cannot die, do
you think Christ died in respect of His Godhead?’

Palladius said; ‘Why do you shrink from the name of death?’

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘Nay, I do not shrink from it, but I confess it
in respect of my flesh: for there is One by Whom I am released from the
chains of death.’

Palladius said; ‘Death is caused by separation of the spirit (from the
flesh), for Christ the Son of God took upon Him flesh, and by means of
flesh he died.’

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘It is written that Christ suffered: He
suffered then in respect of His flesh: in respect of His Godhead He
has immortality. He who denies this, is a devil.’

Palladius said; ‘I know not Arius.’

26. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; ‘Then Arius said ill, since the Son of God
also has immortality in respect of his Godhead.’ And he added, ‘Did he
then say well or ill?’

Palladius said; ‘I do not agree.’

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘With whom do not you agree? Anathema to him,
who does not frankly unfold his faith.’

All the Bishops said; ‘Anathema.’

Palladius said; ‘Say what you please; His Godhead is immortal.’

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘Whose? the Father’s or the Son’s?’ And he added:
‘Arius heaped together many impieties. But let us pass to other points.’

27. Then was recited; “Alone wise.”

Palladius said; ‘The Father is wise of himself, but the Son is not

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘Is then the Son not wise, when He Himself is
Wisdom? For we also say that the Son is begotten of the Father.’

Eusebius, Bishop, said; ‘Is there anything as impious and profane as
this which he said, that the Son of God is not wise?’

Palladius said; ‘He is called Wisdom, who can deny that he is Wisdom?’

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘Is He wise or not?’

Palladius said; ‘He is Wisdom.’

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘Then He is wise, if He is Wisdom.’

Palladius said; ‘We answer you according to the Scriptures.’

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘Palladius, as far as I can see, has attempted
to deny also that the Son of God is wise.’

Eusebius, Bishop, said; ‘He who denies that the Son of God is wise, let
him be anathema.’

All the Bishops said; ‘Anathema.’

28. EUSEBIUS, Bishop, said; ‘Let Secundianus also answer to this.’

Secundianus being silent,

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘He who is silent wishes to reserve his
judgement.’ And he added, ‘When he says that the Father alone is good,
did he confess the Son or deny Him?’

  Sidenote: S. John x. 11.

Palladius said; ‘We read, _I am the good Shepherd_, and do we deny it?
Who would not say that the Son of God is good?’

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘Then is Christ good?’

Palladius said; ‘He is good.’

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘Arius then was wrong in asserting it of the
Father alone, since the Son of God also is a good[28] God.’

Palladius said; ‘He who says that Christ is not good, says ill.’

  Sidenote: S. Luke xix. 17.

  Sidenote: Ib. vi. 45.

29. EUSEBIUS, Bishop, said; ‘Do you confess that Christ is a good God?
For I also am good. He has said to me; _Well done, thou good servant_;
and, _A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth
that which is good_.’

Palladius said; ‘I have already said, I do not answer you until there
is a full Council.’

  Sidenote: S. John vii. 12.

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘The Jews said _He is a good man_; and Arius
denies that the Son of God is good.’

Palladius said; ‘Who can deny it?’

Eusebius, Bishop, said; ‘Then the Son of God is a good God.’

Palladius said; ‘The good Father begat a good Son.’

30. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; ‘We also are begotten of Him and are good,
but not in respect of Godhead. Do you call the Son of God a good God?’

Palladius said; ‘The Son of God is good.’

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘You see then that you call him a good Christ, a
good Son, not a good God; which is what is asked of you.’ And he added;
‘He who does not confess that the Son of God is a good God, Anathema to

All the Bishops said; ‘Anathema.’

31. The reader likewise continued; “Alone mighty.”

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘Is the Son of God mighty or not?’

Palladius said; ‘He Who made all things, is He not mighty? He Who made
all things, is He deficient in might?’

Ambrose, Bishop, said: ‘Then Arius said ill.’ And he added; ‘Do you
even in this condemn Arius?’

Palladius said; ‘How do I know who he is? I answer you for myself.’

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘Is the Son of God the mighty God?’

Palladius said; ‘He is mighty.’

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘Is the Son of God the mighty God?’

Palladius said; ‘I have already said that the only-begotten Son of God
is mighty.’

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘The mighty Lord.’

Palladius said; ‘The mighty Son of God.’

  Sidenote: Ps. lii. 1.

  Sidenote: 2 Cor. xii. 10.

32. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; ‘Men also are mighty; for it is written,
_Why boastest thou thyself in mischief, thou mighty man?_ and in
another place, _When I am weak, then am I strong_. I ask you to confess
that Christ the Son of God is the mighty Lord; or if you deny it,
support your denial. For I speak of one Power of the Father and of the
Son, and I call the Son of God mighty in the same way as the Father. Do
you hesitate then to confess that the Son of God is the mighty Lord?’

Palladius said; ‘I have already said, we answer you in discussion as
we can; for you wish to be sole judges, and at the same time parties to
the case. We do not answer you now, but we will answer you in a General
and full Council.’

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘Anathema to him who denies that Christ is the
mighty Lord.’

All the Bishops said; ‘Anathema.’

33. It was likewise recited; “Alone mighty, Judge of all.”

Palladius said; ‘The Son of God, the Judge of all. There is Who gives,
there is who receives.’

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘Did He give by grace or nature? Men also have
judgement given them.’

Palladius said; ‘Do you call the Father greater or not?’

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘I will answer you afterwards.’

Palladius said; ‘I do not answer you, if you do not answer me.’

Eusebius, Bishop, said; ‘Unless you condemn in order the impiety of
Arius, we will give you no power of asking questions.’

Palladius said; ‘I do not answer you.’

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘Is the Son of God, as has been read, Judge or

Palladius said; ‘If you do not answer me, I do not answer you, as being
an impious person.’

34. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; ‘You have my profession, whereby I will
answer you. In the mean time, let Arius’ letter be read through.’ And
he added: ‘In that letter you will find that sacrilegious argument also
which you are endeavouring at.’

Palladius said; ‘When I ask, do you not answer?’

Eusebius, Bishop, said; ‘We call the Son of God equal God.’

Palladius said: ‘You are Judge: your note-takers are here.’

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘Let any of yours write, who please.’

35. PALLADIUS said; ‘Is the Father greater or not?’

  Sidenote: S. John v. 18.

Eusebius, Bishop, said; ‘In respect of His Godhead the Son is equal
to the Father. You have it in the Gospel that the Jews persecuted Him
_because He not only broke the sabbath, but also called God His Father,
making Himself equal with God_; what then impious men confessed while
they persecuted, we who believe cannot deny.’

  Sidenote: Phil. ii. 6–8.

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘And in another place you have: _Who being
in the form of God thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but
emptied himself[29] and took upon him the form of a servant, and was
made in the likeness of men; and became obedient unto death_. You see
that in the form of God He is equal to God. And _he took_, S. Paul says,
_the form of a servant_. In what then is He less? In respect surely of
His form of a servant, not of the form of God?’

Eusebius, Bishop, said; ‘Just as, being established in the form of a
servant, He was not less than a servant; so being established in the
form of God, He could not be less than God.’

36. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; ‘Or say that in respect of Godhead the Son
of God is less.’

Palladius said; ‘The Father is greater.’

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘In respect of the flesh.’

  Sidenote: S. John xiv. 28.

Palladius said; ‘_He who sent me, is greater than I_. Was the flesh
sent by God or was the Son of God sent?’

  Sidenote: Ib. 27, 28.

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘We prove this day that the holy Scriptures are
falsely cited by you, for thus it is written: _Peace I leave unto you,
my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let
not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid: If ye loved me,
ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father, for my Father
is greater than I._ He did not say, He Who sent me is greater than I.’

Palladius said; ‘The Father is greater.’

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘Anathema to him, who adds to or takes from the
holy Scriptures.’

All the Bishops said; ‘Anathema.’

37. PALLADIUS said; ‘The Father is greater than the Son.’

  Sidenote: Heb. ii. 7.

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘In respect of the flesh the Son is less than
the Father: in respect of Godhead He is equal to the Father: I read
therefore that the Son of God is equal to the Father, as also the
instances that have been adduced testify. But why should you wonder
that He is less in respect of the flesh, when He has called Himself
a servant, a stone, a worm, when He has said that He is less than the
angels, for it is written: _Thou madest him a little lower than the

Palladius said; ‘I see that you make impious assertions. We do not
answer you without arbiters.’

Sabinus, Bishop, said; ‘Let no one ask for an opinion from him who has
blasphemed in such countless opinions.’

Palladius said; ‘We do not answer you.’

38. SABINUS, Bishop, said; ‘Palladius has now been condemned by all.
The blasphemies of Arius are much lighter than those of Palladius.’

  Sidenote: Ib. vi. 13.

  Sidenote: S. John viii. 56.

And when Palladius rose, as if he wished to go out, he said; ‘Palladius
has risen, because he sees that he is to be convicted by manifest
testimonies of the Scriptures, as indeed he has been already convicted:
for thus it has been read, that in respect of Godhead the Son is equal
to the Father. Let him admit that in respect of His Godhead the Son of
God has no greater: it is written: _When God made promise to Abraham,
because He could swear by no greater, he swear by himself_. You see
therefore the Scripture, that He could swear by no greater. But it is
the Son of Whom this is said, since it was He Who appeared to Abraham,
whence also He says, _He saw my day and was glad_.’

Palladius said; ‘The Father is greater.’

Eusebius, Bishop, said; ‘When He spake as God, He had no greater; when
He spake as man, He had one greater.’

39. PALLADIUS said; ‘The Father begat the Son; the Father sent the Son.’

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘Anathema to him, who denies that in respect of
His Godhead the Son is equal to the Father.’

All the Bishops said; ‘Anathema.’

Palladius said; ‘The Son is subject to the Father; the Son keeps the
commands of the Father.’

  Sidenote: S. John vi. 44.

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘He is subject in respect of His Incarnation.
But even you yourself remember that you have read; _No man can come
unto me, except the Father draw him_.’

Sabinus, Bishop, said; ‘Let him say whether the Son is subject to the
Father in respect of His Godhead, or in respect of His Incarnation.’

40. PALLADIUS said; ‘Then the Father is greater.’

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. i. 8.

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘In another place also it is written; _God
is faithful, by Whom ye were called unto the fellowship of His Son_.
I say that the Father is greater in respect of the assumption of the
flesh, which the Son of God took upon Him, not in respect of the Son’s

Palladius said; ‘What then is the comparison of the Son of God? And can
flesh say, God is greater than I? Did the flesh speak or the Godhead
because the flesh was there?’

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘The flesh does not speak without the soul.’

  Sidenote: S. John viii. 40.

Eusebius, Bishop, said; ‘God in the flesh spoke according to the flesh,
when He said, _Why do ye persecute[30] me, a man?_ Who said this?’

Palladius said; ‘The Son of God.’

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘Then the Son of God is God in respect of His
Godhead and is man in respect of His flesh.’

Palladius said; ‘He took flesh upon Him.’

Eusebius, Bishop, said; ‘Accordingly He made use of human words.’

Palladius said; ‘He took man’s flesh upon Him.’

41. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; ‘Let him say that the Apostle did not call
Him subject in respect of His Godhead, but in respect of His flesh; for
it is written, _He humbled himself and became obedient unto death_. In
what then did He taste death?’

Palladius said; ‘In that He humbled Himself.’

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘Not His Godhead but His flesh was humbled and
subject.’ And he added; ‘Did Arius well or ill in calling him a perfect

Palladius said; ‘I do not answer you, for you have no authority.’

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘Profess what you please.’

Palladius said; ‘I do not answer you.’

42. SABINUS, Bishop, said; ‘Do you not answer on behalf of Arius? do
you not answer to what has been asked?’

Palladius said; ‘I have not answered on behalf of Arius.’

Sabinus, Bishop, said; ‘You have answered so far as to deny that the
Son of God is mighty, to deny that He is true God.’

Palladius said; ‘I do not allow you to be my judge, whom I convict of

Sabinus, Bishop, said; ‘You yourself forced us to sit.’

Palladius said; ‘I gave in a request that you might sit, in order that
I might convict you. Why have you practised upon the Emperor? You have
gained by intrigue that the Council should not be a plenary one.’

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘When Arius’ impieties were read, your impiety
also, which harmonized with his, was condemned equally. You have
thought fit while the letter was in the midst of being read, to bring
forward whatever passages you would: you were told in answer in what
way the Son has said that the Father is greater, because in respect
of His taking flesh upon Him, the Father is greater than He. You have
urged also that the Son of God is subject; and on this head you were
answered that the Son of God is subject in respect of His flesh, not
in respect of His divinity. You have our profession. Now hear the rest.
Since you have been answered, do you answer to what is read.’

43. PALLADIUS said; ‘I do not answer you, because what I have said has
not been recorded; only your words are recorded. I do not answer you.’

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘You see that every thing is recorded. Moreover,
what has been written is abundant for the proof of your impiety.’ And
he added; ‘Do you say that Christ is a creature or do you deny it?’

Palladius said; ‘I do not answer you.’

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘An hour ago, when it was read that Arius called
Christ a creature, you denied it: you had an opportunity offered you of
condemning his perfidy; you would not. Say now at last whether Christ
was begotten of the Father or created.’

Palladius said; ‘If you please, let my reporters come and so let the
whole be taken down.’

Sabinus, Bishop, said; ‘Let him send for his reporters.’

Palladius said; ‘We will answer you in a full Council.’

44. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; ‘Attalus subscribed the formula[31] of the
Council of Nicæa. Let him deny it, as he has come to our Council. Let
him say to-day, whether he subscribed the formula of the Council of
Nicæa or no?’

Attalus remaining silent,

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘Though the presbyter Attalus is an Arian,
yet we give him permission to speak: let him frankly state whether
he subscribed the formula of the Council of Nicæa under his Bishop
Agrippinus, or no.’

Attalus said; ‘You have already said that I have been several times
condemned. I do not answer you.’

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘Did you subscribe the formula of the Council of
Nicæa or no?’

Attalus said; ‘I do not answer you.’

45. PALLADIUS said; ‘Do you now wish the formula to be regarded as
general or no?’

Chromatius, presbyter, said; ‘You have not denied that He is a creature,
you have denied that He is mighty. You have denied every thing which
the Catholic Faith professes.’

Sabinus, Bishop, said; ‘We are witnesses that Attalus subscribed
the Council of Nicæa, and that he now refuses to answer. What is the
opinion of all?’

As Attalus did not speak,

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘Let him say whether he subscribed the formula
of the Council of Nicæa or no.’

46. PALLADIUS said; ‘Let your reporter and ours stand forward and write
down every thing.’

Valerian, Bishop, said; ‘What you have said and what you have denied is
already all written.’

Palladius said; ‘Say what you please.’

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘Since Palladius who has been already many
times condemned, wishes to be condemned still oftener, I am reading
the letter of Arius which he has not chosen to condemn: do you state
whether you approve of my doing so.’

All the Bishops said; ‘Let it be read.’

Then the words were read. “But begotten not putatively,” &c.

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘I have answered you on the Father’s being
greater: I have answered you also on the Son’s being subject: do you
yourself answer now.’

47. PALLADIUS said; ‘I will not answer unless arbiters come after the
Lord’s day.’

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘You were come with a view to discussion, but
since I have charged you with its doctrines, you have seen the letter
of Arius which you have not chosen to condemn and which you cannot
support: you now therefore shrink back and cavil. I read it to you
fully point by point. Tell me whether you believe Christ to have been
created; whether there was a time when he was not; or whether the only
begotten Son of God has always existed. When you have heard Arius’
letter, either condemn it or approve of it.’

48. PALLADIUS said; ‘Since I convict you of impiety, I will not have
you for judge. You are a transgressor.’

Sabinus, Bishop, said; ‘Say, what impieties you object to our brother
and fellow-bishop Ambrose.’

Palladius said; ‘I have already told you, I will answer in a full
Council, and with arbiters present.’

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘I desire to be confuted and convicted in the
assembly of my brethren. Say then what I have said impiously; but I
appear impious to you because I support piety.’

Sabinus, Bishop, said; ‘Does then he seem impious to you, who censures
the blasphemies of Arius?’

49. PALLADIUS said; ‘I have not denied that the Son of God is good.’

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘Do you say that Christ is a good God?’

Palladius said; ‘I do not answer you.’

Valerian, Bishop, said; ‘Do not press Palladius so much: he cannot
confess our truths with simplicity. For his conscience is confused
with a twofold blasphemy: he was ordained by the Photinians and was
condemned with them, and now he shall be condemned more fully.’

Palladius said; ‘Prove it.’

Sabinus, Bishop, said; ‘He would not have denied that Christ is true if
he were not following his own teachers.’

50. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; ‘You have objected to me that I am impious:
prove it.’

Palladius said; ‘We will bring forward our statement, and when we have
brought it, then the discussion shall be held.’

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘Condemn the impiety of Arius.’

Palladius being silent,

Eusebius, Bishop, said; ‘He dwells upon useless subjects. There are so
many impieties of Arius, which Palladius has not chosen to condemn, nay
rather has confessed by supporting. He who does not condemn Arius is
like him, and is rightly to be called a heretic.’

All the Bishops said; ‘On the part of us all let Palladius be anathema.’

51. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; ‘Do you consent, Palladius, that the other
statements of Arius be read?’

Palladius said; ‘Give us arbiters: let reporters come on both sides.
You cannot be judges unless we have arbitrators and unless persons come
on both sides to arbitrate, we do not answer you.’

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘What arbitrators do you wish for?’

Palladius said; ‘There are here many men of high rank.’

Sabinus, Bishop, said; ‘After such a number of blasphemies do you wish
for arbitrators?’

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘Bishops ought to judge of laymen: not laymen of
Bishops. But tell me what judges you wish for.’

Palladius said; ‘Let arbitrators attend.’

Chromatius, the Presbyter, said; ‘Without prejudice to condemnation
by the Bishops, let those also who are of Palladius’ party be heard at
full length.’

52. PALLADIUS said; ‘They are not allowed to speak. Let arbitrators
attend and reporters on both sides, and then they will answer you in
a General Council.’

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘Though he has been convicted of many impieties,
yet we should blush that a person who claims the priesthood for himself
should seem to have been condemned by laymen, and on this very ground
and in this very point he deserves condemnation because he looks to
the sentence of laymen, when priests ought rather to be the judges of
laymen. Looking to what we have this day heard Palladius professing
and to what he has refused to condemn, I pronounce him unworthy of the
priesthood, and I judge that he should be deprived[32] thereof in order
that a Catholic may be ordained in his place.’

All the Bishops said; ‘Anathema to Palladius.’

53. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; ‘The most gracious and Christian Emperor has
committed the cause to the judgement of the Bishops and has constituted
them arbitrators of the dispute[33]. Since therefore the decision
appears to have been made over to us, so that we are the interpreters
of the Scriptures, let us condemn Palladius, who has not chosen to
condemn the sentiments of the impious Arius, and because he has himself
denied the Son of God to be everlasting, and made the other statements
which appear in our proceedings. Let him therefore be accounted

All the Bishops said; ‘We all condemn him; let him be accounted

54. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; ‘Since all who are met here are Christian
men, brethren approved of God, and our fellow-bishops, let each
individual say, what he thinks.’

Valerian, Bishop, said; ‘My sentence is that he who defends Arius is
an Arian; that he who does not condemn his blasphemies is himself a
blasphemer; and therefore I judge that such a man is alien from the
fellowship of Bishops.’

Palladius said; ‘You have begun to play; play on. Without an Eastern
Council we answer you not.’

55. ANEMIUS, Bishop of Sirmium, said; ‘Whoever does not condemn the
heresies of Arius must of necessity be an Arian. Him therefore I judge
to be alien from our communion, and to be without place in the assembly
of Bishops.’

Constantius, Bishop of Orange, said; ‘As Palladius is a disciple of
Arius, whose impieties have been long since condemned by our Fathers
in the Council of Nice, but have this day severally, when recited,
been approved of by Palladius, inasmuch as he was not disturbed at his
acknowledging that the Son of God was not of the same Nature with God
the Father, and at his calling Him a creature, and saying that He began
to be in time, and denying Him to be true Lord, on these grounds, I
judge that he should be condemned for ever.’

56. JUSTUS, Bishop, said; ‘Palladius who has refused to condemn the
blasphemies of Arius, and who seems rather to acknowledge them, can in
my judgement no longer be called a Priest or be reckoned among Bishops.’

Eventius, Bishop of Ticinum, said; ‘I think that Palladius who has
refused to condemn the impieties of Arius, is removed for ever from the
fellowship of Bishops.’

57. ABUNDANTIUS, Bishop of Trent, said; ‘Since Palladius maintains
evident blasphemies, let him know that he is condemned by the Council
of Aquileia.’

Eusebius, Bishop of Bologna, said; ‘Inasmuch as Palladius has not only
refused to condemn the impieties of Arius, impieties written with the
pen of the devil, and which it is not lawful so much as to listen to,
but has also appeared as the maintainer of them by denying that the Son
of God is true Lord, is good Lord, is wise Lord, is everlasting Lord;
both by my sentence, and by the judgement of all Catholics I think that
he is rightly condemned and excluded from the assembly of Bishops.’

58. SABINUS, Bishop of Placentia, said; ‘Since it has been proved to
all that Palladius supports the Arian perfidy and maintains its impiety
that was counter to the Evangelical and apostolical institutions, a
just sentence of the whole Council has been passed upon him, and humble
individual as I am, let him by my judgement be deprived once more of
the priesthood and banished justly from this most holy assembly.’

Felix and Numidius, deputies of Africa said; ‘Anathema to the Sect
of the Arian heresy to which by the Synod of Aquileia Palladius is
pronounced to belong. But we condemn also those, who contradict the
truth of the Nicene Synod.’

59. LIMENIUS, Bishop of Vercellæ, said; ‘It is manifest that the Arian
doctrine has been often condemned: and therefore, inasmuch as Palladius
having been appealed to in this holy Synod of Aquileia has refused
to correct and amend himself, and has rather proved himself worthy
of blame and defiled himself with the perfidy which he has publicly
professed himself to hold, I too by my judgement declare that he is
to be deprived of the fellowship of the Bishops.’

Maximus, Bishop of Emona, said; ‘That Palladius, who would not condemn,
but has rather himself acknowledged, the blasphemies of Arius, is
justly and deservedly condemned God knows, and the conscience of the
faithful has condemned him.’

60. EXUPERANTIUS, Bishop of Dertona, said; ‘As the rest of my
Colleagues have condemned Palladius who has refused to condemn the sect
and doctrine of Arius, and on the contrary has defended them, I also
likewise condemn him.’

Bassianus, Bishop of Lodi, said; ‘I have heard along with the rest of
my Colleagues the impieties of Arius, which Palladius not only has not
condemned but has confirmed. Let him be anathema and be deprived of the

61. PHILASTER, Bishop of Brescia, said; ‘The blasphemies and iniquity
of Palladius, who follows and defends the Arian doctrine I in company
with all have condemned.’

Constantius, Bishop of Sciscia, said; ‘As the rest of my brother
Bishops, I also think that Palladius is to be condemned, who has
refused to condemn the blasphemies and impieties of Arius.’

Heliodorus, Bishop of Altinum, said; ‘The man who maintains the perfidy
of Arius, and of all the heretics with whom Palladius is partner, whose
heart is foolish, and who has not confessed the truth, together with
the rest of my brother Bishops I condemn.’

62. FELIX, Bishop of Jadera, said; ‘I also in like manner unite with
all in condemning Palladius, who speaks blasphemies against the Son of
God as Arius did.’

Theodorus, Bishop of Octodorum, said; ‘We judge Palladius, who has
denied Christ to be true God, co-eternal with the Father, to be in no
wise either a Christian or a priest.’

Domninus, Bishop of Grenoble, said; ‘As Palladius adheres to the
perfidy of Arius, I also judge that he is to be condemned for ever,
as my brethren also have condemned him.’

63. PROCULUS, Bishop of Marseilles, said; ‘Palladius, who by a kind
of impious succession to the blasphemies of Arius has defended them
in that he does not condemn them, as he has been already designated a
blasphemer by the sentence of many venerable Bishops, and pronounced
alien from the priesthood, so by my sentence also is marked out in the
same manner as condemned for ever.’

Diogenes, Bishop of Genoa, said; ‘Palladius who while he does not
confess has even denied Christ to be true Lord and God, like and equal
to the Father, I together with the rest of my brethren and fellow
Bishops adjudge to have the lot of condemnation.’

64. AMANTIUS, Bishop of Nice, said; ‘Palladius, who has refused to
pull down the sect of Arius, according to the judgement of my brother
Bishops, I also condemn.’

Januarius, Bishop, said; ‘As all my brother Bishops have condemned
Palladius so also do I think that he ought to be condemned by a similar

65. SECUNDIANUS having withdrawn for a while, and then returned to the

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘You have heard, Secundianus, what sort of
sentence the impious Palladius has received, having been condemned by
the Council of Bishops: and though we have been displeased that you
have not shrunk from his madness, I nevertheless make some special
enquiries of you. Do you say that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God,
is or is not very God?’

Secundianus said; ‘He who denies the Father of our Lord and God Jesus
Christ to be true God is not a Christian, nor is he who denies that the
Lord is the very Son of God.’

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘Do you confess that the Son of God is very God?’

Secundianus said; ‘I say that He is the very Son of God, the very only
begotten Son of God.’

66. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; ‘Do you call Him very Lord?’

Secundianus said; ‘I call Him the very only-begotten Son of God. Who
denies that He is the very Son of God?’

Eusebius, Bishop, said; ‘It is not enough that you confess Him to be
the only-begotten Son of God, for all confess this. But what influences
us is that Arius said that the Father alone is Lord, alone is true, and
denied that the Son of God is very Lord. Do you confess simply that the
Son of God is very God?’

  Sidenote: S. John i. 18.

Secundianus said; ‘Who Arius was, I know not; what he said, I know not.
You speak with me, living man with living man. I say what Christ said:
_The only begotten Son Which is in the bosom of the Father_. Therefore
He asserts Himself to be the only-begotten Son of the Father: the
only-begotten Son is then the very Son of God.’

  Sidenote: Isa. lxv. 16.

67. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; “Is the very Son of God also very God? It
is written in the divine books: _he that sweareth on the earth, shall
swear by the true God_, and that this applies to Christ there is no
doubt. We therefore profess the true God, and this is our faith and
profession, that the only-begotten Son of the Father is very God. Do
you then say ‘of very God,’ and then that the Son is very God.”

Secundianus said; ‘Of very God.’

68. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; ‘Is the Son of God very God?’

Secundianus said; ‘Then would he be a liar.’

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘In this you practise an evasion to avoid saying
very God, but instead thereof, God, very only-begotten, and therefore
say simply, The only-begotten Son of God is very God.’

Secundianus said; ‘I called Him the only-begotten Son of God.’

69. EUSEBIUS, Bishop, said; ‘This Photinus does not deny, this Sabellus

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘And he who does not confess this is justly
condemned, and on this point I appeal to you many times though by
cavilling you have denied the truth. I do not ask you to call Him
merely the very only-begotten Son of God, but to call Him also very

Secundianus said; ‘I profess myself the servant of truth. What I say is
not taken down and what you say is taken down. I say that Christ is the
true Son of God. Who denies that He is the true Son of God?’

70. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; ‘He who denies that the only-begotten Son of
God is very God, let him be anathema.’

Secundianus said; ‘The only-begotten Son of God, very God! why do you
state to me what is not written?’

Ambrose, Bishop, said: ‘It is plain sacrilege, that Arius denied Christ
the Son of God to be very God.’

Secundianus said; ‘Forasmuch as Christ is called the Son of God, I call
the Son of God very Son[36]; but that He is very God is not written.’

71. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; ‘Have you not yet recovered your senses?’
And he added; ‘Lest it should appear that he has been unfairly
treated, let him state his opinion. Let him then say that Christ the
only-begotten Son of God is very God.’

Secundianus said; ‘I have already said. What more would you wring from

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘What have you said? certainly if you had said
so great truths, what is said gloriously, may well be often repeated.’

  Sidenote: S. Matt. v. 37.

Secundianus said; ‘It is written, _Let your conversation be yea, yea,
nay, nay_.’

72. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; ‘He who says that the Father Himself is the
Son, is sacrilegious. This I ask of you that you would say that the Son
of God is begotten very God of very God.’

  Sidenote: Heb. i. 5.

Secundianus said; ‘I say that the Son is begotten of God, as He says
Himself _I have begotten Thee_, and that He confesses Himself to be

73. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; ‘Is He very God of very God?’

Secundianus said; ‘When you add to the Name and call Him very [God], do
you understand what the character of your own faith is, and are you a

Eusebius, Bishop, said; ‘Who has denied that He is very God? Arius and
Palladius have denied it. If you believe Him to be very God, you should
simply express it.’

74. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; ‘If you will not say that He is very God
begotten of very God, you have denied Christ.’

Secundianus said; ‘When asked about the Son, I answered you: I have
answered as to the manner in which I ought to make my profession. We
have your statement: we will bring it forward; let it be read.’

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘You should have brought it forward to-day, but
you are attempting a subterfuge. You demand a profession of me and I
demand a profession of you. Is the Son of God very God?’

Secundianus said; ‘The Son of God is God only-begotten. I also ask him:
Is He only-begotten?’

75. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; “Let reason move us: let us be moved too by
your impiety and folly. When you speak of God very only-begotten, you
do not apply the ‘very’ to ‘God,’ but to ‘only-begotten.’ And therefore
to remove this question answer me this: Is He very God of very God?”

Secundianus said; ‘Did then God not beget God? He Who is very God begat
What He is; He begat one true only-begotten Son.’

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ‘You do not confess Him very God but you would
call Him very only-begotten. I too call Him only-begotten, but also
very God.’

Secundianus said; ‘I say that he was begotten of the Father, I say to
all that he was very begotten[37].’

The Names of the Bishops and Presbyters who were present at the Council.

VALERIAN, Bishop of Aquileia[38].

AMBROSE, Bishop of Milan.

EUSEBIUS, Bishop of Bologna.

LIMENIUS, Bishop of Vercellæ.

ANEMIUS, Bishop of Sirmium in Illyricum.

SABINUS, Bishop of Placentia.

ABUNDANTIUS, Bishop of Brescia.

CONSTANTIUS, Bishop of Orange, Deputy of the Gauls.

THEODORUS, Bishop of Octodurus.

DOMNINUS, Bishop of Grenoble.

AMANTIUS, Bishop of Nice.

MAXIMUS, Bishop of Emona.

BASSIANUS, Bishop of Lodi.

PROCULUS, Bishop of Marseilles, Deputy of the Gauls.

HELIODORUS, Bishop of Altinum.

FELIX, Bishop of Jadera.

EVENTIUS, Bishop of Ticinum[39].

EXSUPERANTIUS, Bishop of Dertona.

DIOGENES, Bishop of Genoa.

CONSTANTIUS, Bishop of Sciscia.

JUSTUS, Bishop of Lyons, also Deputy of the Gauls.

FELIX, Deputy of Africa.

NUMIDIUS, Deputy of Africa.

EVAGRIUS, Presbyter and Deputy.


                              LETTER IX.
                               A.D. 381.

  A FORMAL letter from the Italian Bishops assembled at Aquileia,
  thanking the Bishops of the three Provinces for the presence of
  their deputies, and announcing officially the condemnation of
  Palladius and Secundianus.

                   NARBONESE PROVINCES[40] IN GAUL.

1. WE return thanks to your holy unanimity that in the persons of
our Lords and brethren Constantius and Proculus you have given us the
presence of you all, and at the same time following the directions of
former times, have added not a little weight to our judgement, with
which the profession of your holinesses also is in agreement, Lords
and brethren most beloved. Therefore, as we received with gladness the
above mentioned holy men of your order and ours, so do we also dismiss
them with an abundant offering of thanks.

2. But how necessary the meeting was will be plain from the mere facts,
since the adversaries and enemies of God, the defenders of the Arian
sect and heresy, Palladius and Secundianus, the only two who dared
to come to the meeting of the Council, received in person their due
sentence, being convicted of impiety. Farewell. May our Almighty God
keep you safe and prosperous, Lords and brethren most beloved. Amen.

                               LETTER X.
                               A.D. 381.

  IN this letter, addressed formally to the three Emperors,
  but really to Gratian, the Council offer their thanks for the
  summoning of the Council, and announce its results, requesting
  that they may be enforced by the imperial authority. They also
  request the removal of Julius Valens from Italy, and that the
  Photinians may be forbidden to hold assemblies, which they were
  doing at Sirmium.


1. BLESSED be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has
given you the Roman empire, and blessed be our Lord Jesus Christ,
the only-begotten Son of God, Who guards your reign with His
loving-kindness, before Whom we return you thanks, most gracious
Princes, that you have both proved the earnestness of your own faith
in that you were zealous to assemble the Council of Bishops for the
removal of disputes, and that in your condescension you reserved for
the Bishops the honourable privilege that no one should be absent who
wished to attend, and none should be constrained to attend against his

  Sidenote: Ps. xli. 1. C.P.T.

2. Therefore according to the directions of your Graces we have
met together without the odium of large numbers and with zeal for
discussion, nor were any of the Bishops found to be heretics, except
Palladius and Secundianus, names of ancient perfidy, on whose account
people from the farthest portions of the Roman world demanded that a
Council should be summoned. None however, loaded with the years of a
long life, whose gray hairs alone would be entitled to reverence, was
compelled to come from the most distant recesses of the Ocean: and yet
nothing was lacking to the Council: no one dragging a feeble frame,
weighed down by his campaigns of fasting, was forced by the hardships
of his journey to lament the inconvenience of his loss of strength;
no one finally, being without the means of coming, had to mourn over
a poverty honourable to a Bishop. So that what the divine Scripture
has praised was fulfilled in you, most merciful of Princes, Gratian,
_Blessed is he that considereth the poor and needy_.

3. But what a hardship would it have been that on account of two
Bishops only, who are rotten in perfidy, the Churches over the whole
world should be left destitute of their Bishops. But though owing to
the distance of the journey they could not come personally, nearly
all from all the western provinces were present by the sending of
deputies, and proved by manifest attestations that they hold what we
assert and that they agree in the formula of the Council of Nicæa, as
the documents hereto attached declare. Therefore the prayers of the
nations are now in concert every where on behalf of your Empire, and
yet assertors of the Faith have not been wanting to your decision. For
though the directions of our predecessors, from which it is impious
and sacrilegious to deviate, were plain enough, still we gave them the
opportunity of discussion.

4. And in the first instance we examined the very beginning of the
question which had arisen, and we thought fit to hear recited the
letter of Arius, who is found to be the author of the Arian heresy,
from whom also the heresy received its name, the arrangement being thus
far even favourable to them, that since they had been in the habit of
denying that they were Arians they might either by censure condemn the
blasphemies of Arius, or by argument maintain them, or at least not
refuse the name of the person, whose impiety and perfidy they followed.
But inasmuch as they could not condemn and were unwilling to support
their Founder, after they had themselves, three days before, challenged
us to a discussion, fixing place and time, and gone forth to it without
waiting to be summoned, on a sudden the very individuals, who had said
that they would easily prove that they were Christians, (which we heard
with pleasure, and hoped that they would prove,) began to shrink from
the engagement on the spot and to decline the discussion.

5. Yet had we much discourse with them: the divine Scriptures were set
forth in the midst; and they had the offer made to them of a patient
discussion from sun-rise to the seventh hour of the day. And would
that they had said little, or that we could cancel what we heard. For
when Arius by saying in sacrilegious words that the Father was alone
eternal, alone good, alone true God, alone possessing immortality,
alone wise and alone powerful, had intended that the Son by an impious
inference should be understood to be without these attributes, these
men have preferred following Arius to confessing that the Son of God
is everlasting God and very God, and good God and wise and powerful
and possessing immortality. We spent several hours to no purpose. Their
impiety waxed greater and could in no wise be corrected.

6. At last when they saw that they were pressed by the sacrileges of
Arius’ letter, (which we have appended in order that even your Graces
might shrink from it) they started away in the middle of the reading
of the letter, and asked us to answer what they proposed. Though it
lay not within either order or reason that we should interrupt the
plan laid down, and though we had already answered that they were
to condemn the impieties of Arius and then we would answer about
whatever proposals of theirs they pleased, preserving order and plan,
we notwithstanding acceded to their unreasonable wish: on which,
falsifying the scriptures of the Gospel, they stated to us that our
Lord said, _He that sent Me is greater than I_: whereas the course of
the Scriptures teaches us that it is written otherwise.

7. They were convicted of the falsehood even to confession: they were
not however corrected by reason. For when we said that the Son is
called less than the Father in respect to his taking flesh upon Him,
but is proved according to the testimonies of the Scriptures to be like
and equal to the Father in respect of His Godhead, and that there could
not be degrees of any distinction or greatness, when there was unity of
power; they not only would not correct their error; but began to carry
their madness further, so as even to say that the Son is subject in
respect of His divinity, as if there could be any subjection of God in
respect of His Divinity and Majesty. In short they refer His death not
to the mystery of our salvation, but to some infirmity of His Godhead.

8. We shudder, most gracious Princes, at such dire sacrileges, and
such wicked teachers, and that they might not any longer deceive the
people of whom they had a hold, we judged that they should be degraded
from the Priesthood, since they agreed with the impieties of the book
put before them. For it is not reasonable that they should claim to
themselves the Priesthood of Him Whom they have denied. We appeal
to your faith and your glory that you would shew the respect of your
government to Him Who is the author of it, and judge that the assertors
of impiety and debauchers of the truth be kept away from the threshold
of the Church, by an order of your Graces issued to the competent
authorities, and that Holy Bishops be put into the place of the
condemned ones by deputies of our humble appointment.

9. The Presbyter Attalus[41] too who avows his error and adheres to
the sacrilegious doctrines of Palladius is included under a similar
sentence. For why should we speak of his master Julianus Valens[42]?
who although he was close at hand shunned coming to the Council of
Bishops for fear he should be compelled to account to the Bishops for
the ruin of his country, and his treason to his countrymen: a man, who,
polluted with the impiety of the Goths, presumed, as is asserted, to go
forth in the sight of a Roman army, wearing like a Pagan a collar and
bracelet: which is unquestionably a sacrilege not only in a Bishop, but
also in any Christian whatever: for it is alien to the Roman customs.
It may be that the idolatrous priests of the Goths commonly go forth in
such guise.

10. Let your piety be moved by the title of Bishop, which that
sacrilegious person dishonours, convicted as he is of atrocious crime
even by the voice of his own people, if indeed any of his own people
can still survive. Let him at least return to his own home, and cease
to contaminate the most flourishing cities of Italy; at present by
unlawful ordinations he is associating with himself persons like
himself, and he endeavours by help of all abandoned individuals to
leave behind him a seed-plot of his own impiety and perfidy: whereas he
has not so much as begun to be a Bishop. For, to begin with, at Petavio
he was put in the place of the holy Marcus, a Bishop whose memory is
highly esteemed: but, having been disgracefully degraded by the people,
unable to remain at Petavio, he has been riding in state at Milan,
after the overthrow, say rather the betrayal, of his country.

11. Deign then, most pious princes, to deal with all these matters,
lest we should appear to have met to no purpose, when we obeyed your
Graces’ injunctions: for care must be taken that not only our decisions
but yours also be saved from dishonour. We must request therefore that
your Graces would be pleased to listen indulgently to the deputies
of the Council, Holy men, and bid them to return speedily with
accomplishment of what we ask for, that you may receive a reward from
Christ our Lord and God, Whose Church you have cleansed from all stain
of sacrilegious persons.

12. With respect to the Photinians also, whom by a former law you
forbad forming assemblies, revoking at the same time the law which had
been passed for the assembling of a Council of Bishops[43], we request
of your Graces, that as we have ascertained that they are attempting
to hold assemblies in the town of Sirmium, you would by now again
interdicting their meetings, cause respect to be paid, in the first
place to the Catholic Church, and next to your own laws, that with God
for your Patron you may be triumphant, while you provide for the peace
and tranquillity of the Church.

                              LETTER XI.
                               A.D. 381.

  THIS letter, which, like the previous one, is really
  addressed to Gratian, though in accordance with custom formally
  superscribed with the names of all the three Emperors, urges him
  to support Damasus as the orthodox and duly elected Bishop of
  Rome, and to condemn his rival Ursinus, whose interference with
  their Council, and intrigues with the Arian party they also
  inform him of.


1. YOUR enactments have indeed already provided, most gracious Princes,
that the perfidy of the Arians may not any further either be concealed
or diffused: for we do not conceive that the decrees of the Council
will be without effect; for as regards the West, two individuals
only have been found to dare to oppose the Council with profane and
impious words, men who had previously disturbed a mere corner of Dacia

2. There is another subject which distresses us more, which, as we
were assembled, it was our business to discuss duly, lest it should
spread through the whole body of the Church diffused over the whole
world, and so trouble all things For though we were generally agreed
that Ursinus[45] could not have overreached your piety (though he
allows nothing to be quiet, and amid the many urgencies of war would
press upon you with his importunity) still lest your holy tranquillity
of mind, which delights in having all persons in its care, should be
swayed by the false adulation of that unreasonable person, we think it
right, if you condescendingly allow it, to offer you our prayers and
entreaties, not only to guard against what may be, but shuddering at
past things also which have been brought about by his temerity. For if
he found any vent for his audacity, where would he not spread confusion?

3. But if pity for a single person can sway you, much more let the
prayer of all the Bishops move you. For which of us will be united
to him in fellowship and communion when he has attempted to usurp a
place not due to him, and one he could not lawfully have arrived at,
and endeavours to regain in a manner most unreasonable what he was
most unreasonable in aiming at? Often as he has been found guilty of
turbulence, he still goes on, as if his past conduct should inspire
no horror. He was often, as we ascertained and saw in the present
Council, in union and combination with the Arians at the time when he
endeavoured in company with Valens[46] to disturb the Church of Milan
with their detestable assembly: holding private meetings sometimes
before the doors of the synagogue and sometimes in the houses of the
Arians, and uniting his friends to them; and, as he could not go openly
himself to their congregations, teaching and informing them in what
way the Church’s peace might be disturbed. Their madness gave him fresh
courage, so as well to earn the favour of their supporters and allies.

  Sidenote: Titus iii. 10.

  Sidenote: 2 S. John 10.

4. When therefore it is written; _a man that is an heretic after[47]
one admonition reject_, and when another man who spoke by the Holy
Spirit has said that beasts such as these should be spurned and not
received with greeting or welcome, how is it possible that we should
not judge the person whom we have seen united to their society to be
also a maintainer of their perfidy? What even if he were not there? We
might still have besought your Graces not to allow the Roman Church,
the Head of the whole Roman world, and the sacred faith of the Apostles
to be disturbed; for from thence flow all the rights of venerable
Communion to all persons. And therefore we pray and beseech you that
you would condescend to take from him the means of stealing advantage
from you.

  Sidenote: 1 Tim. iii. 3–7.

5. We know your Graces’ holy modesty: let him not press upon you words
unbecoming your ears, or give his noisy utterance to what is alien from
the office and name of a Bishop, or say to you what is unseemly. When
he ought to have _a good report_ even _from those who are without_,
let your Graces condescend to recollect what was the testimony with
which the men of his own city have followed him. For it is a shame to
say and against modesty to repeat how disgraceful is the rumour, with
the reproach of which he is wounded. The shame of this ought to have
constrained him to silence, and if he partook in any degree of the
feelings and conscience of a Bishop, he would prefer the Church’s peace
and concord to his own ambition and inclination. But, lost to all shame,
he sends letters by Paschasius an excommunicated person, the standard
bearer of his madness, and so sows confusion, and attempts to excite
even Gentiles and abandoned characters.

6. We therefore entreat you to restore by the degradation of that most
troublesome person the security which has been interrupted both to us
Bishops and to the Roman people, which is at present in uncertainty
and suspense since the memorial of the Prefect of the city. And
on obtaining this let us in continuous and unbroken course offer
thanksgivings to God the Almighty Father and to Christ our Lord God.

                              LETTER XII.
                               A.D. 381.

  THIS letter, referring to the settlement of affairs in the
  East, is really addressed to Theodosius, the Emperor of the East.
  After expressing the thanks due to the Emperors for the success
  which has attended their efforts to establish the true faith
  throughout the Empire, the Bishops beg that Theodosius will use
  his influence to settle the questions of disputed succession,
  which were vexing the Churches of Alexandria and Antioch, and
  endangering the maintenance of Communion between the East and
  West. They ask therefore that a general Council may be summoned
  to Alexandria to settle both questions.


1. MOST gracious Emperors and most blessed and most glorious princes,
Gratian, Valentinian, and Theodosius, beloved of God the Father and
of His Son our Lord Jesus Christ, we are unable to match the benefits
which your piety has conferred upon us, even with the most overflowing
return of thanks. For now that, after many times of trial and various
persecutions, which the Arians, especially Lucius[48], who marked his
course by the impious murder of monks and virgins, and Demophilus[49]
too, an evil source of perfidy, brought on the Catholics, all the
Churches of God, in the East especially, have been restored to the
Catholics; while in the West scarce two heretics have been found to
oppose the decrees of the Holy Council, who can conceive himself able
to make an adequate acknowledgement of your goodness?

2. But though we cannot give full expression to your favours in words,
we still desire to recompense them by the prayers of the Council;
and though in all the several Churches we celebrate our daily vigils
for your Empire before our God, still when assembled in one body,
than which service we conceive nothing can be more glorious, we offer
thanksgivings to our Almighty God both on behalf of the Empire, and of
your own peace and safety, because peace and concord have been so shed
over us through you.

3. In the West indeed only in two corners, on the borders of Dacia
Ripensis and of Moesia did murmurs appear to have been raised against
the faith: and these places after the sentence of the Council should,
we conceive, be immediately provided for with your Graces’ indulgence.
But over all tracts and countries and village departments as far as the
Ocean, the communion of the faithful remains one and unpolluted. And in
the East we have had the greatest joy and delight in learning that the
Arians, who had violently invaded the Churches, have been ejected, and
that the sacred temples of God are frequented by Catholics alone.

4. But still since the envy of the Devil is never wont to rest, we hear
that there are among the Catholics themselves frequent dissensions and
implacable discord; and all our feelings are disturbed at ascertaining
that many things have been innovated upon, and that persons are
molested now who should have been relieved, men who continued always in
our Communion. In short Timotheus Bishop of the Church of Alexandria,
and Paulinus Bishop of the Church of Antioch[50], who always maintained
the concord of Communion with us inviolate, are said to be distressed
by the variances of other persons, whose faith in former times was
scarcely stedfast. These persons, if it be possible, and they are
recommended by a sufficient faith, we would wish to have added to our
fellowship: but without prejudice to the rights of those who share with
us the ancient Communion. And our care for them is not superfluous,
first of all because the fellowship of Communion should be clear of
all offence, and secondly, because we have long since received letters
from both parties, and particularly from those who were divided in the
Church of Antioch.

5. Indeed if the irruption of the enemy[51] had not hindered, we had
made arrangements to send thither some of our own number, to take the
office of umpires and referees for diffusing peace again, should it be
possible. But since our desires could not have accomplishment at that
time owing to the troubles of the state, we think it right to offer
our prayers to your Goodness, asking that by agreement[52] between
the factions, on the death of the one, the rights of the Church should
remain with the survivor, and that no additional consecration should
be forcibly attempted. And therefore we request you, most gracious
and Christian Princes, that you would have a Council of all Catholic
Bishops held at Alexandria, that they may more fully discuss and define
among themselves to whom Communion is to be imparted and with whom it
is to be maintained[53].

6. For though we have always supported the disposition and order of
the Church of Alexandria, and according to the manner and custom of our
predecessors we retain Communion with it in indissoluble fellowship to
these present times, still lest it should be thought that persons have
been neglected who have sought our Communion according to the agreement,
which we wish should stand, or that the shortest road to that peace and
fellowship of the faithful has not been taken, we pray you that when
they have discussed these matters in a full assembly among themselves,
the decrees of the Bishops may be furthered by the assistance
ministered by your Goodness. And allow us to be made acquainted with
this, that our minds may not waver in uncertainty, but that, full of
joy and relieved from anxiety, we may return thanks to your goodness
before Almighty God, not only that heresy is shut out, but also that
faith and concord are restored to the Catholics. The prayer which the
African and Gallic Churches offer you through their deputies is this,
that you would make the Bishops over the whole world your debtors,
though the debt already due to your excellence is not small.

7. To offer however our entreaties to your clemency and to obtain what
we ask for, we have sent as deputies our brethren and fellow-presbyters,
whom we pray you that you would condescend graciously to listen to, and
allow to return speedily.

                             LETTER XIII.
                               A.D. 382.

  IN the year following the Council of Aquileia, a Council of
  the Bishops of the civil Diocese of Italy appears to have been
  held, over which S. Ambrose presided. It appears to have dealt
  principally with the questions at issue between the East and
  West. This letter was written by S. Ambrose in the name of the
  Council, after the end of its session (‘in concilio nuper,’ § 3),
  to Theodosius. The Bishops complain of the election of Flavian
  to succeed Meletius at Antioch, contrary to the compromise which
  they urged in the last letter, and maintain Maximus’ claim to
  the see of Constantinople against Nectarius, urging again the
  necessity of a General Council of both East and West, to settle
  finally all the questions in dispute between them, and suggest
  that it should be held at Rome.


1. WE knew indeed that your holy mind was devoted to God in pure and
sincere faith, but your Majesty has loaded us with fresh benefits in
restoring the Catholics to the Churches. And I would that you could
have restored the Catholics themselves to their ancient reverence,
that they would innovate in nothing against the prescription of our
ancestors, and not be hasty either to rescind ♦what they ought to
maintain nor to maintain what they ought to rescind. Therefore we sigh,
your Majesty, perhaps with too much grief, but not without sufficient
reason, that it has proved easier to get the heretics expelled than to
establish concord among the Catholics. For the extent of the confusion
that has lately taken place is beyond expression.

2. We wrote to you not long ago, that since the city of Antioch
had two Bishops, Paulinus and Meletius, both of whom we regarded as
true to the faith, they should either agree with each other in peace
and concord, preserving Ecclesiastical order, or at least, if one of
them died before the other, no one should be put into the place of the
deceased while the other lived. But now on the death of Meletius, while
Paulinus is still alive, whom fellowship derived from our predecessors
uninterruptedly testifies to have remained in our Communion, another
person is said to have been not so much supplied, as super-added, into
the place of Meletius, contrary to right and to Ecclesiastical order.

3. And this is alleged to have taken place by the consent and advice
of Nectarius[54], the regularity of whose ordination we are not clearly
convinced of. For in a Council lately, when Maximus the Bishop, having
read the letter of Peter a man of holy memory, had shewn that the
communion of the Church of Alexandria remained with him, and had proved
by the clearest testimony, that he was consecrated[55] by three Bishops
ordaining by mandate within his private house, because the Arians were
at that time in possession of the Basilicas, we had no cause, most
blessed of Princes, to doubt of his episcopacy, when he testified that
he resisted and was forcibly constrained by a majority of the laity and

4. Still that we might not appear to have settled any thing
over-hastily in the absence of the parties, we thought it fit to inform
your Grace by letter, in order that his case might be provided for so
as best to serve the interests of public peace and concord, because
in truth we perceived that Gregory claimed to himself the priesthood
of the Church of Constantinople, by no means in accordance with the
tradition of the Fathers. We therefore in that Synod, attendance at
which appeared to have been prescribed to the Bishops of the whole
world, were of opinion that nothing ought to be decided rashly. So at
that particular time the persons who declined a general Council and who
are said to have had one at Constantinople, where they had ascertained
that Maximus had come hither to plead his cause in the Synod (and this,
even if a Council had not been proclaimed it was competent for him to
do lawfully and according to the customs of our predecessors, as also
Athanasius of holy memory, and since that Peter, brother Bishops of the
Church of Alexandria, and several of the Eastern Bishops have done, so
as to appear to have sought the decision of the Churches of Rome, of
Italy, and of all the West) when, as we said, they saw that he wished
to bring the question to a trial with those who denied his episcopate,
they were surely bound to wait for our opinion upon it[56]. We do not
claim any special privilege of examining such matters, but we ought to
have had a share in an united decision.

5. Last of all, it ought to have been decided whether he was to lose
his See, before deciding whether another should receive it, especially
by persons by whom Maximus complained that he was either deserted or
injured. Therefore since Maximus the Bishop has been received into
Communion by those of our fellowship on the ground that it was certain
that he had been ordained by Catholics, we did not see that he ought to
have been excluded from his claim to the Bishopric of Constantinople,
and we thought that his allegation ought to be weighed in the presence
of the parties.

But since we have learned recently that Nectarius has been ordained
at Constantinople, we fear that our communion with the Oriental
regions is broken, especially since Nectarius is said to have been left
immediately without the fellowship of Communion by the very persons by
whom he was ordained.

6. There is therefore no slight difficulty here. And it is not any
contention about wishes and ambition of our own that makes us anxious,
but we are greatly disturbed by the breaking up and interruption of
communion. Nor do we see any way in which concord can be established
except either by restoring to Constantinople the Bishop who was first
ordained, or at least having a Council of ourselves and of the Eastern
Bishops at Rome, to consider the ordination of both of them.

7. Nor does it seem unbecoming, your Majesty, that the persons, who
thought the judgement of Acholius, a single Bishop, so well worth
waiting for, that they called him to Constantinople from the regions of
the West, should be obliged to submit to the discussion of the Bishop
of the Church of Rome, and of the Bishops of the neighbourhood and of
Italy. If a question was reserved for a single individual, how much
more should it be reserved for many?

8. We, however, as it has been suggested to us by the most blessed
Prince, your Brother[57], that we should write to your Grace’s Majesty,
request that when the communion is one, you would be pleased that the
judgement should be joint and the consent concurrent.

                              LETTER XIV.
                               A.D. 382.

  THIS letter is a reply to one addressed to the Bishops of
  Italy by Theodosius, in answer to the last. He seems in it to
  have “undeceived them by informing them what Maximus was, and
  how different his ordination was from that of Nectarius. He
  represented to them that these affairs, and that of Flavian,
  ought to be judged in the East, where all the parties were
  present, and that there was no reason to oblige those of the
  East to come unto the West.” (Fleury xviii, 17, vol. 1. p. 41,
  Newman’s Transl.) The Bishops in this reply thank the Emperor
  for his efforts to appease the differences between the East and
  West, and profess the disinterestedness of their desire for a
  general Council, and add, as an additional reason for it, the
  spread of opinions attributed to Apollinaris, which require to
  be examined into in the presence of the parties concerned.


1. THE knowledge of your faith, which is diffused over the whole world,
has soothed the innermost feelings of our minds; and therefore, that
your reign might have the additional glory of having restored unity to
the Churches both of the West and East, we have thought it right, most
serene and faithful Emperor, at once to beseech and inform your Grace
on Ecclesiastical subjects by our letter. For we have been grieved
that the fellowship of holy Communion between the East and West was

2. We say not a word by whose error or by whose fault this was, that
we may not be supposed to be spreading fables and idle talk. Nor can
we regret having made an attempt, the neglect of which might have
turned to our blame. For it was often made matter of blame to us that
we appeared to disregard the society of the Eastern brethren, and to
reject their kindness.

3. We thought moreover that we ought to take this trouble on ourselves,
not for Italy, which now for this long time has been quiet and free
from anxiety on the part of the Arians, and which is troubled with no
disturbance of the heretics; not for ourselves, for we seek not our own
things, but the things of all; not for Gaul and Africa which enjoy the
individual fellowship of all their Bishops, but that the circumstances
which have disturbed our communion on the side of the East might be
enquired into in the Synod, and all scruple be removed from among us.

4. For not only with regard to the persons about whom your Grace
condescended to write, but with regard to others who are attempting to
bring into the Church some dogma or other, said to be Apollinaris’[58],
there were several things that affected us, to which the knife should
have been applied in the presence of the parties, that a person
convicted of maintaining a new dogma and proved to be in error should
not shelter himself under the general name of the Faith, but at once
lay down both the office and name of Bishop, which he was not entitled
to by authority of doctrine, and that no threads or artifices of
delusion should remain for persons hereafter wishing to deceive. For
the person who is convicted, not in the presence of the parties, as
your Grace has truly decided in your august and princely answer, will
always lay hold of a handle for reviving the enquiry.

5. This was why we asked for a Council of Bishops, that no one
should be permitted to state what was false against a person in his
absence, and that the truth might be cleared up by discussion in the
Council. We ought not then to incur any suspicion either of over-zeal
or over-leniency, seeing that we made all our observations in the
presence of the parties.

6. In truth we drew up what was quoted, not to decide but to
give information, and while we asked for a judgement, we offer no
prejudgement. Nor ought it to have been regarded as any reproach to
them, when Bishops were invited to the Council, who in many cases were
more present by their very absence, since it contributed to the common
good. For neither did we conceive it to be a reproach to us when a
Presbyter of the Church of Constantinople, by name Paulus, demanded
that there should be a Synod both of Eastern and Western Bishops in
the province of Achaia.

7. Your Grace observes that this demand, which was made by the Greeks
also, was not unreasonable. But, because there are disturbances in
Illyricum[59], a neighbourhood near the sea and safer was sought.
Nor have we indeed made any innovation in the way of precedent, but
preserving the decisions of Athanasius of holy memory, who was as
it were a pillar of the Faith, and of our holy fathers of old time
in their Councils, we do not tear up the boundaries that our Fathers
placed, or violate the rights of hereditary Communion, but reserving
the honour due to your authority, we shew ourselves studious of peace
and quietness[60].

                              LETTER XV.
                               A.D. 383.

  THIS letter is addressed to the Bishops of Macedonia, in
  reply to their announcement of the death of Acholius[61],
  Bishop of Thessalonica. S. Ambrose pronounces a warm eulogium
  on the departed Bishop, whom he compares to Elijah, especially
  in leaving in Anysius a successor, like Elisha, endowed with
  a double portion of his spirit. He recounts the pleasure which
  he had felt in his intercourse with Acholius at Rome, when they
  had wept together over the evils of the times, and invokes the
  Blessing of God upon his successor.


1. WHILE longing to keep ever imprinted on my mind the holy man, and
while I survey all his acts like one set on a watch-tower, my restless
anxiety caused me to drink only too swiftly these bitter tidings, and
I learned what I had rather still be ignorant of, that the man whom we
were seeking on earth was already at rest in heaven.

2. You will ask who announced this to me, seeing that the letter of
your Holinesses had not then arrived. I know not who was the bearer of
the tidings: it is, you know, men’s wont not willingly to remember the
bearer of tidings of sorrow: however, though the sea was then closed,
and the land blocked by a barbarian invasion, there was no lack of a
messenger, though it was impossible for any one to arrive from abroad;
so that it appears to me the saint himself announced his own death to
us, for now that he enjoyed the eternal recompense of his labours, and
freed from the bands of the body, had been carried by the ministry of
Angels to the intimate presence of Christ, he was desirous of removing
the error of one who loved him, that we might not be asking for him
length of mortal life, while he was already receiving eternal rewards.

  Sidenote: Ps. lv. 7.

  Sidenote: Phil. i. 24.

3. This veteran then of Christ Jesus is not dead, but has departed and
left us, he has changed for heaven this earth below, and clapping the
pinions and wings of his spirit he exclaims, _Lo, I have got me away
far off!_ For in the spirit of the Apostle he desired long ago to leave
the earth, but he was detained by the prayers of all, as we read of
the Apostle, because it was needful for the Church that he should abide
longer in the flesh. For he lived not for himself but for all, and was
to the people the minister of eternal life, so that he gained the fruit
thereof in others, before he experienced it in himself.

  Sidenote: Ps. xlviii. 7.

  Sidenote: Baruch iii. 24, 25.

4. Now therefore he is a citizen of heaven, a possessor of that eternal
city Jerusalem, which is in heaven. There he sees the boundless circuit
of this city, its pure gold, its precious stones, its perpetual light
though without the sun. And seeing all these things whereof he before
had knowledge, but which are now manifested to him face to face, he
says, _Like as we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the Lord
of hosts, in the city of our God_. Standing there he appeals to the
people of God saying, _O Israel, how great is the house of God, and how
large is the place of His possession!_ Great is He, and hath none end.

  Sidenote: 2 Kings vi. 18.

5. But what is this? While I consider his merits, and follow as it
were in spirit his departure, and mingle with the choirs of saints that
escort him, not indeed by my desert but by my affection, meanwhile I
have almost forgotten myself. Is then this wall of faith and grace and
sanctity taken from us, that wall which, though frequently assaulted
by the Goths[62], their barbarian darts could never penetrate, nor the
warlike fury of many nations overpower? They who in other places were
spoilers there prayed for peace, and while they marvelled what was this
unarmed force which opposed them, the wiser hinted that one like Elisha
dwelt within, one who was nearly his equal in age, in spirit quite his
equal, and bade them beware lest after the manner of the Syrian army,
blindness should fall on them also.

6. However the gifts of Christ to His disciples are various. Elisha
led captive into Samaria the army of the Syrians, holy Acholius by his
prayers caused the victors to retreat from Macedonia. Do we not see
in this a proof of supernatural forces, that though no soldiers were
at hand, the victors should thus fly without a foe; is not this too
a proof of blindness that they should fly when no man pursued? Though
in truth holy Acholius pursued and fought them, not with swords but
prayers, not with weapons but good works.

  Sidenote: Ib. vii. 6.

7. Do we not know that the saints fight even when they keep holiday?
Was not Elisha at rest? Yes, at rest in body, but in spirit he was
active, and by his prayers he fought when the noise of horses and the
noise of a great host were heard in the camp of the Syrians, so that
they thought that the forces of other princes were marching against
them, to succour the people of Israel. So they were seized with great
panic and fled, and four lepers, who had gone out to seek for death,
spoiled their camp. And did not the Lord work like, or, I might almost
say, greater wisdom in Macedonia, by the prayers of Acholius? For it
was not by an idle panic nor a vague suspicion, but by a raging plague
and burning pestilence that the Goths were troubled and alarmed. In
short they then fled that they might escape; afterwards they returned
and sued for peace to save their lives.

  Sidenote: 2 Kings ii. 4.

8. Wherefore in the great deeds of this eminent man we have seen
former ages revived, and have witnessed those works of the prophet
which we read of. Like Elisha he was all his life in the midst of
arms and battles, and by his good works made wars to cease. And when
tranquillity was restored to his countrymen, he breathed out his holy
soul, a misfortune heavier than war itself. Like Elijah he was carried
up to heaven, not in a chariot of fire, nor by horses of fire, (unless
haply it was but that we saw them not) nor in any whirlwind in the sky,
but by the will and in the calm of our God, and with the jubilation of
the holy Angels who rejoiced that such a man had come among them.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xxv. 21.

9. Surely we cannot doubt this, when all other particulars agree so
well. For at the very moment when he was being taken up, he let fall so
to speak the vestment which he wore, and invested with it holy Anysius
his disciple, and clothed him with the robes of his own priesthood.
His merits and graces I do not now hear for the first time, nor have I
first learnt them from your letters, but I recognised them in what you
wrote. For as if foreknowing that he would be his successor, Acholius
designated him as such by tokens, though in open speech he concealed
it; saying that he had been aided by his care, labour, and ministry,
thus seeming to declare him his coadjutor, one who would not come as a
novice to the chief office of the priesthood, but as a tried performer
of its duties. Well does that saying in the Gospel befit him, _Well
done, thou good and faithful servant, thou hast been faithful over a
few things, I will make thee ruler over many things_.

  Sidenote: 1 Kings x. 24.

10. So far both you and I participate in holy Acholius, but there is
this special bond between him and me, that the man of blessed memory
suffered me to become his friend. For on his arrival in Italy, when
I was prevented by illness from going to meet him, he himself came
and visited me. With what ardour, with what affection did we embrace
each other! With what groans did we lament the evil of the times, and
all that was happening here! Our garments were bedewed with a flood of
tears, while in the enjoyment of our meeting long and mutually desired,
we remained locked in each others embrace. Thus what I had long yearned
for he bestowed, the opportunity of seeing him. For although it is in
the spirit, the seat of love, that the greater portion and more perfect
knowledge lies, yet we desire to behold our friends in bodily form also.
Thus formerly the kings of the earth sought to behold the face of
Solomon, and to hear his wisdom.

  Sidenote: Deut. xxxiii. 8.

  Sidenote: Ib. 9.

  Sidenote: Ecclus. xliv. 15.

11. He is gone then from us, and has left us tossed on this sea; what
is a benefit to him is to the many a heavier calamity than even the
rage of the barbarians; for this he repelled, and now who shall bring
back his presence to us? Nay, the Lord brings it back, and he himself
gives himself back in his disciple. Your judgements give him back,
by which you say, _Give to Levi his manifest one, and his truths to
Thy holy one_. You have given _his manifest one_ inasmuch as he is
established by his appointment; you have given a follower of that
man, _who said unto his father and to his mother I have not seen thee;
neither did he acknowledge his brethren, nor knew his own children. He
observed the word of the Lord, and kept His covenant. The people will
tell of his wisdom._

12. Such was the man’s life, such his heritage, such his conversation,
such his succession. While yet a boy he entered a monastery, and
though shut up in a narrow cell in Achaia, yet by grace he traversed
the spaces of many countries. The people of Macedonia besought that
he might be their Bishop, the priesthood elected him to that office,
that where the faith had before been maimed[63] by the Bishop, there
afterwards the solid foundations of the faith might be established by
the Bishop.

  Sidenote: Deut. xxxiii. 9.

  Sidenote: Deut. xxxiii. 16.

13. None other did his disciple imitate, who also himself _said unto
his father and to his mother I have not seen thee_. He saw them not
with affection, he saw them not with desire, and he knew not his
brethren, because he desired to know the Lord. He observed also the
word of the Lord and kept His covenant, and will ever offer sacrifice
upon His altar. Bless, O Lord, his faith, his holiness, his assiduity.
Let Thy blessing descend upon his head and upon his neck. Let him be
honourable among his brethren, let him be as the leader of the herd.
Let him sift the hearts of his enemies, let him soothe the minds of the
saints, and let the judgement of Thy priests flourish in him as a lily.
Brethren, farewell, and love me, as I love you.

                              LETTER XVI.
                               A.D. 383.

  THIS letter is addressed to Anysius, immediately on his election
  as successor to Acholius, in answer apparently to one from
  Anysius, which accompanied that from the Bishops of Macedonia,
  and announced his appointment. He speaks of the responsibility
  of succeeding so zealous a Bishop as Acholius, whom he praises
  in enthusiastic terms, and prays that God may make him a worthy
  successor in every way.


1. I HAVE been for some time sure of what I now read for the first
time, and I know well by his merits him whom my eyes have not seen.
I grieve that the one event should have happened, I rejoice that the
other has ensued; I should have wished that the one had not happened
in my lifetime, but it was my hope that after the death of that holy
man this alone would ensue, as it ought. So now we have you, once
the disciple, now the successor of Acholius of blessed memory, the
inheritor alike of his rank and of his grace. This is a great merit,
my brother. I congratulate you that there was not a moment’s doubt who
should be the successor of so great a man. It is a great task too, my
brother, to have taken upon you the burden of so great a name, a name
of such weight, of such a scale. In you we look for Acholius, and as he
was in your affections, so in your ministry is required a copy of his
virtue, of his holy life, his vigorous mind in that decrepit body.

  Sidenote: 2 Cor. xii. 2.

2. I have seen him, I confess: my seeing him is due to his merits:
I saw him in such sort in the body as to believe him to be out of the
body: I saw the image of him who, knowing not whether it was in the
body or out of the body, saw himself transported to Paradise. With
such rapid speed had he traversed every region, Constantinople, Achaia,
Epirus, and Italy, that younger men could not keep pace with him. Men
of stronger bodies yielded to him, knowing that he was free from the
shackles of the body, so that he used it more as a covering than as
an instrument, at all events that it was his slave not his helpmate,
for he had so trained his body that he crucified the world in it, and
himself to the world.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xii. 48.

  Sidenote: 2 Chron. ix. 21.

  Sidenote: Ps. lxviii. 14.

3. Blessed is the Lord, and blessed was His youth which He passed in
the tabernacle of the God of Jacob, abiding in a monastery, in which,
when sought after by His parents and relations He said, _Who is My
mother, and who are My brethren?_ I know not father, nor mother, nor
brethren, save those _who hear the Word of God, and do it_. Blessed
also were his maturer years, wherein he was elected to the chief
priesthood, having given proof of his virtue by a long service. He
came like David to restore peace to the people. He came like that ship
bringing with him spiritual treasure, and cedar wood, and precious
stones, and those _silver wings of a dove_, with which, lying _in the
midst of the lots_, she slept the sleep of tranquillity and peace.

  Sidenote: Cant. v. 2.

  Sidenote: Gen. xxviii. 13.

4. For even the sleep of the saints is operative, as it is written,
_I sleep, but my heart waketh_, and as holy Jacob saw in sleep divine
mysteries, which waking he saw not, even a passage opened for the
saints between earth and heaven, and the Lord regarding him and
promising to him the possession of that land. Thus by a brief sleep
he attained that which his successors afterwards won by great toil.
The sleep of the saints is free from all bodily pleasures, from all
perturbation of mind, it brings tranquillity to the mind and peace to
the soul, so that, freed from the fetters of the body, it raises itself
aloft, and is united to Christ.

  Sidenote: Wisd. iv. 9.

5. This sleep is the life of the saints, the life which holy Acholius
lived, whose old age was also blest. That old age is truly venerable
which is hoary not with gray hairs but in good deeds; for those hoar
hairs are reverent which belong to the soul, whose works and thoughts
are, as it were, white and shining. For what is true old age, but that
unspotted life, which lasts not for days or months but for ages, whose
continuance is without end, whose length of years is without weakness?
For the longer it lives the stronger it waxes; the longer its life
lasts the more vigorously does it grow unto a perfect man.

  Sidenote: Isa. lx. 8.

  Sidenote: 2 Chron. ix. 21.

6. May God then approve you his successor not only in honor but also in
conversation, and may He deign to establish you in His highest grace,
that the people may flock to you also, and you may say often, _Who
are these that fly as a cloud, and as the doves with their young?_ Let
them come also as the ships of Tarshish, and take in corn which the
true Solomon gives, even twenty measures of wheat. Let them receive the
oil and wisdom of Solomon, and let there be peace between thee and thy
people, and keep thou the covenant of peace. Brother, farewell: love me,
for I too love you.

                             LETTER XVII.
                               A.D. 384.

  THIS letter was addressed to the Emperor Valentinian the 2nd
  at the time when a deputation from the Senate at Rome, headed
  by Symmachus, were seeking to obtain from him the restoration
  of the statue and altar of Victory. The facts relating to
  this statue form so important a page in the history of the
  gradual suppression of paganism in the Empire, that it may be
  well to give a brief outline of them, especially as this and
  the following letter, and the ‘Memorial of Symmachus’ which
  accompanies them, contain several allusions to them. Constantius
  2nd, son of Constantine, when at Rome in 356 A.D., ordered the
  statue of Victory which stood in the senate-house, ‘a majestic
  female standing on a globe, with flowing garments, expanded
  wings, and a crown of laurel in her outstretched hand’ (Gibbon,
  ch. xxviii.) and the altar which stood before it, at which
  the senators were sworn, to be removed, as an offence to the
  Christians. The altar was restored by Julian, along with the
  other disused symbols and rites of paganism. It was tolerated
  by Valentinian 1st, who probably did not venture at once to
  overthrow Julian’s work, (see Memorial of Symmachus § 7, 8)
  though S. Ambrose (Lett. xvii. § 16) rhetorically represents him
  as pleading that he was not aware of its being there, and that
  no one had complained to him of its presence. It was once more
  removed by Gratian, (see Lett. xvii. § 16.) The pagan party in
  the Senate then made great efforts to procure its restoration.
  Gibbon (ch. xxviii. note 13.) enumerates four successive
  deputations sent by them with this object, ‘the first, A.D. 382,
  to Gratian, who refused them audience, the second, A.D. 384,
  to Valentinian, the third, A.D. 388, to Theodosius, the fourth,
  A.D. 392, to Valentinian.’ The two letters of S. Ambrose and the
  Memorial of Symmachus refer to the second of these deputations.
  In this first one he presses on the Emperor his duty and
  responsibility as a Christian Emperor, urges that the heathens
  have deprived themselves of any equitable claim by their
  persecution of the Christians in former times; asserts that the
  petition is only that of a minority of the Senate, just as had
  been the case years before, when they applied to Gratian. He
  then asks for a copy of the Memorial, in order to answer it in
  full, and warns Valentinian that he will find no Bishop to admit
  him to any share in Christian worship if he inflicts this insult
  on their faith, and reminds him of his brother and father, who
  would rise from the grave to reproach him.

  Though called Letters, these two documents are rather
  state-papers. S. Ambrose himself in the latter speaks of the
  former as a ‘libellus,’ the term usually applied to petitions
  or memorials.


  Sidenote: Ps. xcvi. 5.

1. AS all who are under the dominion of Rome are enlisted to serve you,
the emperors and kings of the earth, so you yourselves are enlisted to
serve Almighty God and our holy Faith. For safety cannot be unperilled,
save when every man is a sincere worshipper of the true God, the God
of the Christians, who governs all things; for He is the only true God,
and is to be worshipped by the inmost spirit. _As for all the gods of
the heathen, they are but idols_, as the Scripture saith.

2. Now he that is the soldier of this, the true God, and worships Him
in his inmost spirit, offers to Him no insincere or lukewarm service,
but a zealous faith and devotion. At any rate no one ought to give
his consent to the worship of idols and the observance of profane
ceremonies. For no man can deceive God, before Whom all the secrets of
the heart are manifest.

3. Seeing then, most Christian Emperor, that not only faith, but the
very zeal and care and devotion of faith, is due from you to God, I
wonder how some men can have conceived the thought that it was your
duty to command the restoration of altars to the gods of the Gentiles,
and to bestow money for the purposes of profane sacrifices. For if you
give what has long been appropriated to the emperor’s privy purse or
the city treasury[64], you will seem to be giving out of what is your
own rather than refunding to others what belongs to them.

4. The men who now complain of their losses are those who never spared
our blood, and have even laid in ruins the very structures of our
Churches. The men who ask for privileges are they who denied to us by
the late law of Julian[65] the common right of speaking and teaching,
privileges too whereby even Christians have often been deceived, for by
these means they sought to entrap some persons, either unawares or else
by the desire to avoid the burthen of public duties. And since all men
have not courage, many even under Christian Emperors have lapsed.

5. Even had these things never been repeated, I could have proved
that your authority ought to have abolished them, but now that they
have been severally forbidden by many previous Emperors and abolished
at Rome in the interests of the true Faith by your Majesty’s brother
Gratian of illustrious memory, and abolished by a formal rescript,
do not, I beseech you, pluck up again these Christian ordinances,
nor rescind your brother’s injunctions. In civil matters, if ought
is decreed, no man considers that it should be overthrown, and shall
a religious precept be trampled on?

6. Let no man beguile your youth; if he be a heathen who asks this of
you, let him not ensnare your mind in the bonds of his own superstition,
rather his very zeal ought to admonish you with what ardour you ought
to defend the true Faith, when he with all the warmth of truth defends
falsehood. I myself urge you to shew deference to the merits of
illustrious men; but it is certain that God ought to be obeyed above

7. When we have to consult on military matters we should look for
the opinion of one who is versed in war, and follow his counsel; when
we treat of religion God is to be considered. No man is injured by
Almighty God being preferred before him. He may keep his own opinion,
you do not constrain any man to worship against his will, and your
Majesty ought to have the same liberty, and every one should be content
to be unable to extort from the Emperor, what it would be a hardship
for the Emperor to desire to extort from him. The very heathen are wont
to be displeased by a double-minded man, for every man ought boldly to
defend the faith of his own heart, and to maintain his purpose.

8. But if any who call themselves Christians conceive that you
should make such a decree, let not bare words affect your mind, let
not idle names deceive you. Whoever persuades to this, or decrees
it, offers sacrifice to the gods. Yet it is more tolerable that one
should sacrifice than that all should fall. Here the whole Senate of
Christians is in danger.

9. If at the present day, (which God forbid) an heathen Emperor were
to erect an altar to false gods, and compel the Christians to assemble
there, in order for them to be present at the sacrifice, so that the
breath and mouth of the faithful might be tainted with ashes from
the altar, with sparks from the sacrilege, with smoke from the pile,
and should force them to vote in a house in which the members were
sworn at the altar of an idol, (for on this account it is that they
maintain that an altar should be set up, namely, that every one should
consult for the public weal, under the obligation of what they consider
its sanctity, although the majority of the Senate now consists of
Christians,) if this, I say, were the case, Christians would consider
themselves persecuted, if they were compelled by such an alternative to
come to the assembly, and indeed it is often by violence that they are
compelled to come: shall Christians then in _your_ reign be compelled
to swear on the altar? What is an oath, but an acknowledgement of the
divine power of him whom you call upon to attest your truthfulness? Is
it in _your_ reign that the request and demand is made, that you bid an
altar to be erected, and money expended on profane sacrifices?

10. But this cannot be decreed without sacrilege, and so I beg you not
to decree or order it, nor to subscribe any such decree. I appeal to
your faith as a minister of Christ; all the Bishops would have appealed
with me, had not this report which has reached men’s ears that such a
thing was either propounded in your Council or petitioned for by the
Senate, been so sudden and incredible. But let it not be said that the
Senate have petitioned for this; a few heathen have usurped the name of
all. For nearly two years ago on an attempt of this kind, holy Damasus
the Bishop of the Roman Church, chosen by the judgment of God, sent me
a document which the Christian senators in large numbers had presented,
declaring that they gave no commission of the sort, that they did not
agree or consent to such petitions of the heathen, and they threatened
that they would not come either publicly or privately to the Senate
if such a decree was made. Is it worthy of your reign, that is of a
Christian reign, that Christian senators should be deprived of their
dignity, that the profane wishes of the heathen may be carried into
effect? This document I sent to your Majesty’s brother[66], and it
proves that the Senate gave no commission to the deputies about the
expenses of superstition.

11. But perhaps it may be said, Why then were they not present in
the Senate, when these things were brought forward? They say plainly
enough what they wish, by not being present; they have said enough in
addressing your Majesty. And yet we need not wonder if they who will
not concede to your Majesty the liberty of refusing to command that
which you do not approve, or of maintaining your own opinion, should
deprive private men at Rome of the right of resistance.

12. Remembering then the commission so lately laid upon me, I again
appeal your own faith, I appeal to your own sentiments, not to give
your answer in accordance with this heathen petition, or sign your name
to such an answer, for it would be sacrilegious. Consult him who is
your Excellency’s father, the Emperor Theodosius, to whom you have been
wont to refer in all causes of importance; and nothing can be graver
than religion, more exalted than faith.

13. Were this a civil matter, the right of reply would be reserved
for the opposing party: it is a matter of religion, and I, as Bishop,
appeal to you, I request to be furnished with a copy of the Memorial
which has been sent, that I may answer more at large; and so let
your Majesty’s father be consulted on the whole matter and vouchsafe
a gracious answer. Assuredly should the decree be different, we as
Bishops cannot quietly permit and connive at it; it will indeed be in
your power to come to the Church, but there you will either not find a
priest, or you will find one purposed to resist.

  Sidenote: S. Luke xvi. 13.

14. What answer will you give to the priest when he says to you,
‘the Church seeks not your gifts, because you have adorned the heathen
temples with gifts; the Altar of Christ rejects your gifts, because
you have erected altars to idols, for it was your word, your hand, your
signature, your act: the Lord Jesus refuses and repels your service,
because you have served idols, for He has said to you, _Ye cannot serve
two masters_? The Virgins dedicated to God enjoy no privileges from you,
and do the vestal Virgins claim them? What do you want of the priests
of God, when you have preferred to them the profane petitions of the
heathen? We cannot enter into fellowship with the errors of others.’

15. What will you answer to this charge? That it is a boyish error?
Every age is perfect in Christ, and fulfilled with God. No childhood in
faith can be admitted; for children confronted with their persecutors
have boldly confessed Christ.

16. What answer will you make to your brother? Will he not say to
you, ‘I would not believe myself conquered, for I left you Emperor,
I regretted not to die, because you were my successor, I grieved not
that I was withdrawn from power, because I believed that my edicts,
specially those concerning religion, would continue for ever. These
were the memorials of piety and virtue which I had erected, these
trophies of victory over the world, these the spoils of the devil,
of the adversary of all, which I had offered up, and in which lies
eternal victory. What more could an enemy have deprived me of? You have
abrogated my decrees; an act which even he who took up arms against
me[67] has not yet committed. Now am I pierced with a more deadly
weapon, in that my brother has annulled my ordinances. Your acts tend
to the injury of my better part, for while the one destroys my body
the other destroys my good name. Now are my laws repealed, repealed too
(which makes it more painful) by your adherents and by mine; that very
thing which even my enemies had praised in me is repealed. If you have
willingly acquiesced, you have condemned the Faith which I held, if you
have yielded reluctantly, you have betrayed your own. And so, what is a
still heavier calamity, I incur danger in your person also.’

17. What answer will you make to your father[68], who with still
greater grief will address you, saying: ‘You have judged very wrongly
of me, my son, in supposing that I could have winked at the heathen.
No man ever informed me that there was an altar in the Roman Senate
house[69]; never could I have believed such a crime as that heathen
sacrifices should be performed in that common council of Christians
and heathens, that is to say, that the heathen should triumph in the
presence of Christians, and Christians should be compelled against
their wills to be present at sacrifices. Many and various were the
crimes committed during my reign, those that were discovered I punished,
and if any man escaped unnoticed, is it just to say that I approved
that which no one informed me of? You have judged most wrongly of
me, if you suppose that a foreign superstition and not my own faith
preserved to me the empire.’

18. Wherefore, your Majesty, seeing that if you make any such decree,
you will injure, first God, and next your father and brother, I beseech
you to do that which you know will be profitable to your salvation in
the sight of God.


  THE occasion on which this Memorial was presented is stated in
  the introduction to the last letter. It is addressed formally
  to the three Emperors Valentinian, Theodosius, and Arcadius, but
  really to Valentinian only, who was at that time sole Emperor
  of the West. Symmachus was the leading orator and scholar of
  his day, and his plea is composed with much skill and vigour.
  Gibbon (ch. xxviii.) expresses hearty admiration of the caution
  with which he ‘avoids every topic which might appear to reflect
  on the religion of his sovereign, and artfully draws his
  arguments from the schools of rhetoric rather than from those
  of philosophy,’ and gives a summary of its contents in a tone of
  keen appreciation, as might be expected. We may allow, with Cave
  (Life of S. Ambrose 3, 3.) that ‘it was the best plea the cause
  would bear.’

1. AS soon as the honourable Senate, ever faithful to your Majesty,
learnt that offences were made amenable to law, and that the character
of past times was being redeemed by pious governors, it hastened to
follow the precedent of better times, and give utterance to its long
repressed grief, and commissioned me once more to be the spokesman of
its complaints, for I was before refused access to the deceased Emperor
by evil men, because otherwise justice could never have failed me, most
noble Emperors Valentinian, Theodosius and Arcadius, victorious and
triumphant, ever illustrious.

2. Filling then a twofold office, as your Prefect I report the
proceedings of the Senate[70], as the envoy of the citizens I offer to
your favourable notice their requests. Here is no opposition of wills.
Men have ceased to believe that disagreement proves their superiority
in courtly zeal. To be loved, to be the object of respect and affection
is more than sovereignty. Who could suffer private contests to injure
the commonwealth? Justly does the Senate assail those who prefer their
own power to the honour of the prince.

3. It is our duty to be watchful for your Majesties. The very glory of
this present time makes it the more fitting that we should maintain the
customs of our ancestors, the laws and destinies of our country; for
it conduces to this glory that you should know it is not in your power
to do anything contrary to the practice of your parents. We ask the
restoration of that state of religion under which the Republic has so
long prospered. Let the Emperors of either sect and either opinion be
counted up; a late Emperor observed the rites of his ancestors, his
successor did not abolish them. If the religion of older times is no
precedent, let the connivance of the last Emperors[71] be so.

4. Who is so friendly with the barbarians as not to require an altar
of Victory? Hereafter we must be cautious, and avoid a display of
such things. But let at least that honour be paid to the name which
is denied to the Divinity[72]. Your fame owes much, and will owe still
more, to Victory. Let those detest this power, who were never aided by
it, but do you not desert a patronage which favours your triumphs. Vows
are due to this power from every man, let no one deny that a power is
to be venerated which he owns is to be desired.

5. But even if it were wrong to avoid this omen, at least the ornaments
of the Senate-house ought to have been spared. Permit us, I beseech you,
to transmit in our old age to our posterity what we ourselves received
when boys. Great is the love of custom. And deservedly was the act
of the deified Constantius of short duration. You ought to avoid all
precedents which you know to have thus been reversed. We are solicitous
for the endurance of your name and glory, and that a future age may
find nothing to amend.

6. Where shall we swear to observe your laws and statutes? by what
sanction shall the deceitful mind be deterred from bearing false
witness? All places indeed are full of God, nor is there any spot where
the perjured can be safe, but it is of great efficacy in restraining
crime to feel that we are in the presence of sacred things. That altar
binds together the concord of all, that altar appeals to the faith
of each man, nor does any thing give more weight to our decrees than
that all our decisions are sanctioned, so to speak, by an oath. A door
will thus be opened to perjury, and this is to be approved of by the
illustrious Emperors, allegiance to whom is guarded by a public oath!

7. But Constantius, of sacred memory, is said to have done the same
thing. Be it so, let us then imitate his other actions, feeling
sure that had any one committed this error before his time, he would
never have fallen into it. For the fall of one is a warning to his
successor, and the censure of a previous example causes amendment. It
was allowable for this predecessor of your Majesties to incur offence
in a novel matter, but how can the same excuse avail us, if we imitate
that which we know was disapproved?

8. Will your Majesties listen to other acts of this same Emperor more
worthy of your imitation? He left uncurtailed the privileges of the
sacred virgins, he filled the priestly office with men of noble birth,
he allowed the cost of the Roman ceremonies, and following the joyful
Senate through all the streets of the eternal city, he beheld with
serene countenance the temples, reading the names of the gods inscribed
on their pediments, he enquired after the origin of the sacred edifices,
and admired their founders. Although he himself professed another
religion he maintained the ancient one for the Empire; for every man
has his own customs, his own rites. The Divine mind has distributed
to cities various guardians and various ceremonies. As each man that
is born receives a soul, so do nations receive a genius who guards
their destiny. Here the proof from utility comes in, which is our best
voucher with regard to the Deity. For since our reason is in the dark,
what better knowledge of the gods can we have than from the record
and evidence of prosperity? And if a long course of years give their
sanction to a religion, we ought to keep faith with so many centuries,
and to follow our parents, as they followed with success those who
founded them.

9. Let us suppose Rome herself to approach, and address you in these
terms: ‘Excellent Emperors, Fathers of your country, respect these
years to which pious rites have conducted me. Let me use the ancient
ceremonies, for I do not repent of them. Let me live in my own way,
for I am free. This worship reduced the world under my laws; these
sacred rites repulsed Hannibal from the walls, and the Gauls from the
Capitol. Am I reserved for this, to be censured in my old age? I am not
unwilling to consider the proposed decree, and yet late and ignominious
is the reformation of old age.’

10. We pray therefore for a respite for the gods of our fathers and
our native gods[73]. That which all venerate should in fairness be
accounted as one. We look on the same stars, the heaven is common to
us all, the same world surrounds us. What matters it by what arts each
of us seeks for truth? We cannot arrive by one and the same path at so
great a secret; but this discussion belongs rather to persons at their
ease, it is prayers not arguments which we now offer.

11. What advantage accrues to your treasury from the abolition of the
privilege of the Vestal virgins? Shall that be denied under princes the
most munificent which the most parsimonious have granted? Their sole
honour consists in their wages, so to speak, of chastity. As their
fillets adorn their heads, so is it esteemed by them an honour to be
free to devote themselves to the ministry of sacrifices. It is but the
bare name of exemption which they ask, for their poverty exonerates
them from any payment. So that he who reduces their means, contributes
to their praise, for virginity dedicated to the public welfare is
meritorious in proportion as it is without reward.

12. Far be such gains from the purity of your treasury. The exchequer
of good princes should be replenished by the spoils of enemies, not by
the losses of ministers of religion. And is the gain any compensation
for the odium? Those whose ancient resources are cut off only feel it
the more acutely in that you are free from the charge of avarice. For
under Emperors who keep their hands from other men’s goods and check
desire what does not excite the cupidity of the spoiler must be taken
solely with a view of injuring the person robbed.

13. The Imperial Exchequer retains also lands bequeathed by the will
of dying persons to the sacred virgins and priests. I implore you, as
Priests of justice, to restore to the sacred functionaries of your city
the right of inheritance. Let men dictate their wills in peace, knowing
that under equitable princes their bequests will be undisturbed.
Men are wont to take pleasure in this security, and I would have you
sympathise with them, for the precedent lately set has begun to harass
them on their death-beds. Shall it be said that the religion of Rome
appertains not to Roman laws? What name shall we give to the taking
away of legacies which no law no casualty has made void? Freedmen may
take legacies, slaves are allowed[74] a due latitude of bequeathing by
will, only the noble virgins and ministers of sacred rites are excluded
from inheriting lands devised to them. What advantage is it to dedicate
one’s virginity to the public safety, and to support the immortality of
the empire with heavenly protection, to conciliate friendly powers to
your arms and eagles, to take upon oneself vows salutary for all, and
to refrain from commerce with mankind in general? Slavery then is a
happier condition, whose service is given to men. It is the state which
is wronged, whose interest it never is to be ungrateful.

14. Let me not be supposed to be defending the cause of the ancient
religions only; from acts of this kind all the calamities of the Roman
nation have arisen. The laws of our ancestors provided for the Vestal
virgins and the ministers of the gods a moderate maintenance and just
privileges. This gift was preserved inviolate till the time of the
degenerate moneychangers, who diverted the maintenance of sacred
chastity into a fund for the payment of base porters. A public famine
ensued on this act, and a bad harvest disappointed the hopes of all the
provinces. The soil was not here in fault, we ascribe no influence to
the stars, no mildew blighted the crops, nor did tares choke the corn,
it was sacrilege which rendered the year barren, for it was necessary
that all should lose that which they had denied to religion.

15. By all means, if there is any instance of such an evil, let us
attribute this famine to the effect of the seasons. An unhealthy wind
has caused this blight, and so life is supported by means of shrubs and
leaves, and the peasants in their want have had resource once more to
the oaks of Dodona[75]. When did the provinces suffer such a calamity,
so long as the ministers of religion were supported by the public
bounty? When were oaks shaken for the food of man, when were roots dug
up, when were opposite regions of the earth cursed with sterility, so
long as provisions were furnished in common to the people and to the
sacred virgins? The produce of the earth was blessed by its support of
the priests, and thus the gift was rather in the nature of a safeguard
than of a largess. Can it be doubted that the gift was for the common
benefit, now that a general scarcity has attended its dis continuance?

16. But it may be said that public aid is rightly refused to the
cost of an alien religion. Far be it from good rulers to suppose that
what has been bestowed from the common stock on certain individuals is
within the disposal of the Imperial treasury. For as the commonwealth
consists of individuals, so that which comes from it becomes again the
property of individuals. You govern all, but you preserve for each his
own, and justice has more power with you than arbitrary will. Consult
your own generous feelings, whether that ought still to be deemed
public property which has been conferred on others. Gifts once devoted
to the honour of the city are placed out of the power of the donors,
and that which originally was a free-gift becomes by usage and
length of time a debt. Vain therefore is the fear which they would
impress upon your minds who assert that unless you incur the odium of
withdrawing the gift you share the responsibility of the donors of it.

17. May the unseen patrons of all sects be propitious to your Majesties,
and may those in particular who of old assisted your ancestors, aid
you and be worshipped by us. We ask for that religious condition which
preserved the empire to your Majesties’ father[76], and blessed him
with lawful heirs. That venerable sire beholds from his starry seat the
tears of the priests, and feels himself censured by the infraction of
that custom which he readily observed.

18. I beg you also to amend for your departed brother what he did by
the advice of others, to cover the act by which he unknowingly offended
the Senate. For it is certain that the reason why the embassage was
refused admittance was, to prevent the decision of the state from
reaching him. It is due to the credit of past times to abolish without
hesitation that which has been found not to have been the doing of the

                             LETTER XVIII.
                               A.D. 384.

  THIS is S. Ambrose’s answer to the Memorial of Symmachus which
  precedes it. In it he replies in detail to the arguments which
  Symmachus had advanced, and meets him on his own ground. It is
  to be remembered in forming an estimate of it, that it is simply
  a state paper, adopting both the style and method natural to
  such a document. That it is over rhetorical for our taste may at
  once be allowed, for that is the character of the literature of
  the time generally; that it is not so perfect a specimen of the
  style, regarded merely as a piece of argument, as the document
  to which it replies, may be granted without disparagement to S.
  Ambrose, for Symmachus “stood foremost among his contemporaries
  as a scholar, a statesman, and an orator.” (Dict. of Biog. sub
  voc.) But he fairly meets and refutes Symmachus’ arguments, and
  his retort of his adversary’s personification of Rome is happy
  and telling. The earlier portion is more vigorous than the
  latter, which is overwrought, especially in the argument against
  maintaining things as they were. The abundance of allusions to,
  and quotations of, Virgil are characteristic of the age, and
  evidences of S. Ambrose’s early training in the education of a
  Roman of high birth and rank.

                       HIS MAJESTY VALENTINIAN.

♦1. THE honourable[77] Symmachus, Prefect of the city, having
memorialised your Majesty that the altar, which had been removed from
the Senate-house at Rome, ought to be restored to its place, and your
Majesty, whose years of nonage and inexperience are yet unfulfilled,
though a veteran in the power of faith, not having sanctioned the
prayer of the heathen, I also as soon as I heard of it presented a
petition, in which, though it embraced all that seemed necessary to be
said, I requested that a copy of the Memorial might be furnished to me.

2. Now therefore, not as doubting your faith, but as providing for
the future, and assured of a righteous judgement, I will reply to
the allegations of the Memorial, making this one request, that you
will not look for elegance of phrases but force of facts. For as Holy
Scripture teaches us, the tongue of learned and wise men is golden, and
endowed with highly-decked words, and glittering with splendid elegance
as with the brightness of some rich colour, and so captivates and
dazzles the eyes of the mind with a shew of beauty. But this gold, if
closely handled, may pass current outwardly, but within is base metal.
Consider well, I beseech you, and sift the sect of the Heathens; their
professions are grand and lofty, but what they espouse is degenerate
and effete, they talk of God but worship idols.

3. The propositions of the honourable Prefect of the city, to which
he attaches weight, are these, that Rome (as he asserts) seeks the
restoration of her ancient rites, and that stipends are to be assigned
to her priests and Vestal virgins, and that it was owing to these being
withheld that a general famine has ensued.

4. According to his first proposition, Rome utters a mournful complaint,
wanting back (as he asserts) her ancient ceremonies. These sacred rites,
he says, repelled Hannibal from the walls, the Gauls from the Capitol.
But even here, in blazoning the efficacy of these rites, he betrays
their weakness. According to this, Hannibal long insulted the Roman
religion, and pushed his conquest to the very walls of the city, though
the gods fought against him. Why did they for whom their gods fought,
allow themselves to be besieged?

5. For why speak of the Gauls, whom the remnant of the Romans could not
have prevented from entering the sanctuary of the Capitol, if the timid
cackling of a goose had not betrayed them. These are the guardians of
the Roman temples! Where was Jupiter then? Did he speak in a goose?

6. But why should I deny that their sacred rites fought for the Romans?
Yet Hannibal also worshipped the same gods. Let them choose therefore
which they will. If these rites conquered in the Romans, they were
vanquished in the Carthaginians, but if they were thus overcome in the
case of the Carthaginians, neither did they profit the Romans.

  Sidenote: Wisd. iv. 9.

7. Away then with this invidious complaint of the Roman people; Rome
never dictated it. It is with other words that she addresses them: ‘Why
do you daily deluge me with the useless gore of the innocent flocks?
The trophies of victory depend not on the limbs of cattle, but on the
strength of warriors. It was by other powers that I subdued the world.
Camillus was my soldier, who recovered the standards which had been
taken from the Capitol, and slew those who had captured the Tarpeian
rock; valour overthrew those against whom religion had not prevailed.
Why should I name Regulus, who gave me even the services of his death?
Africanus gained his triumph not among the altars of the Capitol,
but among Hannibal’s ranks. Why do you produce to me the rites of
our ancestors? I abhor the rites of the Neros. What shall I say of
the two-month Emperors[78], and the ends of princes knit on to their
accession? Or is it a thing unheard of, that the barbarians should
cross their frontiers? Were those men Christians, in whose miserable
and unprecedented fate, in the one case a captive Emperor, in the other
a captive world[79] proved the falsehood of the rites which promised
victory? Was there then no altar of Victory? I am ashamed of my
downfall, the pale cheeks of age gather redness from that disgraceful
bloodshed. I do not blush to be converted in my old age along with the
whole world. It is surely true that no age is too late to learn. Let
that old age blush which cannot improve itself. It is not the hoary
head of years but of virtue which is venerable. It is no disgrace to
pass to better things. This alone had I in common with the barbarians
that of old I knew not God. Your sacrifice is a rite of sprinkling
yourselves with the blood of beasts. Why do you look for the voice of
God in dead beasts? Come and learn here on earth a heavenly warfare;
we live here, but our warfare is above. Let God Himself, the Creator,
teach me the mystery of heaven, not man who knew not himself. Whom
should I believe about God, sooner than God Himself? How can I believe
you, who confess that you know not what you worship?’

8. By a single path, he says, we cannot arrive at so great a secret.
What you are ignorant of, that we have learnt by the voice of God; what
you seek after by faint surmises, that we are assured of by the very
Wisdom and Truth of God. Our customs therefore and yours do not agree.
You ask the Emperors to grant peace to your gods, we pray for peace for
the Emperors themselves from Christ. You worship the works of your own
hands, we think it sacrilege that any thing which can be made should be
called God. God wills not to be worshipped under the form of stones.
Nay, your very philosophers have ridiculed this.

9. But if you are led to deny that Christ is God, because you cannot
believe that He died, (for you are ignorant how that this was the death
not of His Godhead but of His flesh, whereby it comes to pass that none
of the faithful shall die,) how inconsistent are you, who insult by way
of worship, and disparage by way of honour. You consider your god to be
a block of wood; what an insulting kind of reverence! You believe not
that Christ could die; what a respectful kind of unbelief!

  Sidenote: Prov. xxi. 1.

10. But, he says, the ancient altars and images ought to be restored,
and the temples adorned as of old. This request ought to be made to one
who shares the superstition; a Christian Emperor has learned to honour
the altar of Christ alone. Why do they compel pious hands and faithful
lips to minister to their sacrilege? Let the voice of our Emperor speak
of Christ alone, let him declare Him only Whom in heart he believes,
for _the king’s heart is in the Hand of God_. Did ever heathen Emperor
raise an altar to God? In demanding a restoration of ancient things
they remind us what reverence Christian Emperors ought to pay to the
Religion which they profess, since heathen ones paid the utmost to
their own superstitions.

11. Long since was our beginning, and now they follow us whom they
shut out. _We_ glory in shedding our blood, a trifling expense disturbs
_them_. We consider such things a victory, they esteem them an injury.
Never did they confer a greater favour on us than when they commanded
Christians to be scourged, and proscribed and slain. Religion made
into a reward what unbelief intended for a punishment. Behold their
magnanimity! _We_ have grown by wrongs, by want, by punishment; _they_
find that without money their ceremonies cannot be maintained.

12. Let the Vestal virgins, he says, enjoy their privileges. It is for
those to say this, who cannot believe in gratuitous virginity, it is
for them to allure by profit who distrust virtue. But how many virgins
have their promised rewards obtained them? They have barely seven
Vestals. Such is the whole number whom the veiled and filleted head,
the dye of the purple vest, the pompous litter surrounded by attendants,
high privileges, great gains, and a prescribed period of virginity,
have collected.

13. Let them turn their mental and bodily eye to us, let them behold
a people of chastity, an undefiled multitude, a virgin assembly. No
fillets to adorn their heads, but a veil of common use though dignified
by chastity; the blandishments of beauty not curiously sought out, but
cast aside; no purple trappings, no luxurious delicacies, but frequent
fastings; no privileges, no gains; all things in short so ordered as
to repress any affection in the very exercise of their functions. But
in fact by this very exercise their affection to it is conciliated.
Chastity is perfected by its own sacrifices. That is not virginity
which is bought for money, not preserved for love of holiness; that is
not integrity which is bid for at an auction by a pecuniary equivalent,
to last but for a time. The first triumph of chastity is to overcome
the desire of wealth, for this desire is a temptation to modesty.
But let us suppose that virginity ought to be supported by pecuniary
bounty. In this case, what an abundance of gifts will overflow upon
the Christians; what treasury will contain riches so great? Or do
they consider that it ought to be bestowed exclusively on the Vestal
virgins? Do not they, who claimed the whole under heathen Emperors,
feel some shame in denying that under Christian Princes we ought to
participate in the bounty?

14. They complain also that public support is not given to their
priests and ministers. What a storm of words is here! To us on the
other hand the privileges of inheriting private property[80] is denied
by recent laws, and no one complains; we do not feel it to be an injury,
for we grieve not at the loss. If a priest would claim the privilege
of being exempt from the municipal[81] burthens, he must relinquish his
paternal estate and all other property. How would the heathens press
this ground of complaint, if they had it, that a priest must purchase
the liberty of performing his functions by the loss of his whole
patrimony, and at the expense of all his private advantages must buy
the right of ministering to the public, and while he claims to hold
vigils for the public safety must console himself with the wages of
domestic poverty; for he does not sell service but purchase a favour.

15. Compare[82] the two cases. You wish to exempt a Decurio, when the
Church may not exempt a priest. Wills are made in favour of ministers
of temples; not even profane persons, even of the lowest rank, nor of
abandoned character, are excepted; the clergy alone are excluded from
the common privilege, by whom alone the general prayer for all men
is offered, and the common office performed; no legacy, even of grave
widows, no donation is allowed. When no blame can attach to character,
a fine is imposed on the office. The legacy which a Christian widow
bequeaths to the minister of a temple is valid, that which she
bequeaths to the ministers of God is invalid. This I have stated not
by way of complaint, but that they may know how much I abstain from
complaining of, for I would rather we were losers in money than in

16. But they report that gifts or legacies to the Church have not been
taken away. Let them state who has snatched gifts from the temples,
a loss which Christians have[83] suffered. Had this been done to the
Gentiles, it would rather have been the requital than the infliction
of a wrong. Is it now only that they make a plea of justice, put in a
claim for equity? Where was this sentiment, when, having despoiled all
Christians of their goods, they grudged them the very breath of life,
and debarred them from that last burial-rite which was never before
denied to any of the dead? Those whom the heathen flung into it, the
sea restored. This is a victory of faith, that they themselves impugn
the acts of their ancestors, in that they condemn their proceedings.
But what consistency is there in condemning the acts of those whose
gifts they solicit?

17. Yet no man has forbidden gifts to the temples, or legacies to the
soothsayers; their lands alone are taken away, because they did not use
that religiously which they claimed on the plea of religion. If they
avail themselves of our example why did they not copy our practice?
The Church possesses nothing but her faith. There are her rents, her
revenues. The wealth of the Church is the support of the poor. Let them
count up how many prisoners the temples have ransomed, what support
they have afforded to the poor, to how many exiles they have ministered
the means of life. Hence it is that they have been deprived of their
lands, but not of their rights.

18. This is what has been done, and a public famine, as they assert,
has avenged this grave impiety, that the private emoluments of the
priests have been converted to the public service. For this cause they
say it was that men stripped branches of their bark, and moistened
their fainting life with this wretched juice. For this cause they
were obliged to substitute for corn the Chaonian acorn, and thrust
back again to this wretched fare, the food of beasts, they shook the
oaks and thus appeased their sore hunger in the woods. As if forsooth
these were new prodigies on earth, which never occurred so long as
heathen superstition prevailed over the world! But in truth how often
before this were the hopes of the greedy husbandmen frustrated by
empty oat-stalks, while the blade of corn sought for in the furrows
disappointed the race of peasants.

19. Why did the Greeks attribute oracles to their oaks, but that they
fancied their sylvan fare was the gift of their heavenly religion?
Such are the gifts which they suppose to come from their gods. Who but
heathen ever worshipped the trees of Dodona, bestowing honour on the
sorry sustenance of the sacred grove[84]? It is not probable that their
gods in their anger gave them for a punishment what they were wont when
appeased to confer as a gift.

20. But what equity were it, that because they are annoyed at the
refusal of sustenance to a few priests they should themselves refuse it
to every one? in that case their vengeance is more severe than was the
fault. But in truth the cause they assign is not adequate to produce so
great infirmity of a failing world, as that, when the crops were green,
the full grown hopes of the season should all at once perish.

21. Certain it is that many years ago the rights of the temples were
abolished throughout the world, is it only now that it has occurred to
the gods of the Gentiles to avenge their injuries? Can it be said that
the Nile failed to overflow his banks as usual, to avenge the losses
of the priests of the City, when he did not do so to avenge his own

22. But supposing that in the past year it was the wrongs of their
gods that were avenged, why are the same wrongs neglected in the
present year? Now the country people do not pluck up and eat the roots
of herbs, nor seek solace from the sylvan berry, nor gather their food
from thorns; but rejoicing in their successful labours they wonder at
their own harvest, and their hopes fulfilled compensate for their fast,
the earth having yielded us her produce with interest.

23. Who then is so inexperienced on human affairs as to be amazed at
the vicissitudes of the seasons? And yet even last year we know that
most provinces had an abundant harvest. What shall I say of Gaul which
was more fertile than usual? The Pannonias[85] sold corn which they
had not sown, and the second[86] Rhaetia learnt the danger of her own
fertility, for being used to security from her sterility, she drew
down an enemy on herself by her abundance. Liguria and Venice are
replenished by the fruits of autumn. So then the former year was not
withered by sacrilege, while the present has overflowed with the fruits
of faith. Nor can they deny that the vineyards produced an overflowing
crop. Thus our harvest yielded its produce with interest, and we
enjoyed the benefits of a more abundant vintage.

24. The last and most weighty topic remains; as to whether your
Majesties should restore those aids which have been profitable to
yourselves, for he says, ‘Let them defend you, and be worshipped by
us.’ This, most faithful Princes, we cannot endure; that they should
make it a taunt to us that they supplicate their gods in your name,
and without your command commit an atrocious sacrilege, taking your
connivance as consent. Let them keep their guardians to themselves,
let these guardians, if they can, protect their own. But if they cannot
protect those who worship them, how can they protect you who worship
them not?

25. Our ancestral rites, he says, should be preserved. But what if
all things have become better? The world itself, which at first was
compacted by the gathering together of the elemental seeds through
the vast void, an unconsolidated sphere, or was obscured by the thick
darkness of the yet unordered work, was it not afterwards endowed
with the forms of things which constitute its beauty, and were not the
heaven sea and earth distinguished from each other? The earth rescued
from dripping darkness was amazed at its new sun. In the beginning too
the day shines not, but as time goes on it is bright and warm with the
increase of light and heat.

26. The moon herself, which in the prophetic oracles represents the
Church, when first she rises again, and repairs her monthly wanings,
is hidden from us by darkness, but gradually she fills her horns, or
completes them as she comes opposite to the sun, and gleams with a
bright and glorious splendour.

27. In former days, the earth knew not how to be wrought into
fruitfulness; but afterwards when the careful husbandman began to till
the fields, and to clothe the bare soil with vineyards, it was softened
by this domestic culture, and put off its rugged nature.

28. So too the first season of the year itself, which has imparted a
like habit to ourselves, is bare of produce, then, as time goes on, it
blossoms out in flowers soon to fade, and in the end finds its maturity
in fruits[87].

29. So we, while young in age, experience an infancy of understanding,
but as we grow in years lay aside the rudeness of our faculties.

30. Let them say then that all things ought to have continued as at
first; that the world once covered with darkness is now displeasing
because it shines with the beams of the sun. And how much better is
it to have dispelled the darkness of the mind than that of the body,
and that the beam of faith has shone forth than that of the sun. So
then the early stages of the world as of all else have been unsettled,
that the venerable age of hoary faith might follow. Let those who are
affected by this find fault with the harvest too, because it ripens
late; or with the vintage, because it is in the fall of the year; or
with the olive, because it is the latest of fruits.

31. So then our harvest too is the faith of the soul; the grace of the
Church is the vintage of good works, which from the beginning of the
world flourished in the saints, but in these last days is spread over
the people; to the intent that all might perceive that it is not into
rude minds that the faith of Christ has insinuated itself, but these
opinions which before prevailed being shaken off (for without a contest
there is no crown of victory) the truth was preferred according as is

32. If the old rites pleased, why did Rome adopt alien ones? I pass
over the covering of the ground with costly buildings, and shepherds’
huts glittering with the gold of a degenerate age[88]. Why, to speak
of the very subject of their complaint, have they admitted in their
rivalry the images of captured cities, and of conquered gods, and the
foreign rites of an alien superstition? Whence do they derive their
precedent for Cybele washing her chariot in a stream to counterfeit the
Almo[89]? Whence came the Phrygian seers, and the deities of faithless
Carthage ever hateful to Rome, her for instance, whom the Africans
worship as Cælestis[90], and the Persians as Mitra, the greater part of
the world as Venus, the same deity under different names. So also they
have believed Victory to be a goddess, which is in truth a gift not a
power, is bestowed and does not rule, comes by the aid of legions not
by the power of religion. Great forsooth is the goddess whom the number
of soldiers claims, or the issue of the battle confers!

33. And her altar they now ask to have set up in the Senate-house
at Rome, that is to say, where a majority[91] of Christians assemble.
There are altars in all temples, an altar also in the temple of
victories. Being pleased with numbers, they celebrate their sacrifices
every where. But to insist on a sacrifice on this one altar, what is
it but to insult over the Faith? Is it to be borne that while a Gentile
sacrifices Christians must attend? Let their eyes, he says, drink in
the smoke whether they will or no; their ears the music; their mouth
the ashes; their nostrils the incense; and though they loathe it, let
the embers of our hearths besprinkle their faces. Is it not enough for
him that the baths, the colonnades, the streets are filled with images?
Even in that general assembly, are we not to meet upon equal terms?
The believing portion of the Senate will be bound by the voices of
them that call the gods to witness, by the oaths of them that swear by
them. If they refuse, they will seem to prove their falsehood, if they
acquiesce, to acquiesce in a sacrilege.

34. Where, he asks, shall we swear allegiance to your Majesties’
laws and commands? Your minds then, of which your laws are the
outward expression, gather support and secure fidelity by heathen
rites. Moreover your Majesties’ faith is assailed not only when you
are present, but also, which is more, when you are absent, for you
constrain when you command. Constantius, of illustrious memory, though
not yet initiated into the sacred Mysteries, thought himself polluted
by the sight of that altar; he commanded it to be removed, he did not
command it to be replaced. His order bears all the authority of an Act,
his silence does not bear the authority of a precept.

35. And let no one rest satisfied because he is absent. He is more to
be considered present who unites himself to the minds of others than he
who gives the testimony of his visible presence. It is a greater matter
to be united in mind than to be joined in body. The Senate regards you
as its presidents who summon its meetings; at your bidding it assembles;
to you, not to the gods of the heathen, does she resign her conscience;
you she prefers to her children though not to her faith. This is the
affection worth seeking, an affection more powerful than dominion, if
faith, which preserves dominion, be secured.

36. But perhaps some one may be influenced by the thought that if so,
a most orthodox Emperor[92] has been left without his reward; as if
the reward of good actions was to be estimated by the frail tenure of
things present. And what wise man is there who knows not that human
affairs move in a certain cycle and order, and meet not always with the
same success, but their state is subject to vicissitudes?

37. Who more fortunate than Cneius Pompeius was ever sent forth by
the temples of Rome? But he, after compassing the circuit of the globe
in three triumphs, vanquished in battle, and driven into exile beyond
the bounds of the empire he had saved, perished by the hand of an
Eunuch[93] of Canopus.

38. What nobler king than Cyrus king of the Persians has the whole
Eastern world produced? He too, after he had conquered the most
powerful princes in battle, and detained them as his prisoners,
was worsted and slain by the arms of a woman[94]. That king who had
conferred on the vanquished the honour of sitting at meat with him, had
his head cut off and enclosed in a vessel full of blood, and so was bid
to satiate himself, exposed to the mockery of a woman. So in the course
of his life like is not matched with like, but things most unlike.

39. Again who was more assiduous in sacrificing than Hamilcar[95]
general of the Carthaginians? During the whole time of the battle he
took his station between the ranks of the combatants, and there offered
sacrifice: then, when he found himself vanquished, he threw himself
upon the fire on which he was burning his victims, that he might
extinguish even with his own body those flames which he had learnt
availed him nothing.

40. And what shall I say of Julian? who blindly believing the answers
of the diviners, deprived himself of the means of retreat[96]. Thus
even when the circumstances are common there is not a common cause of
offence, for our promises have deluded no one.

41. I have replied to those who harass me as though I had not been
harassed: for my object has been to refute their Memorial, not to
expose their superstitions. But let this very Memorial make your
Majesty more cautious. For by pointing out that of a series of former
Emperors, those who reigned first followed the rites of their ancestors,
and their successors did not remove them, and by observing upon this,
that if the religion of older ones was not an example, the connivance
of the more recent ones was, they have plainly shewn that you owe it
to the faith which you profess not to follow the precedent of heathen
rites, and to brotherly love not to violate your brothers’ ordinances.
For if they for the sake of their own cause have praised the connivance
of those Emperors, who being Christians, have not abrogated heathen
decrees, how much more are you bound to shew deference to brotherly
affection, and, whereas you would be bound to wink at what perhaps you
did not approve, for fear of detracting from your brothers’ decrees,
now to maintain what you judge to be in accordance both with your own
faith and the tie of brotherhood.

                              LETTER XIX.
                               A.D. 385.

  VIGILIUS, to whom this letter is addressed, is supposed by
  the Benedictine Editors to have been the Bishop of Trent,
  (Tridentum,) who is commemorated in the Roman Martyrology. He
  had written to S. Ambrose, on his consecration as Bishop, to
  ask his guidance and instruction, and S. Ambrose replies, first
  with brief general directions, somewhat resembling those of
  Letter 11, and then dwells at length on the duty of preventing
  intermarriage between Christians and heathens, and recounts at
  full length, in support of this, the history of Samson. At the
  time when heathenism was rapidly dying out, it is clear how
  important a point this would seem, and we do not wonder at the
  stress which S. Ambrose lays on it.

                         AMBROSE TO VIGILIUS.

1. BEING newly consecrated to the sacred office, you have requested
me to furnish you with the outlines of your teaching. Having built up
yourself as was fitting, seeing you have been thought worthy of so high
an office, you have now to be informed how to build up others also.

  Sidenote: Gen. xxviii. 1, 2.

2. And in the first place remember that it is the Church of God that
is committed to you, and be therefore always on your guard against
the intrusion of any scandal, lest the body thereof become as it
were common by any admixture of heathen. It is on this account that
Scripture says to you _Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of
Canaan, but go to Mesopotamia, to the house of Bethuel_ (that is the
house of Wisdom) _and take thee a wife from thence_. Mesopotamia is
a country in the East, surrounded by the two greatest rivers in those
parts, the Tigris and Euphrates, which take their rise in Armenia,
falling, each by a different channel, into the Red sea; and so the
Church is signified under the name of Mesopotamia, for she fertilizes
the minds of the faithful by the mighty streams of wisdom and justice,
pouring into them the grace of Baptism, the type of which was foreshewn
in the Red sea, and washing away sin. Wherefore you must instruct the
people that they should contract marriage not with strange-born but
with Christian families.

  Sidenote: Deut. xxiv. 14.

3. Let no man defraud his hired servant of his due wages, for we too
are the servants of our God, and look for the reward of our labour from
Him. You then, (you must say) O merchant, whoever you be, refuse your
servant his wages of money, that is, of what is vile and worthless, but
to you will be denied the reward of heavenly promises: therefore _thou
shalt not defraud thy hired servant of his reward_, as the Law saith.

  Sidenote: Ps. xv. 1. 6.

  Sidenote: Ps. xvii. 13.

4. Thou shalt not give thy money upon usury, for it is written that _he
who hath not given his money upon usury shall dwell in the tabernacle
of God_, for he is _cast down_, who seeks for usurious gains. Therefore
let the Christian, if he have it, give money as though he were not
to receive it again, or at all events only the principal which he has
given. By so doing he receives no small increase of grace. Otherwise
to lend would be to deceive not to succour. For what can be more cruel
than to give money to one that hath not, and then to exact double? He
that can not pay the simple sum how can he pay double the amount?

  Sidenote: Tobit iv. 21.

5. Let Tobit be an example to us, who never required again the money he
had lent, till the end of his life; and that rather that he might not
defraud his heir, than in order to levy and recover the money he had
lent out. Nations have often been ruined by usury, and this has been
the cause of public destruction. Wherefore it must be the principal
care of us Bishops, to extirpate those vices which we find to prevail
most extensively.

  Sidenote: Prov. xv. 17.

  Sidenote: Judges xx. 44.

  Sidenote: Gen. xxxiv. 25.

6. Teach them that they ought to exercise hospitality willingly rather
than of necessity, so that in shewing this favour they may not betray
a churlish disposition of mind, and thus in the very reception of their
guest the kindness be spoilt by wrong, but rather let it be fostered
by the practice of social duties, and by the offices of kindness. It is
not rich gifts that are required of thee, but willing services, full of
peace and accordant harmony. _Better is a dinner of herbs_ with grace
and friendship than that the banquet should be adorned with exquisite
viands, while the sentiment of kindness is lacking. We read of a people
perishing by a grievous destruction on account of the violation of the
laws of hospitality. Through lust also fierce wars have been kindled.

  Sidenote: Num. xxv. 8.

7. But there is scarce any thing more pernicious than marriage with
a foreigner; already the passions both of lust and disorder, and the
evils of sacrilege are inflamed. For seeing that the marriage ceremony
itself ought to be sanctified by the priestly veil and benediction,
how can that be called a marriage when there is not agreement in faith?
Since their prayers ought to be in common, how can there be the love
of a common wedlock between those whose religion ♦is different. Often
have men ensnared by the love of women betrayed their faith, as did the
Jews at Baal-phegor. For which cause Phineas took a sword, and slew the
Hebrew and the Midianitish woman, and appeased the Divine vengeance,
that the whole people might not be destroyed.

8. And why should I bring forward more examples? I will produce one out
of many, from the mention of which will appear what an evil thing it is
to marry a strange woman. Who ever was mightier or more richly endowed
from his very cradle with God’s Spirit than Samson the Nazarite? Yet
was he betrayed by a woman, and by her means failed to retain God’s
favour. We will now narrate his birth and the course of his whole life
arranged in the style of history, following the contents of the sacred
Book, which in substance not in form is as follows.

9. The Philistines for many years kept the Hebrew people in subjection;
for they had lost the prerogative of faith, whereby their fathers had
gained victories. Yet had not their Maker wholly blotted out the mark
of their election nor the lot of their inheritance; but as they were
often puffed up by success, He for the most part delivered them into
the hand of their enemies, that thus, after the manner of men, they
might be led to seek for themselves the remedy of their evils from
heaven. For it is when any adversity oppresses us, that we submit
ourselves to God; good fortune is wont to puff up the mind. This is
proved by experience, as in other instances, so particularly in that
change of fortune whereby success returned again from the Philistines
to the Hebrews.

10. After the spirit of the Hebrews had been so subdued by the
pressure of a long subjection that no one dared with a manly spirit to
rouse them to liberty, Samson, fore-ordained by the Divine oracle, was
raised up to them. A great man he was, not one of the multitude, but
first among the few, and beyond controversy far excelling all in bodily
strength. And he is to be regarded by us with great admiration from
the beginning, not because in his early abstinence from vice he gave
signal proofs of temperance and sobriety, nor on account of his long
preserving as a Nazarite his locks unshorn, but because from his very
youth, which in others is an age of softness, he achieved illustrious
deeds of virtue, perfect beyond the measure of human nature. By these
he gained credence to the Divine prophecy, that it was not for nothing
that such grace had gone before upon him, that an Angel came down by
whom his birth beyond their hopes was announced to his parents, to be
the leader and protector of his countrymen, now for a length of years
harassed by the tyranny of the Philistines.

  Sidenote: Judges xiii. 8.

11. His father was of the tribe of Dan, a man fearing God, born of no
mean rank, and eminent above others, his mother was barren of body,
but in virtues of the mind not unfruitful; seeing that in the sanctuary
of her soul she was counted worthy to receive the visit of an Angel,
obeyed his command and fulfilled his prophecy. Not enduring however
to know the secrets even of God apart from her husband she mentioned
to him that she had seen a man of God, of beautiful form, bringing her
the Divine promise of future offspring, and that she, confiding in this
promise, was led to share with her husband her faith in the heavenly
promises. But he, informed of this, devoutly offered his prayers to God,
that the grace of this vision might be conferred on him also, saying,
_To me, Lord, let Thine Angel come_.

12. I am of opinion therefore that it was not from jealousy of his
wife, because she was remarkable for her beauty that he acted thus,
as one writer[97] has supposed, but rather that he was filled with
desire of the Divine grace, and sought to participate in the benefit
of the heavenly vision. For one whose mind was depraved could not have
found such favour with the Lord, as that an Angel should return to his
house, who, having given those monitions which the Divine announcement
made requisite, was suddenly carried away in the form of a smoking
flame. This sight, which terrified the man, the woman interpreted more
auspiciously, and so removed his solicitude, in that to see God is a
sign of good not evil.

13. Now Samson, approved by such signal tokens from above, turned his
thoughts as soon as he grew up, to marriage; whether this was that he
abhorred those vague and licentious desires in which young men are wont
to indulge, or that he was seeking an occasion of releasing the necks
of his countrymen from the power of the hard yoke of the Philistines.
Wherefore going down to Timnath, (this is the name of a city situated
in those parts where the Philistines then dwelt,) he beheld a maiden of
a pleasing form and beautiful countenance, and he besought his parents,
by whose company he was supported in his journey, to ask her for him
in marriage. But they, not knowing that his intention, either, if the
Philistine refused her to him, to be more fierce against them, or, if
they assented, to remove their disposition to injure their subjects;
and since from such a connexion a certain equality and kindliness of
intercourse would naturally grow, or, on the other hand, if any offence
were given, this desire of revenge would be more vehement, deemed that
this maiden ought to be avoided as a foreigner. But after they had
vainly attempted to change the purpose of their son by urging upon him
these lawful objections, they of their own accord acquiesced in his

14. This request was granted; and Samson on his return to visit his
promised bride, turned a little way out of the road, and straightway
there met him a lion from the wood, fierce in its savage freedom.
Samson had no companion, nor any weapon in his hand; but he felt
ashamed to fly, and conscious power gave him courage. He caught the
lion as it rushed upon him in his arms, and strangled it by the
tightness of his embrace, leaving it near the wayside lying upon the
underwood, for the spot was clothed with luxuriant herbage, and planted
with vineyards. The skin of the beast he thought would be little
esteemed by his beloved bride, for seasons such as these derive their
grace not from savage trophies, but rather from gentle joys and festal
garlands. On his returning by the same road he found an honeycomb in
the belly of the lion, and carried it off as a gift to the maiden and
her parents; for such gifts befit a bride. And having first tasted the
honey, he gave them the comb to eat, but was silent as to whence it

  Sidenote: Judg. xiv. 14.

15. But it happened on a certain day that a nuptial feast was held,
and that the young men inspirited by the banquet provoked each other
to sport by question and answer, and as they assailed each other with
wanton jests, as is the wont on such occasions, the contest of pleasure
waxed hot. And then Samson put forth this riddle to his comrades,
_Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth
sweetness_, promising them as a reward of their sagacity if they
guessed it, thirty sheets and as many changes of garments according to
the number of the company, while they on their part, if they could not
solve the riddle, were to pay a like penalty.

  Sidenote: Judg. xiv. 16.

16. But they, unable to untie the knot and to expound the riddle,
induced his wife, partly by intimidation, partly by importunate
entreaties, to require from her husband the solution of the riddle
to be a token of conjugal affection in return for her love. And
she, either terrified, and won over as women are wont to be, as if
complaining tenderly of her husband’s aversion, began to profess grief
that she, the consort and intimate of his whole life, had not learnt
this, but that she was treated like the others as one to whom her
own husband’s secret should not be confided. _Thou dost but hate me_,
she said, _and lovest me not, thou hast put forth a riddle unto the
children of my people and hast not told it me_.

  Sidenote: ib. 18.

17. Samson’s mind, otherwise inflexible, was softened by these and
the like blandishments of his wife, and discovered to her his riddle,
and she told it to her countrymen. And they, having thus but just
learned it on the seventh day, which was the term prescribed for its
solution, answered after this manner, _What is sweeter than honey, or
what is stronger than a lion?_ To which he replied, Nor is ought more
treacherous than a woman; _If ye had not ploughed with my heifer, ye
had not found out my riddle_, and he straightway went down to Ascalon,
and slew thirty men, and taking their spoils, bestowed on the men who
had expounded the riddle their promised reward.

18. But the perfidy of the maiden being thus discovered, he abstained
from intercourse with her, and returned to his father’s house. The
damsel, disturbed in mind, and justly dreading that the wrath of this
mighty man would be kindled into fury by this wrong, gave her hand to
another man, one whom Samson, relying on his fidelity, had brought with
him as his bridesman to his marriage. But neither by this expedient of
a marriage did she avoid offence. For when the affair was disclosed,
and he was forbidden to return to his wife, and her father said that
she was married to another man, but that he might, if he chose, marry
her sister, he was exasperated by the affront, and determined to take a
public revenge for his domestic injury. Wherefore he took three hundred
foxes, and in the heat of summer, when the corn was now ripe in the
fields, he tied them together two and two by the tails, and fastened
a burning firebrand between them, binding it with a firm knot, and by
way of avenging his wrong turned them loose among the sheaves which the
Philistines had cut. But the foxes, terrified by the fire, scattered
flames whichever way they turned, and burnt the harvest. And the
Philistines, incensed by the loss of all their corn in that region,
told it to the princes of their land. And they sent men to Timnath, and
burnt in the fire the woman who had been faithless to her husband, and
her parents and all her house; saying that she had been the cause of
this injury and devastation, and ought not to have provoked a man who
could avenge himself by a public calamity.

19. But Samson did not forgive the Philistines their wrong, nor rest
content with this measure of vengeance, but he slew them with a great
slaughter, and many of them fell by the sword. And he retired to Etam,
a torrent in the wilderness, where was a rock, a stronghold of the
tribe of Judah. Now the Philistines, not daring to attack him, nor
scale the steep heights on which this fortress stood, began to assail
with threats of war the tribe of Judah: but when they saw that the plea
of the men of Judah was a good one, that it was neither just nor fair
nor expedient for them to destroy their own subjects and tributaries,
especially for another man’s fault, they took counsel, and required
that the author of the outrage should be delivered up to them, in order
that his countrymen might be exonerated from the consequences of it.

20. These terms being imposed upon them, the men of Judah gathered
together three thousand of their tribe and went up to him, and
premising that they were subject to the Philistines, and obliged to
obey them, not willingly but by terror, they thus sought to turn away
from themselves the odium of their act, throwing it upon those by whom
they were constrained. Wherefore he thus replied, What kind of Justice
is it, O children of Abraham, that the satisfaction I have taken for
my bride first over-reached and then torn from me should be injurious
to me, and that I may not safely avenge this private injury? Have ye
so turned your minds to the low offices of slaves, as to become the
ministers of the insolence of others, and to turn your arms against
yourselves? If I must perish, because I gave free vent to my grief,
I had rather perish by the hand of the Philistines. My home has been
attempted, my wife tampered with, if I have not been allowed to live
without harm from them, at least let my own countrymen be free from
the guilt of my death. I did but requite the injury I had received,
I did not inflict one. Judge ye whether it was an equal return. They
complain of the loss of their home, I of the loss of my wife; compare
the sheaves of corn, with a companion of the marriage bed. They have
sanctioned my grief by avenging my injuries. Consider to what an office
they have appointed you. They desire you to put to death that man, whom
they themselves have judged worthy to be avenged on those who wronged
him, and to whose vengeance they ministered. But if your necks are
thus bowed down to these proud men, deliver me into the hand of the
enemy, slay me not yourselves; I refuse not to die, but I shrink
from implicating you in my death. If from fear ye comply with their
insolence, bind my hands with chains: though unarmed they will break
their bonds and find a weapon for themselves. They will assuredly
consider that you have satisfied the imposed condition, if you deliver
me alive into their hands.

21. When they heard this, though three thousand men had come up, they
swore to him that they would make no attempt on his life, only he must
submit to be bound, in order that they might formally surrender him,
and so keep clear of the crime of which they were accused.

22. Their word being pledged he came out of the cave, and left his
fastness on the rock, and was bound with two ropes. When he saw the
mighty men of the Philistines drawing near to seize him, his spirit
rose within him, and he brake all his bands, and taking up a jaw bone
of an ass that lay near he slew a thousand men, and put to flight the
rest by this exploit of valour, whole hosts of armed soldiers giving
way to one unarmed man. Thus those who ventured to close with him hand
to hand he slew without effort; the others saved themselves by flight.
Wherefore to this day the place is called Agon[98], because there
Samson by his great valour achieved a glorious contest.

  Sidenote: Judges xv. 16.

23. And I would that his moderation in victory had been equal to his
courage against the enemy. But as is frequently the case, with mind
unused to prosperity, he ascribed to himself the issue of the battle,
which was due to the Divine favour and protection, saying, _With the
jaw bone of an ass have I slain a thousand men_. Nor did he build an
altar to God, nor offer a victim, but neglecting sacrifice and assuming
to himself the glory, to immortalize his triumph by a memorial name he
called the place, The slaying of the jaw bone.

  Sidenote: Ib. 18.

24. And now he began to burn with thirst, and there was no water, and
yet he had great need of it. Wherefore perceiving that there is nothing
so easy for human strength, as not to be rendered difficult by the
absence of Divine aid, he besought God not to lay to his charge that he
had ascribed ought to himself, giving Him all the glory of the victory,
by the words, _Thou hast given this great deliverance into the hand of
Thy servant_, and now help me, for lo, _I die of thirst_, and thirst
gives me over into the hand of those over whom Thou hast given me so
great a triumph. Wherefore God in His mercy clave a hollow place in
the jaw bone which Samson had cast aside, and a stream of water flowed
from it, and Samson drank, and his spirit revived, and he called the
place ‘the invoking of the spring,’ because by his suppliant prayers
he made amends for his boast of victory, and thus two judgements were
opportunely declared, the one that arrogance soon incurs offence, the
other that without any offence humility gains reconciliation.

25. Having, in the course of events closed his war with the Philistines,
and shunning the sloth of his countrymen, Samson now betook himself
to Gaza, which was in the region of the Philistines, and lodged there.
When the men of Gaza knew this they did not dissemble or pass it over,
but beset his lodging in haste, and guarded all the doors of the house
that he might not escape by night. But Samson knowing their design, in
the middle of the night forestalling the snare which had been laid for
him, took the pillars of the house in his arms, and carried the whole
structure and the weight of the roof on his back, up to a high hill
above Hebron, a city inhabited by the Hebrews.

26. But now his licence transgressed the limits not only of his
paternal territory, but of good morals, such as ancient discipline
had prescribed, and this brought upon him destruction in the end. For
although he had experienced in his first marriage the treachery of a
foreign wife, and ought to have avoided it in future, he did not shun
connecting himself with the harlot Delilah, and by his passionate love
of her opened a way for the craft of his enemies to assail him. For
the Philistines came up to her, and promised each of them to give her
eleven hundred pieces of silver if she would disclose to them wherein
his assurance of strength lay, that by means of this knowledge they
might entrap and take him.

27. But she having once prostituted herself for money, began during
the banquet and the blandishments of love, cunningly and craftily to
inquire of him in what respect his strength excelled that of others,
and at the same time, as if solicitous and fearful for his safety, to
entreat him to confide to his beloved by what means he could be bound
and subdued into the power of others. But he, still self-possessed and
unshaken, opposed craft to the allurements of the harlot, and told her
that if he were bound with withs yet green and not dried, his strength
would be like that of other men. When the Philistines learnt this from
Delilah, they bound him while asleep with green withs, and then awoke
him as though on a sudden, but found that he had not fallen off from
his accustomed fortitude, but bursting its bonds his freed strength was
able to resist and drive back a host of assailants.

28. This having failed, Delilah, as if she had been mocked began with
complaints to renew her arts and to require a pledge of his love.
Samson, still firm of purpose, intimated to her that, if he were bound
by seven ropes which had never been used, he would fall into the hands
of the enemy, but this also was in vain. The third time he disclosed
part of the secret, and now drawing nearer to his fall, told her that,
if the seven locks of his head were unfastened and woven[99] to about
a cubit’s length, his strength would depart from him. But herein also
he deluded those who were plotting against his life.

29. But last of all the wanton woman complaining that she had been so
often deceived, and grieving that her lover deemed her unworthy to be
entrusted with his secret, and that under her pretext of succour her
treacherous purpose was suspected, won his confidence by her tears. By
this means, and because also it was ordained that this man of hitherto
unshaken fortitude should fall into calamity, Samson was touched and
opened to her his heart. He told her that he possessed within him
the power of God, that he was sanctified to the Lord, and that by His
command he let his hair grow, and that if it were shorn, he would cease
to be a Nazarite, and lose the use of his strength. The Philistines
having ♦discovered through her means the man’s weakness, bring her the
reward of her perfidy, thus binding her to the commission of the crime.

  Sidenote: Judges xvi. 20.

30. And she, having wearied him by the wanton blandishments of love,
threw him into slumber, and then caused the seven locks of his hair to
be cut by a razor, whereupon by his transgression of the commandment
his strength was immediately lost. When he woke out of sleep, he
said, _I will go out as at other times, and shake myself_ against mine
adversaries, but he was no longer sensible of activity and strength,
his vigour was gone, his grace was departed. Wherefore, considering
within himself that he had incautiously trusted to women, and that,
convicted of infirmity, it would be sheer folly for him to contend any
longer, he gave up his eyes to blindness, and his hands to the fetters,
and being bound with chains he entered the confinement from which he
had been for a long season free.

  Sidenote: Judges xvi. 28.

31. But in process of time his hair began to grow again; and on
the occasion of a great feast Samson is brought out of prison to
the assembly of the Philistines, and set in sight of the people.
There were nearly three thousand in number, men and women; and they
insulted him with bitter reproaches, and carried him about in mockery,
a trial harder to be borne than the very reality of captivity by a
man conscious of innate power. For to live and die is natural, to be
a laughing stock is counted a disgrace. Desirous therefore either of
consoling himself by avenging so great an indignity, or of forestalling
it for the future by death, he pretended that from the weakness of
his limbs and the weight of his fetters he could not support himself,
and desired the boy who guided his steps to bring him to the nearest
pillars by which the whole house was supported. Being brought near,
he grasped with both hands the props of the building, and while the
Philistines were intent on the sacrificial feast which they were
offering to Dagon their god, by whose help they deemed their adversary
had been delivered into their power, reckoning a woman’s perfidy as
a gift from above, he called unto the Lord, and said, ‘_O Lord God,
remember me I pray Thee this once, that I may be avenged of the heathen
for my two eyes_, and that they give not glory to their gods as if by
their help they had gotten me into their power. Let me die with the
Philistines, that they may find my weakness to have been no less fatal
to them than my strength.’

32. Then he shook the columns with great force, and broke them in
pieces, whereon followed the downfall of the upper roof, crushing
Samson himself and casting down all those who were looking on from
above. Thus were a great number of men and women slain together, and
by an end not unworthy or disgraceful, but excelling all his former
victories, the dying Samson obtained a triumph. For although to that
point and thenceforward he was invincible, and incomparable during life
among men versed in war, yet in death he conquered himself, and shewed
an unconquerable soul, so as to despise and count for nothing that end
of life which all men fear.

33. Thus it was through his valour that the last day of his life was
also the sum of his victories, and that he met not a captive but a
triumphant end. But to have been entrapped by a woman is to be ascribed
to nature rather than to the man, because it was by the condition of
his humanity more than through his own fault that he fell; for this
is wont to be overcome, and yield to the allurements of wickedness.
Wherefore, since Scripture bears witness that he slew more in his
death than while in the light of life, it would seem that his captivity
happened rather for the destruction of his adversaries than for his own
fall and humiliation. For he whose burial was more efficacious than his
living strength cannot be said to have found himself inferior. Lastly,
he was overwhelmed and buried not by the weapons but by the bodies of
his enemies, and thus, covered by his own triumph, he left a glorious
memorial to posterity. For he judged his countrymen, whom he found
enslaved, twenty years, and buried in his native soil, left them
inheritors of liberty.

34. By this example then it is plain that alliances with strangers
should be avoided, lest through love for our wife the snares of
treachery should be successful.

Farewell and love us, as we love you.

                              LETTER XX.
                               A.D. 385.

  AFTER the death of Gratian the empire of the West was nominally
  in the hands of Valentinian the 2nd, but, as he was a mere boy,
  the real power was exercised by his mother Justina, who was an
  Arian. S. Ambrose had already resisted her successfully in the
  question of the election of a Bishop at Sirmium (see Footnote
  27), and although he had performed a difficult and dangerous
  service for them two years before this, in going on an embassy
  to Maximus after the death of Gratian, Justina and Valentinian
  were bitterly hostile to him, and supported the Arian faction
  against him. In March, A.D. 385, S. Ambrose was summoned to
  the Palace, as he himself relates in the Sermon of which he
  gives an account in this letter (§ 15 sqq.) and called upon to
  give up one of the Churches, the Portian Basilica, outside the
  walls, for the use of the Arians. This he refused, and was so
  energetically supported by the people of Milan, that the demand
  was for the time withdrawn. Various other efforts were then
  made either to induce him to yield or to get him out of the way,
  (one of the latter is recounted in a note on the Sermon against
  Auxentius § 15) but they all failed. At last on the Friday
  before Palm Sunday a fresh demand is made, not for the Portian
  Basilica, as a promise had been given that no further claim
  should be made upon it, but for the New Basilica which was
  within the walls. It is at this point that the narrative which
  S. Ambrose gives in this letter to his sister Marcellina begins.
  It recounts the occurrences from the Friday to the Wednesday in
  Holy Week, when the persecution was again for the time abandoned.

                            TO MARCELLINA.

1. IN nearly all your letters you inquire anxiously about the Church;
hear then what is going on. The day after I received the letter in
which you told me how you had been troubled in your dreams, a heavy
weight of troubles began to assail me. It was not now the Portian
Basilica, that is the one without the walls, which was demanded, but
the new Basilica, that is, one within the walls, which is larger in

2. In the first place some chief men[100], counsellors of state,
appealed to me to give up the Basilica, and restrain the people from
raising any commotion. I replied as a matter of course, that a Bishop
could not give up God’s house.

3. On the following day the people expressed their approval in the
Church, and the Præfect[101] also came thither, and began to urge us
to yield up at least the Portian Basilica. The people were clamorous
against this, whereupon he departed, saying, that he would report
matters to the Emperor.

4. On the following day, which was the Lord’s day, having dismissed
the catechumens after the lessons and sermon, I was explaining the
Creed to some candidates for Baptism in the Baptistery of the Church.
There the news was reported to me that, on learning that officials[102]
had been sent from the palace to the Portian Basilica, and were putting
up the Imperial hangings[103], many of the people were proceeding
thither. I however continued my ministrations, and began to celebrate
the Eucharist[104].

5. While I was offering, tidings were brought me that the populace had
seized upon one Castulus, whom the Arians called a priest. While making
the oblation I began to weep bitterly and to beseech God’s aid that no
blood might be shed in the Church’s quarrel; or if so, that it might
be my own, and that not for my people only, but even for the ungodly
themselves. But, to be brief, I sent some presbyters and deacons, and
rescued the man.

6. The severest penalties were immediately decreed; first upon the
whole body of merchants. And thus, during the sacred period of the last
Week, wherein the debtor was wont to be loosed from his bonds, chains
are placed on innocent men’s necks, and two hundred pounds’ weight of
gold is demanded within three days. They reply they will willingly give
as much, or twice as much again, so that they may not violate their
faith. The prisons too were filled with tradesmen.

7. All the Officials of the palace, the Recorders, the Proctors, the
Apparitors of the several Courts, on the pretext of its being unlawful
for them to be present at seditious assemblies, were commanded to keep
at home, severe threats were held out against men of high rank in case
the Basilica was not delivered up. The persecution raged, and had an
opening been afforded, they seemed likely to break out into every kind
of outrage.

8. I myself had an interview with the Counts and Tribunes, who urged me
to give up the Basilica without delay, declaring that the Emperor was
acting on his rights, inasmuch as he had supreme power over all things.
I replied that if he required of me what was my own, my estate, my
money, or the like, I would not refuse it, although all my property
really belonged to the poor, but that sacred things were not subject to
the power of the Emperor. ‘If my patrimony be required,’ I said, ‘take
it; if my person, here it is. Will you drag me away to prison, or to
death? I will go with pleasure. I will not entrench myself by gathering
a multitude round me, I will not lay hold of the Altar and beg for my
life; rather will I offer myself to death for the Altar.’

9. In fact my mind was shaken with fear when I found that armed men
had been sent to occupy the Basilica, I was seized with dread lest in
protecting the Church, blood might be shed which would tend to bring
destruction on the whole city. I prayed that if so great a city or
even all Italy were to perish I might not survive. I shrank from the
odium of shedding blood, and I offered my own throat to the knife. Some
officers of the Goths[105] were present; I addressed them, saying, ‘Is
it for this that you have become citizens of Rome, to shew yourselves
disturbers of the public peace? Whither will you go, if everything here
is destroyed?’

10. I was called upon to calm the people. I replied that it was in
my power not to excite them, that it was in God’s Hand to pacify them.
That if I was considered the instigator, I ought to be punished, that
I ought to be banished into whatever desert places of the earth they
chose. Having said this, they departed, and I spent the whole day in
the old Church. Thence I returned home to sleep; that if any man wished
to arrest me, he might find me prepared.

11. When, before dawn, I passed out over the threshold, I found the
Basilica surrounded and occupied by soldiers. And it was said that they
had intimated to the Emperor that he was at liberty to go to Church if
he wished it, that they would be ready to attend him if he were going
to the assembly of the Catholics; otherwise that they would go to the
assembly which Ambrose had convened.

12. Not a single Arian dared come out, for there were none among the
citizens, only a few of the royal household, and some of the Goths,
who, as of old they made their waggon their home, so now make the
Church their waggon. Wherever that woman goes, she carries with her all
those of her own communion.

♦13. The groans of the people gave me notice that the Basilica was
surrounded; but while the lessons are being read word is brought me
that the New Basilica also is full of people, that the crowd seemed
greater than when all were at liberty, that they were calling for a
Reader. To be brief, the soldiers themselves, who were found to have
occupied the Basilica, being informed of my directions that the people
should abstain from communion with them, began to come to our assembly.
At the sight of them the minds of the women are agitated, one of them
rushes forth. But the soldiers themselves exclaimed that they had come
to pray not to fight. The people raised a cry. In the most modest, most
resolute, most faithful manner they entreated that I would go to that
Basilica. In that Basilica also the people were reported to desire my

  Sidenote: Ps. xvii. 7.

14. Then I began the following discourse: Ye have heard, my sons, the
lesson from the book of Job, which according to the usual service of
the season, is now in course. By use the devil knew that this book was
to be declared, already all the power of his temptations is laid open
and betrayed, and therefore he exerted himself to-day with greater
violence. But thanks be to our God Who hath so confirmed you in faith
and patience. I went up into the pulpit to admire Job, I found I had
all of you to admire as Jobs. Job lives again in each of you, in each
the patience and virtue of that saint is reflected. For what more
opportune could be said by Christian men than that which the Holy
Spirit hath spoken in you this day? ‘We petition your Majesty, we
use no force, we feel no fear, but we petition.’ This is what becomes
Christians, to desire peace and quiet fear, and still not to let the
steadfastness of faith and truth be shaken even by peril of death. For
the Lord is our Guide, _Who will save those who hope in Him_.

15. But let us come to the lessons set before us. Ye see that power
of temptation is given to the devil to prove the good. The wicked one
envies our progress in good, he tempts us in various ways. He tempted
holy Job in his patrimony, he tempted him in his sons, he tempted him
by bodily pains. The stronger is tempted in his own person, the weaker
in that of others. Me too he would fain have despoiled of the riches
which I possess in you, and he desired to waste this patrimony of
your tranquillity. Yourselves also he desired to snatch from me, my
good children for whom I daily offer sacrifice; you he endeavoured
to involve in the ruins of the public confusion. Already then I have
incurred two kinds of temptation. And perhaps the Lord, knowing my
weakness, hath not yet given him power over my body: though I myself
desire it, though I offer it, He perhaps still judges me unequal to
this contest, and exercises me by diverse labours. Even Job himself did
not begin with this contest, but was perfected by it.

  Sidenote: Job ii. 9.

16. But Job was tempted by the accumulated tidings of evil, he was
tempted by his wife who said, _Curse God, and die_. Ye behold how many
things are suddenly stirred up against us, the Goths, the troops, the
heathen, the fine of the tradesmen, the punishment of the saints. Ye
observe what is commanded, when it is said ‘Deliver up the Basilica;’
_Curse God, and die_. But here it is not only ‘Speak against God,’ but
also ‘Act against God.’ The command is, ‘Betray the altars of God.’

  Sidenote: ib. 10.

  Sidenote: Gen. iii. 9.

17. So then we are pressed by the Imperial mandates, but we are
strengthened by the words of Scripture, which answered, _Thou speakest
as one of the foolish women speaketh_. Not slight therefore is that
temptation, for temptations which come through the agency of women
we know to be more severe. Lastly, Adam also was betrayed by Eve,
and thereby it came to pass that he betrayed the Divine commandments.
Becoming aware of this error, and his guilty conscience accusing him,
he desired to hide himself, but could not; wherefore God says to him,
_Adam where art thou?_ that is, what wert thou before? where hast thou
now begun to be? where did I place thee? whither hast thou fallen? thou
ownest thyself naked, because thou hast lost the garments of a good
faith. The things wherewith thou desirest to clothe thyself are leaves.
Thou hast cast aside the fruit, thou desirest to lie hid under the
leaves of the tree, but thou art betrayed. For one woman’s sake thou
hast chosen to depart from thy God, therefore thou fliest from Him when
thou soughtest to see. Thou hast chosen to hide thyself with one woman,
to leave the mirror of the world, the abode of Paradise, the Grace of

18. Why need I add that Elijah also was cruelly persecuted by Jezebel?
that Herodias caused John the Baptist to be put to death? Each man
seems to suffer from this or that woman; for me, in proportion as
my merits are less, my trials are heavier. My strength is weaker,
but I have more danger. Women succeed each other, their hatreds are
interchanged, their falsehoods are varied, the elders are gathered
together, the plea of wrong to the Emperor is put forward. What
explanation is there then of such grievous temptation to such a worm
as I am, but that it is not me but the Church that they persecute.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xxii. 21.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xiv. 4.

19. At length came the command, ‘Deliver up the Basilica;’ I reply, ‘It
is not lawful for us to deliver it up, nor for your Majesty to receive
it. By no law can you violate the house of a private man, and do you
think that the house of God may be taken away? It is asserted that
all things are lawful to the Emperor, that all things are his. But do
not burden your conscience with the thought that you have any right as
Emperor over sacred things. Exalt not yourself, but if you would reign
the longer, be subject to God. It is written, _God’s to God and Cæsar’s
to Cæsar_. The palace is the Emperor’s, the Churches are the Bishop’s.
To you is committed jurisdiction over public not over sacred buildings.’
Again the Emperor is said to have issued his command, ‘I also ought
to have one Basilica;’ I answered ‘_It is not lawful for thee to have
her_. What hast thou to do with an adultress who is not bound with
Christ in lawful wedlock?’

  Sidenote: Ps. lxxix. 1.

20. While I was engaged with this subject, it was reported to me that
the Imperial hangings were taken down, the Church filled with people,
and that my presence was required; straightway I turned my discourse to
this, saying, How deep and profound are the oracles of the Holy Spirit!
Remember, brethren, what was read at matins and how we responded with
deep grief of mind, _O God the heathen are come into Thine inheritance_.
And truly the heathen came, nay, even more than the heathen, for the
Goths came and men of divers nations, they came armed with weapons,
and surrounded and seized the Basilica. Ignorant of Thy Greatness we
grieved for this, but our ignorance was mistaken.

  Sidenote: Ps. lxxvi. 2, 3.

  Sidenote: Ps. xxx. 9.

  Sidenote: Ps. xxx. 11, 12.

21. The heathen came, but truly _into Thine inheritance_ they came, for
they who came as heathen were made Christians. They who came to invade
Thine inheritance, were made coheirs of God; those whom I accounted
enemies are become my defenders; I have as comrades those whom I
esteemed adversaries. Thus has that been fulfilled which the prophet
David spake of the Lord Jesus, that _His Dwelling is in peace[106],
there brake He the horns of the bow, the shield, the sword, and the
battle_. For whose office, whose work is this but Thine, Lord Jesus?
Thou sawest armed men coming to Thy temple, on the one hand the people
groaning and collecting in a crowd that they might not seem to give up
the Basilica, on the other hand the soldiers commanded to use force.
Death was before my eyes, lest in the midst of all this madness should
break out into licence. But Thou, O Lord plantedst Thyself in the midst,
and madest the twain one. Thou restrainedst the soldiers, saying, If
ye run to arms, if they who are within My temple are disturbed, _What
profit is there in My blood?_ All thanks therefore be to Thee, O Christ.
It was not an enemy, not a messenger but _Thou O Lord hast delivered
Thy people, Thou hast put off my sackcloth and girded me with gladness_.

22. Thus I spoke, wondering that the Emperor’s mind could be softened
by the zeal of the soldiers, by the entreaties of the Counts, by the
prayers of the people. Meanwhile I am informed that a Secretary was
come with the mandate. I retired a little, and he notified to me the
mandate. ‘What has been your design,’ says he, ‘in acting against the
Emperor’s orders?’ I replied, ‘What has been ordered I know not, nor am
I aware what is alleged to have been wrongly done.’ He says, ‘Why have
you sent presbyters to the Basilica? If you are a tyrant I would fain
know it, that I may know how to arm myself against you.’ I replied by
saying that I had done nothing which assumed too much for the Church,
but when I heard it was filled with soldiers, I only uttered deeper
groans, and though many exhorted me to proceed thither, I replied,
‘I cannot give up the Basilica, yet I must not fight.’ That afterwards,
when I was told that the Imperial hangings were removed, and that the
people required me to go thither, I had directed the presbyters to do
so, but that I was unwilling to go myself, saying, ‘I trust in Christ
that the Emperor himself will espouse our cause.’

  Sidenote: 2 Cor. xii. 10.

23. If this seems like domineering, I grant indeed that I have arms,
but only in the name of Christ; I have the power of offering up my
body. Why, I asked, did he delay to strike if he considered my power
unlawful? By ancient right Priests have conferred sovereignty, never
assumed it, and it is a common saying that Emperors have coveted the
Priesthood more often than Priests sovereignty. Christ fled that He
might not be made a king. We have a power of our own. The power of
a Priest is his weakness; _When I am weak_, it is said, _then am
I strong_. But let him against whom God has raised up no adversary
beware lest he raise up a tyrant for himself. Maximus did not say that
I domineered over Valentinian, though he complains that my embassage
prevented his passing over into Italy. I added, that priests were never
usurpers, but that they had often suffered from usurpers.

24. The whole of that day was past in this affliction; meanwhile the
boys tore in derision the Imperial hangings. I could not return home,
because the Church was surrounded by a guard of soldiers. We recited
the Psalms with our brethren in the little Basilica belonging to the

  Sidenote: Jonah iv. 9.

25. On the following day, the book of Jonah was read in due course,
after which, I began this discourse; We have read a book, my brethren,
wherein it is foretold that sinners shall return again to repentance.
They are accepted on this footing, that their present state is
considered an earnest of the future. I added that this just man was
even willing to incur blame, rather than behold or denounce destruction
on the city; and, since that prophecy was mournful, that he was also
grieved because the gourd had withered; that God had said to the
prophet, _Art thou greatly angry for the gourd?_ and Jonah had answered,
_I am greatly angry_. Then the Lord said, if the withering of the gourd
was a grief to him, how much more ought he to care for the salvation
of so many souls; and therefore that He had suspended the destruction
which had been prepared for the whole city.

  Sidenote: Ib. 7.

26. Immediate tidings are brought to me that the Emperor had commanded
the soldiers to retire from the Church; and that the fine which had
been imposed on the merchants on their condemnation should be restored.
What joy then prevailed among the whole people, what applause, what
congratulations! Now it was the day whereon the Lord delivered Himself
up for us, the day whereon there is a relaxation of penance in the
Church. The soldiers eagerly brought the tidings, running in to the
altars, and giving the kiss, the emblem of peace. Then I perceived that
God had smitten _the worm which came when the morning rose_, that the
whole city might be preserved.

27. These are the past events, and would that they were terminated, but
the excited words of the Emperor show that heavier trials are awaiting
us. I am called a tyrant, and even more than tyrant. For when the
Counts besought the Emperor to go to the Church, and said that they did
so at the request of the soldiers, he replied, ‘You would deliver me
up to chains, if Ambrose bade you.’ I leave you to judge what awaits us
after these words; all shuddered at hearing them, but there are those
about him who exasperate him.

28. Lastly Calligonus the Grand Chamberlain[107] ventured to address
himself specially to me. ‘Do you, while I live, despise Valentinian?
I will have your head.’ I replied, ‘May God grant you to fulfil your
threat: I shall suffer as becomes a Bishop, you will act as befits an
♦eunuch.’ May God indeed turn them aside from the Church; may all their
weapons be directed against me, may they satiate their thirst in my

                              LETTER XXI.
                               A.D. 386.

  S. AMBROSE ends his letter to his sister with forebodings of
  more troubles. Nor was he wrong. One of the next steps taken
  was a challenge to dispute publicly before the Emperor with
  Auxentius the Arian (so-called) Bishop, with regular umpires
  (judices) appointed on both sides. This letter is his reply to
  the Emperor, setting forth his ground for refusing, as he had
  before done at the time of the Council of Aquileia, to allow
  laymen to be judges of questions of Faith. (See above, Council
  of Aquil. § 51, 52, 53.)


1. DALMATIUS the tribune and notary cited me at your Clemency’s bidding,
as he alleged, requiring that I also should choose umpires as Auxentius
had done. He did not mention the names of those who had been called
for, but he added that the trial would take place in the Consistory,
and that your pious judgment would decide between us.

2. To this I make, as I consider, a sufficient answer. No one ought
to deem me contumacious for asserting what your father of illustrious
memory not only declared by word of mouth[108] but sanctioned by his
laws; that in a matter of the Faith or of any ecclesiastical ordinance,
the judges ought to be qualified for it, both competent by office and
qualified by profession: (these are the words of the Rescript), that is
to say, he would have Bishops judge Bishops. Moreover if a bishop were
accused elsewhere also, and a charge of a moral nature to be examined,
this too he willed should be referred to the judgment of Bishops.

3. Who then is it who makes a contumacious answer to your Clemency?
He who would have you like your Father, or he who would have you
unlike? Unless perhaps some persons count cheaply the opinion of that
great Emperor, whose faith has been approved by the constancy of his
confession[109], and his wisdom proclaimed by the improved condition
of the State.

4. When have you ever heard, most gracious Emperor, that laymen
had judged a Bishop in a matter pertaining to the Faith? Does
their flattery make us cringe so low as to forget the rights of the
priesthood, and suppose that what God has committed to me I should
entrust to others? If a layman may teach a Bishop, what will follow?
a layman will dispute, and a Bishop listen, a Bishop learn of a layman.
Assuredly, if we revert to the volume of Holy Scripture or to the
time of old, who is there who will deny that in a cause of the Faith,
in a cause, I say, of the Faith, Bishops are wont to judge Christian
Emperors, not Emperors to judge Bishops.

5. Hereafter, you will, by God’s favour, reach a more mature age, and
then you will judge what kind of Bishop he must be who submits the
rights of the priesthood to laymen. Your father, who by God’s favour
attained a riper age, used to say: ‘It is not for me to judge between
Bishops:’ your Majesty now says, ‘I ought to judge.’ He, although
baptized into Christ, considered himself unequal to the weight of
so important a judgment; does your Majesty, who have yet to earn for
yourself the Sacrament of Baptism, claim to decide concerning the Faith,
although still ignorant of the Sacrament of this Faith?

6. But what sort of judges he will have selected we may leave to be
guessed, seeing that he fears to disclose their names. Let them come
openly, if indeed there be any, to the Church; let them attend together
with the people, not to sit as judges, but for every one to prove his
own feelings and choose whom he will follow. The cause is concerning
the Bishop of that Church; if the people hear him and suppose he has
the better of the argument, let them follow his Faith; I shall not be

7. I forbear to mention that the people themselves have already
decided; I do not urge that the Bishop[110] whom they have they
demanded from your Majesty’s father; I urge not that your father
promised tranquillity for the future if he, having been elected, took
upon him the Bishopric. It was in reliance on these promises that I

8. But if he prides himself on the support of any foreigners let him
be Bishop in the place whence those come who hold that he should be
invested with the name of a Bishop. For I neither acknowledge him as
Bishop, nor know whence he comes.

9. How, your Majesty, can we be said to settle a matter in which you
have already declared your judgment; nay, have yourself published laws
precluding others from deciding otherwise. And when you laid down this
rule for others you laid it down also for yourself; for the laws which
the Emperor makes he ought to be the first to keep. Would you then have
me make trial whether those who are chosen judges will meet, contrary
to your decree, or whether they will allege that they have not been
able to contravene so rigid and peremptory a command of the Emperor?

10. But this is the part of a contumacious not of a respectful Bishop.
See, your Majesty, how you yourself partially rescind your own law; but
I would that you would do so not partially but universally, for I would
not wish your law to be above the law of God. The law of God has taught
us what we should follow, human laws cannot teach us this. They can
compel a change in the timid, but they cannot inspire faith.

11. Who therefore when he learns that in one moment it has been
published through so many provinces that whoever shall resist the
Emperor shall be put to death, whoever shall not give up the temple of
God shall immediately be slain; who is there, I say, who either alone
or with a few others can say to the Emperor; ‘I do not approve your
law?’ The priesthood are not allowed to say this; are then the laity
allowed? And shall he judge concerning the faith, who either hopes for
favour or fears giving offence?

12. Lastly, shall I venture to nominate laymen for umpires, who if they
keep true to their Faith must be proscribed or put to death, as that
law passed concerning the Faith prescribes. Shall I then expose them to
the hazard either of prevarication or of punishment?

13. Ambrose is not of such importance as to degrade the priesthood on
his account. One man’s life is not of as much value as the dignity of
the whole priesthood, by whose advice I gave my direction when they
suggested that there might be some heathen or Jew, chosen by Auxentius,
to whom we might give a triumph over Christ if we committed to him
judgment concerning Christ. What else pleases them but to hear of wrong
done to Christ? What else can please them but the denial (which God
forbid) of the Divinity of Christ? Clearly they agree entirely with
the Arian, who calls Christ a creature, which heathens and Jews too
are willing enough to confess.

14. This was decreed at the synod of Ariminum, and with good reason
do I abhor that Council; following as I do the doctrine of the Nicene
Council, from which neither death nor the sword can ever separate me.
This Faith your Majesty’s father, the blessed Emperor Theodosius, both
followed and approved. This Faith the provinces of Gaul and of Spain
hold, and this they keep with the pious confession of the Divine Spirit.

15. If I have to preach, I have learnt to preach in the Church, as
my predecessors did. If a conference is to be held on a matter of
Faith, it ought to be a conference of Bishops, as was the case under
Constantine of august memory, who laid down no laws beforehand, but
left to the Bishops the liberty of judging. The same was the case also
under Constantius of illustrious memory, who inherited his father’s
dignity, but what began well ended badly. For the Bishops had at first
subscribed an orthodox confession, but, through the wish of certain
persons to judge of the Faith in agreement with the palace, the result
was that these judgments of the Bishops were fraudulently changed; they
however immediately recalled this perverted decision. And there is no
doubt that the majority at Ariminum approved the creed of the Nicene
Council[111] and condemned the Arian decrees.

16. If Auxentius appeals to a Synod to discuss questions concerning the
Faith, though it would be needless to disturb so many Bishops on one
person’s account, who, were he an Angel from heaven, ought not to be
preferred to the Church’s peace, I too will not be absent when I hear
that the Synod is assembled. Let the law then be repealed, if you would
have the contest entered upon.

17. I would have come to your Majesty’s Consistory, to offer this plea
in your presence, could I have obtained leave from the Bishops or the
people; but they said that an argument concerning the Faith ought to be
held in the Church in the presence of the people.

18. I could have wished that your Majesty had not declared that I might
go into exile, whither I chose. I went abroad daily, no man guarded me.
You should then have sent me wherever you thought fit, for I was ready
to submit to any thing; now the Bishops say to me, ‘There is little
difference between voluntarily leaving Christ’s altar and betraying it,
for if you leave you will betray it.’

19. And I would I were certain that the Church would not be given up to
the Arians, I would then willingly surrender myself to your Majesty’s
disposal. But if it is I only who am an intruder, why has the command
been given to invade all other Churches also? I would it were certain,
that no one would disturb the Churches, I would gladly then have any
sentence which seems good passed concerning myself.

20. Let your Majesty then be pleased graciously to accept my reasons
for not coming to the Church. I have not learned how to stand up in the
Consistory except in your behalf[112]; and within the palace I cannot
contend, for I neither seek after nor know the secrets of the palace.

21. I, Bishop Ambrose, offer this remonstrance to the most clement
Emperor, his blessed Majesty Valentinian.

                               A.D. 386.


  THE persecution against S. Ambrose still continued. The Court
  party endeavoured to induce him to leave Milan, in order, they
  said, to prevent more serious troubles. This he refused to do,
  and at last he remained for several days and nights continuously
  within the Basilica[113], attended by a crowded congregation,
  all determined to protect him from the violence of the court,
  while a guard of soldiers was at the same time blockading the
  Church, and preventing any from leaving it. It was during this
  time that this Sermon was preached. In it S. Ambrose first calms
  the fears of the people lest he should be induced to leave them,
  assuring them that he will only yield to force; and proceeds
  to apply the Lessons of the day, the story of Naboth and the
  Entry into Jerusalem, to the circumstances of the time, giving
  incidentally several interesting details of the contest between
  himself and the Court, and alluding to the hymns which he then
  taught the people to sing.

1. I SEE that you are in an unusual state of excitement, and that your
eyes are fixed upon me. I am at a loss to know the cause of this. Is
it that you saw or heard that an Imperial message has been brought to
me by the Tribunes, commanding me to depart hence whither I would, and
that all who would were permitted to follow me. Were you then alarmed
lest I should desert the Church, and in fear for my own life abandon
you? But you heard my answer. I said that the thought of deserting the
Church could not for an instant enter my mind, for I feared the Lord
of the Universe more than the Ruler of the Empire; that if I were to be
forcibly removed from the Church, it would be my body not my mind which
would be driven by violence from thence, that if the Emperor were to
act as royal power is wont, I was prepared for that which is the part
of a priest to suffer.

2. Why then are you thus disturbed? I will never desert you of my own
will, but I may not repel force by force. I shall still be able to
mourn, to weep, and to groan; when weapons, soldiers, Goths assail me,
my tears are my weapons, for these are the defence of a priest. By any
other means I neither can nor ought to resist; but to fly and desert
the Church is not my wont, lest any one should impute it to fear of
heavier punishment. You yourselves know that I am wont to pay deference
to our Rulers, but not to give way to them, and willingly to offer
myself to punishment, not fearing what is prepared for me.

3. Would that I could be satisfied that the Church would not be
delivered to heretics! I would willingly go to the Emperor’s palace,
were this accordant with the priest’s office, so as to hold our
contest rather in the palace than in the Church. But in the Consistory
Christ is not wont to be the accused, but the Judge. Who will deny
that a matter of faith should be pleaded in the Church? If any one has
confidence in his cause let him come hither; let him not look for the
judgment of the Emperor, which already shews its leaning, which has
declared plainly by the law he has enacted that he is adverse to the
Faith, nor for the expected support of certain intriguers. I will not
give occasion to any one to barter for gain a wrong to Christ.

  Sidenote: 1 S. Pet. v. 8

4. The guard of soldiers and the din of the arms which beset the Church,
alarm not my faith, but they make me fear that in keeping me here you
may incur danger to yourselves. For I have learned ere this not to fear
for myself, but I begin now to fear more for you. Permit, I beg, your
Bishop to enter the lists; we have an adversary who challenges us; for
our _adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom
he may devour_, as the Apostle saith. Doubtless he has obtained, he has
obtained (not to deceive us, but to warn us, is it recorded) this power
of temptation, lest haply I should be removed from the stedfastness of
my faith by the wounds of my body. You also have read that the devil
thus tempted holy Job in many ways; and last of all he begged and
obtained the power of afflicting his body which he covered with sores.

5. When it was proposed to me to give up at once the Church plate,
I made this reply; That if my own property was required of me, farm
or house, gold or silver, anything that lies in my power, I would
willingly give it; but that I would withdraw nothing from God’s temple,
nor surrender what had been committed to me to keep, not to surrender.
And further, that I was studying also for the Emperor’s good, for it
was expedient neither for me to surrender nor for him to receive these
things; let him then listen to the words of an independent Bishop: if
he regard his own interest, let him abstain from doing wrong to Christ.

  Sidenote: Eph. vi. 12.

6. These are words full of humility, and, I believe, of that affection
which a Bishop owes to his Emperor. But since _our contest is not only
against flesh and blood, but_ also (which is more trouble) _against
spiritual wickedness in high places_, that tempter, the Devil, sharpens
the contest by his ministers, and deems that by the wounds of my body
the trial must be made. I know, brethren, that these wounds which we
receive for Christ, are no wounds: life is not lost by them, but its
seed propagated. Permit, I beseech you, the contest to take place, it
is for you to be spectators only. Consider that if there is in a city
an athlete or one skilled in some other science, it wishes to present
him for the combat. Why do ye reject in greater things what ye are wont
to wish for even in smaller ones? He fears neither arms nor barbarians,
who dreads not death, who is entangled in no fleshly pleasure.

7. Without doubt if the Lord hath appointed me to this combat, it is in
vain that you have kept sleepless watch and ward through so many nights
and days; the will of Christ will be performed. For our Lord Jesus
Christ is Almighty, this is our Faith; and therefore what He bids to
be done will be fulfilled, nor does it become us to run counter to the
Divine Will.

  Sidenote: S. Luke xix. 35.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xi. 28. etc.

  Sidenote: Phil. i. 23.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. x. 39.

8. Ye have heard what has been read to-day: the Saviour commanded an
ass’s colt to be brought to Him by the Apostles and commanded that if
any one sought to hinder them they should say, _The Lord hath need of
him_. What if now also He hath commanded this ass’s colt, that is the
colt of that animal which is wont to bear a heavy burthen, such as is
the condition of man, to whom it is said, _Come unto Me all ye that
labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest: take My yoke upon
you, for My yoke is easy_: what, I say, if He hath now commanded this
colt to be brought to Him, sending forth those Apostles who now having
put off the body, wear, invisibly to our eyes, the guise of Angels?
Will they not say, should any one seek to hinder them, _The Lord hath
need of him_, if either the desire of this life, or flesh and blood,
or the conversation of the world, for perhaps we are acceptable to some
persons, should seek to hinder them? But he who loves me here, cannot
give a better testimony of his affection than by suffering me to become
a sacrifice for Christ; because _to be dissolved and to be with Christ
is much better; howbeit, to remain in the flesh is more needful for
your sakes_. Ye have therefore, my beloved brethren, no cause for fear,
for I know that whatever I shall suffer, I shall suffer for Christ. And
I have read that I ought not to fear those who can kill the flesh, and
I have heard One say, _He who loses his life for My sake, shall find

9. Wherefore, if the Lord wills it, I am sure that no resistance will
be made. But if He still delay our contest, why should we fear? It
is not bodily protection but the Lord’s providence which is wont to
protect the servant of Christ.

10. You are disturbed at finding some folding doors unclosed which a
blind man in returning home is said to have opened. Acknowledge then
that human guards are no support. Lo! one who had lost the gift of
sight has broken through all your barriers and baffled your guards: but
the Lord hath not lost[114] the guard of His mercy. Do you not remember
that two days ago there was found open an entrance on the left side of
the Basilica which you thought to be closed and guarded? The Basilica
was surrounded by armed men who inspected every entrance, but their
eyes were blinded so that they could not discover the one which was
open; and so it remained open, as you know, for many nights. Cease then
all anxiety, for what Christ commands, and what is expedient, shall
come to pass.

  Sidenote: 2 Kings vi. 16. (the sense, not the words.)

11. In the next place I will produce to you instances from the Old
Testament. Elisha was sought after by the king of Syria, an army was
sent to take him, he was surrounded on every side, his servant began
to fear, because he was a servant, that is, his mind was not free, nor
had he freedom of action. The holy prophet prayed that his eyes might
be opened, and said, _Look and see how many more are on our side than
against us_. And he looked up and saw thousands of Angels. You see then
that the servants of Christ are protected rather by invisible than by
visible beings. But when they keep guard around you, they have been
called to do so by your prayers; for you have read that those very men
who sought for Elisha on entering Samaria came upon the very man whom
they wished to capture, yet they were not able to injure him, but were
saved by the intercession of the very man against whom they came.

12. Take the Apostle Peter too as an example of both these things. When
Herod sought after and took him, he was put in prison; for the servant
of God had not fled but stood firm and without fear. The Church prayed
for him, but the Apostle was asleep in the prison, a proof that he
feared not. An Angel was sent to rouse him from his sleep, and by him
Peter was brought out of prison and for the time escaped death.

  Sidenote: Rom. vi. 10.

13. The same Peter, afterwards, after overcoming Simon, by spreading
the precepts of God among the people and preaching chastity, stirred up
the minds of the heathen against him: and when they sought to put him
to death the Christians besought him to retire for a little while. And
although he was desirous of suffering, yet he was moved by the sight
of the people praying, for they besought him to reserve himself for
the instruction and confirmation of the people. To be brief: as he
set out from the walls by night, he saw Christ meeting him in the gate
and entering the city, whereupon he said, ‘Lord, whither goest Thou?’
Christ answered, ‘I am coming to be crucified again.’ This Divine
response Peter understood to refer to his own cross, for Christ, Who
had put off the flesh by undergoing the suffering of death could not
again be crucified, _For in that He died, He died unto sin once, but in
that He liveth, He liveth unto God_. Wherefore Peter understood that
Christ was again to be crucified in His servant; and so he turned back
of his own accord, and when the Christians asked him why, he told them
what he had seen, and was immediately seized, and honoured the Lord
Jesus by his cross.

  Sidenote: S. John xxi. 22.

14. Ye see then that Christ wills to suffer in His servants. What if He
saith to this servant also, _I will that he tarry, but follow thou Me_?
what if He wills to taste of the fruit from this tree? For if it was
His meat to do His Father’s Will, it is His meat also to feed upon the
sufferings of His servants. To take an example from our Lord Himself,
did He not suffer when He willed, and was He not found when they sought
for Him? But when the hour of His passion had not arrived, He passed
through the midst of them who sought for Him, and they who saw Him
could not detain Him. Wh ich evidently shews that when the Lord wills,
each man is found and taken, while he whose time is not come although
he meet the eyes, is not captured.

15. And did I not go out daily to make visits, or go to the tomb of
the Martyrs? Did I not in going and returning pass close by the Royal
palace? And yet no man arrested me, though they wished to drive me from
the city, as they shewed afterwards by saying, ‘Leave this city, and
go where thou wilt.’ I expected, I confess, something great, to be
burned or slain with the sword for the name of Christ, but they offered
me delights in the place of sufferings; and yet the soldiers of Christ
seeks not for delights but for sufferings. Wherefore let no man trouble
you by the intelligence that they have prepared a carriage[115], or
that Auxentius, who calls himself Bishop, has uttered what he thinks
terrible words.

  Sidenote: 2 Cor. xi. 14.

16. Many said that executioners had been sent, that the punishment of
death had been decreed; I fear them not, nor will I desert my post.
For whither should I go to find a place that is not full of nothing
but tears and groans? For in every Church the Catholic clergy are
ordered to be cast forth; if they resist, to be put to death; all the
senators[116] who do not obey this mandate, to be proscribed. And it
is a Bishop who writes these orders with his own hand and dictates them
with his own mouth, who to prove his learning omitted not an ancient
precedent; for we read in the prophet that he saw a flying sickle[117],
and in imitation of this Auxentius sent a winged sword through all the
cities. And thus _Satan transforms himself into an Angel of light_, and
imitates his power for evil purposes.

  Sidenote: Ps. l. 16.

  Sidenote: 2 Cor. vi. 15.

  Sidenote: 1 Kings xxi. 3.

17. Thou, Lord Jesus, hast in one moment redeemed the world; shall
Auxentius in one moment, so far as in him lies, slay so many people,
some with the sword, others by sacrilege[118]? My Basilica he sought
with a mouth and hands of blood, and to him our present Lesson may be
well applied, _Unto the ungodly, saith God, why dost thou preach my
laws?_ that is, There is no concord between peace and wrath, _between
Christ and Belial_. You remember also how in the Lesson of to-day that
holy man Naboth, the owner of a vineyard, was requested by the king to
surrender it to him, that he might root up the vines and plant it with
common herbs, and that he answered, _God forbid that I should give thee
the inheritance of my fathers_; and that king was grieved that what
belonged of right to another was refused him when he claimed it as
his right, and only gained by the deceit of a woman’s artifice. Naboth
then defended his vineyard even with his own blood; if he would not
surrender his vineyard, shall we surrender the Church of Christ?

18. How then did I reply contumaciously? When summoned, I said, ‘God
forbid that I should surrender Christ’s heritage. If Naboth would not
surrender the heritage of his fathers, shall I surrender Christ’s
heritage?’ I added moreover, ‘God forbid that I should surrender the
heritage of my fathers, the heritage of Dionysius, who died in exile
for the Faith, of the Confessor Eustorgius, of Myrocles, and of all
the faithful Bishops of old time.’ I answered as becomes a Bishop, let
the Emperor act as becomes an Emperor. He shall deprive me of my life
sooner than my Faith.

  Sidenote: S. Luke xix. 40.

19. But to whom am I to surrender it? The Lesson just read from the
Gospel ought to teach us what it is that is demanded, and by whom.
Ye heard it read that, when Christ was sitting on the ass’s colt, the
children cried out, and the Jews were indignant, appealing to the Lord
Jesus, and saying that He should bid them hold their peace, but He
replied, _If these were to hold their peace, the very stones would
cry out_. Then He entered the Temple, and cast out the moneychangers,
and their tables, and those that sold doves in the Temple of God. This
Lesson was read by no direction of ours, but by chance; but it suits
well with the present time. For the praises of Christ are always as
it were scourges to misbelievers. And now when Christ is praised the
heretics say that we are exciting sedition, the heretics say that they
were thereby threatened with death; and truly the praises of Christ
are death to them. For how can they bear His praises Whose weakness
they are proclaiming! Wherefore to this day the praises of Christ are
a scourge to the madness of the Arians.

  Sidenote: Ps. viii. 2.

  Sidenote: Ps. cxviii. 22.

20. The Gerasenes could not bear the presence of Christ, these men,
worse than the Gerasenes, cannot even bear the praises of Christ. They
see children singing the glory of Christ; for it is written, _Out of
the mouth of babes and sucklings Thou hast perfected praise_. They
deride their tender years so full of faith, and ask, Why do they cry
out? But Christ answers them, _If these should hold their peace the
very stones would cry out_, that is, the stranger will cry out, the
young men too will cry out, the more mature will cry out, the old men
also: stones built into that Stone of Whom it is written, _The stone
which the builders disallowed is become the head-stone of the corner_.

21. Christ then, invited by these praises, enters His Temple, and takes
His ♦scourge and drives out the moneychangers. For He will not permit
those who are slaves of money to be in His Temple, He will not suffer
those to be there who sell seats. What are _seats_, but honours? What
are _doves_, but simple minds, or souls which embrace a sincere and
pure faith? Shall I then introduce into the Temple him whom Christ
excludes? For he is commanded to go forth who sells dignities and
honours, he is commanded to go forth who would sell the simple minds
of the faithful.

22. Wherefore Auxentius is cast forth, Mercurianus is excluded. This
is one portent under two names. That it might not be known who he was,
he changed his name, and, as there had been here Auxentius the Arian
Bishop, so he, to deceive the people whom the other had influenced,
called himself Auxentius. Thus he changed his name, but his perfidy he
could not change; he put off wolf, and yet put on wolf. It avails him
not to have changed his name, what he really is is known. He was known
by one name in the regions of Scythia, he is called by another here, he
has names differing according to his country. Now therefore he has two
names, and if from hence he goes elsewhere he will have a third also.
For how will he endure to keep a name which betrays the greatness of
his crime? In Scythia he did less wickedly, and yet he was so ashamed
as to change his name; here he has dared to do more heinous things, and
will he be willing wherever he goes to be betrayed by his name? After
writing with his own hand the death warrant of so many people, will he
be able to retain his senses unshaken?

  Sidenote: Jer. xvii. 1.

23. The Lord Jesus drove out a few from His temple, Auxentius left no
one. Jesus casts men out of His temple with a scourge, Auxentius with a
sword; Jesus with a rod, Mercurianus with an axe. Our holy Lord drives
out the sacrilegious with a scourge, this wicked man persecutes the
godly with the sword. Of him ye have to-day said well; ‘let him carry
his laws away with him.’ He shall carry them though he desire it not,
he shall carry with him his conscience, though he carry not the writing,
he shall carry his own soul inscribed in blood, although he carry not a
letter inscribed with ink. _Thy sin, O Judah, is written with a pen of
iron and with the point of a diamond_, and _it is graven in thy heart_,
graven that is in the place from whence it came forth.

  Sidenote: Gal. ii. 19.

  Sidenote: Gal. iii. 11.

24. Does he moreover, stained as he is with blood and slaughter, dare
to mention discussion to me? Those whom he fails to deceive by his
arguments he sentences to be smitten with the sword, and he dictates
bloody laws with his mouth, writing them with his hand, and thinking
that the law can impose a Creed on men. He has never heard what was
read to-day, _A man is not justified by the works of the law_, or, _I
by the law am dead to the law that I might live to God_, that is, by
the spiritual law he is dead to the carnal interpretation of the law.
Let us too by the law of our Lord Jesus Christ die to this law which
sanctions the decrees of perfidy. It is not the law which has gathered
together the Church, but the faith of Christ. For the law is not of
faith: _But the just shall live by faith_. It is faith then, not the
law, which makes a man just, because righteousness is not by the law,
but by the faith of Christ. But he who rejects faith, and takes law for
his rule, bears witness to his own unrighteousness, for _the just shall
live by faith_.

  Sidenote: Gal. iv. 4.

  Sidenote: Gal. iii. 13.

  Sidenote: Ib.

  Sidenote: 2 Cor. v. 21.

25. Shall any then follow this law confirming the Council of Ariminum
wherein Christ is called a creature? But they say, _God sent His Son,
made of a woman, made under the Law_. So then He is _made_ they say,
that is, created. Will they not consider this very text which they
have produced; that Christ is said to be made, but _made of a woman_,
that is, He according to His birth from the Virgin was _made_, Who was
according to His Divine generation born of the Father? They read too
to-day that Christ _redeemed us from the curse of the Law, being made
a curse for us_. Was Christ a curse according to His Divinity? But why
He should be called a curse the Apostle teaches thee, alleging the text,
_Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree_, that is, He Who in His
flesh took upon Him our flesh, in His body carried our griefs and our
curses that He might crucify them, for He is cursed, not in Himself,
but in thee. Lastly, you have in another place, _Who knew no sin, but
was made sin for us_, for He took upon Him our sins, to do away with
them by the Sacrament of His Passion.

26. These points, my brethren, I would have discussed more fully with
you in his presence, but he, being aware that you were not ignorant
of the Faith, fled from your scrutiny, and chose as his advocates,
if indeed he chose any, four or five heathens, whom I would willingly
have now present in our general assembly, not for them to judge of
Christ, but that they might hear the majesty of Christ. They however
have already pronounced concerning Auxentius, for when he daily
argued before them they gave him no credit. What can be a greater
condemnation of him than that he was defeated without an adversary
before his own judges? Thus we now have their own sentence against

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. vi. 1, 2.

  Sidenote: Ib. vi. 5.

27. And justly is he to be condemned for choosing heathen judges, for
he disregarded the Apostle’s precept who says _Dare any of you, having
a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before
the saints? Do you not know that the saints shall judge the world?_ And
below he says, _Is it so that there is not a wise man among you, no not
one that shall be able to judge between his brethren? but brother goeth
to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers?_ Ye see that what
he offered is contrary to the Apostle’s authority. Choose whether we
should follow Auxentius or Paul as our master?

  Sidenote: Isa. li. 7.

  Sidenote: 2 Cor. iii. 3.

28. But why should I speak of the Apostle, when our Lord Himself cries
by the Prophet, _hearken unto Me My people, ye that know righteousness,
in whose heart is My law_. God says, _hearken unto Me My people, ye
that know righteousness_. Auxentius says, Ye know not righteousness.
Do ye not see that he now, who rejects the declaration of the heavenly
oracles, despises God in you? _Hearken unto Me My people_; saith the
Lord. He says not, Hearken ye Gentiles; He says not, Hearken ye Jews.
For now they that were the people of God are become the people of error,
and they who were the people of error have become the people of God,
because they have believed in Christ. Wherefore that people are judges,
in whose heart is the Divine, not human, law; the law _written not with
ink, but with the Spirit of the living God_; not inscribed on paper but
stampt upon the heart; the law of grace not of blood. Who is it then
who wrongs you, he who refuses or he who chooses to be heard by you?

29. Hemmed in on all sides, he has recourse to the wiles of his fathers.
He wishes to excite odium against me in regard to the Emperor, saying,
that a youth yet a catechumen and ignorant of the sacred Scriptures,
ought to judge, and to judge in the Consistory. As if last year, when
I was summoned to the palace, when in the presence of the nobles the
matter was argued before the Consistory, when the Emperor wished to
take away the Basilica, I was then cowed by the sight of the Imperial
court, and had not maintained the constancy of a priest, or had
suffered our rights to be infringed there. Do they not remember that
when the people knew I had gone to the palace they rushed in with an
onset that nothing could withstand; and when a Military Count came
forth with some light troops to disperse the multitude they all offered
themselves to death for the Faith of Christ? Was I not then requested
to make a long speech to soothe the people? Did I not pledge my faith
that no one should invade the Church’s Basilica? And although my good
offices were requested as a kindness, yet the coming of the populace to
the palace was made a ground of charge against me; into the same odium
then they wish me again to fall.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xxii. 17.

30. I recalled the people, and yet I did not escape odium, and this
odium ought, I conceive, to be controuled rather than feared. For
what should we fear for the name of Christ? Unless perhaps this which
they say ought to move me; ‘And ought not the Emperor then to have one
Basilica to go to; and does Ambrose desire to be more powerful than the
Emperor, so as to exclude him from the liberty of attending Church?’
When they say this, they wish to lay hold of my words, like the Jews
who tempted Christ with empty words, saying, _Master, is it lawful
to give tribute to Cæsar or not?_ Must the servants of God always be
exposed to odium on Cæsar’s account? And does impiety, with a view to
calumny, seek to use the Imperial name as a cloak? And can they protest
that they do not partake of the sacrilege of these men, whose guidance
they follow?

  Sidenote: Ib. 18. sqq.

31. Yet see how much worse the Arians are than the Jews. The latter
enquired of Christ whether He thought that the right of tribute should
be rendered to Cæsar; the former are willing to surrender to the
Emperor the rights of the Church. But like traitors, they follow their
master, and so let us answer what our Lord and Master hath taught us.
For Jesus perceiving the treachery of the Jews, said unto them, _Why
tempt ye Me, shew Me a penny. And when they gave it to Him, He said,
Whose image and whose superscription is this? They answered, Cæsar’s.
Jesus replied, Render therefore unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar’s,
and unto God the things that are God’s._ Thus I also say to them who
find fault with me, _Shew Me a penny_. Jesus saw the penny was Cæsar’s,
and said, _Render unto Cæsar ♦the things that are Cæsar’s, and unto God
the things that are God’s_. Can they from the seizure of the Basilicas
of the Church offer the penny of Cæsar?

  Sidenote: Gen. i. 26.

  Sidenote: Heb. i. 3.

  Sidenote: S. John xiv. 9.

  Sidenote: Ib. x. 30.

  Sidenote: Ib. xvi. 15.

  Sidenote: Ib. 16.

32. But in the Church I know one image, that is, the image of the
invisible God, of which God said, _Let us make man in Our image, after
Our likeness_, that image of which it is written, that Christ is _the
brightness of His glory, the express image of His substance_. In this
image I behold the Father, as the Lord Jesus Himself said, _He that
hath seen Me hath seen the Father also_. For this Image is not divided
from the Father, for He hath taught me the unity of the Trinity, saying,
_I and the Father are One_, and below, _All things that the Father hath
are Mine_. And of the Holy Spirit, saying, that He is the Spirit of
Christ, and hath received from Christ, as it is written, _He shall take
of Mine, and shall declare it unto you_.

  Sidenote: Prov. xix. 17.

33. In what respect then have we not answered with humility? If he
ask for tribute we deny it not. The Church lands pay tribute; if the
Emperor desire to possess these lands he has the power to claim them;
none of us will interfere. The contributions of the people will more
than suffice for the poor; let them excite no ill-will on account of
the lands, let them take them if it please the Emperor; I give them
not, but I do not refuse them. They ask for gold, but I can say, Silver
and gold I seek not. But this disbursement of gold they make a cause
of offence: this offence I dread not. I have stipendiaries, it is true:
my stipendiaries[119] are the poor of Christ, this is a treasure which
I am well used to collect. May this offence of bestowing gold on the
poor ever be charged upon me! And if they accuse me of defending myself
by their means, I deny not, nay I even court the charge; a defence I
have, but it is in the prayers of the poor. Blind they are ♦and lame,
weak and old, yet are they stronger than the stoutest warriors. Lastly,
gifts to the poor make God our debtor, for it is written, _He that
giveth to the poor, lendeth to the Lord_. The guards of warriors often
gain not Divine grace.

34. Moreover they assert that the people have been beguiled by the
strains of my hymns[120]. I deny not this either. It is a lofty strain,
than which nothing is more powerful. For what can be more powerful than
the confession of the Trinity, which is daily celebrated by the mouth
of the whole people? All zealously desire to make profession of their
faith, they know how to confess in verse the Father and the Son and the
Holy Spirit. Thus all are become teachers who were scarcely able to be

  Sidenote: Phil. iii. 7.

  Sidenote: Rom. v. 19.

35. But what can be more lowly than for us to follow the example of
Christ, Who _being found in fashion as a man humbled himself being made
obedient unto death_. And again, by obedience He delivered all: _For
as by the disobedience of one man many were made sinners, so by the
obedience of one Man shall many be made righteous_. If then He was
obedient let them learn from Him the lesson of obedience, to which we
adhere, saying to them who raise odium against us, on the Emperor’s
account, _We render to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar’s, and to God
the things that are God’s_. To Cæsar tribute is due, we deny it not;
the Church is God’s, and must not be given up to Cæsar, because the
Temple of God cannot by right be Cæsar’s.

  Sidenote: Ps. lxiv. 7. vulg.

36. That this is said with due honour to the Emperor no one can deny.
For what can be more honourable for the Emperor than to be styled a
son of the Church? In saying this we are loyal to him without sinning
against God. For the Emperor is _within_ the Church, not _over_ the
Church; a good Emperor seeks the aid of the Church, he does not reject
it, we say this humbly, but we assert it firmly. Some men threaten
us with fire, sword and banishment. We, the servants of Christ, have
learned not to fear. To them that fear not nothing is a cause of alarm.
And it is thus written, _arrows of infants are their blows become_.

  Sidenote: S. Luke xx. 4.

  Sidenote: Is. ix. 6.

  Sidenote: Eph. iv. 5.

37. It would seem now that we have made a sufficient answer to what was
proposed to us. Now I ask them the same question as did the Saviour,
_The baptism of John was it from heaven or of men?_ And the Jews could
not answer Him. If the Jews did not annul the baptism of John, shall
Auxentius annul the Baptism of Christ? For that Baptism is not from
men but from Christ which the _Angel of mighty Counsel_ brought down to
us, that we might be justified before God. Why then does Auxentius hold
that the faithful, those baptized in the name of the Trinity are to be
re-baptized, when the Apostle says, _One faith, one baptism_; why does
he say that he is the adversary of men, not of Christ, seeing that he
spurns the counsel of God, and contemns that Baptism which Christ gave
us for the redemption of our sins.

                             LETTER XXII.
                               A.D. 386.

  S. AMBROSE here recounts to his sister the discovery of the
  relics of S. S. Gervasius and Protasius, which occurred during
  the time of trial referred to in the last letter, and seems, by
  the pitch of excitement to which it raised the people of Milan,
  to have alarmed the court-party, and so to have caused the
  persecution to be dropped. The simple narrative needs no further
  introduction. It is strikingly told, and the question of the
  miracles discussed, in the ‘Church of the Fathers’ ch. iii. S.
  Augustine gives a brief account of the event in his Confessions,
  (ix. 7.) fully corroborating S. Ambrose’s statements, and also
  speaks of it in De Civ. Dei xxii. 8, 2, and in Serm. de Divers.
  cclxxvi. 5.


♦1. AS I am wont to keep your holiness informed of all that goes on
here in your absence, I would have you know that we have found the
bodies of some holy martyrs. After the consecration of a Church[121],
many began to interrupt me crying with one voice; Consecrate this as
you did the Roman Basilica. ‘I will do so,’ I replied, ‘if I find any
relics of Martyrs:’ and immediately my heart burned within me as if

2. In short the Lord lent us aid[122], though even the very clergy
were alarmed. I caused the ground to be opened before the rails of the
Church of S.S. Felix and Nabor. I found the suitable tokens; and when
some persons were brought for us to lay our hands upon, the power of
the holy martyrs became so manifest that before I began to speak, one
of them, a woman[123], was ♦seized[124] by an evil spirit and thrown
down upon the ground in the place where the martyrs lay. We found two
men of stupendous size, such as belonged to ancient days. All their
bones were entire, and there was much blood. The people flocked thither
in crowds throughout the whole of those two days. We arranged all the
bones in order, and carried them when evening set in, to the Basilica
of Fausta[125]; where we kept vigils throughout the night, and some
possessed persons received imposition of hands. The following day we
transferred them to the Basilica which they call Ambrosian. During
their transportation a blind man was healed[126]. My discourse to
the people was as follows. When I considered in what overflowing and
unprecedented numbers you were met together, and thought on the gifts
of Divine Grace which shone forth in the holy Martyrs, I felt myself,
I confess, unequal to this task, and thought it impossible that I could
find language to express that which we can hardly conceive in mind
or endure with our eyes. But when the reading of the regular Lessons
of Holy Scripture began, the Holy Spirit, Who spoke by the Prophets,
granted us grace to speak somewhat worthy of this great and expectant
concourse, and of the merits of the holy Martyrs.

  Sidenote: Ps. xix. 1.

♦4. _The heavens_, the Psalmist says, _declare the glory of God_.
On reading this Psalm the thought arises that it is not so much the
material elements as the heavenly merits that seem to offer praise
worthy of God. But by the coincidence of the Lesson being read to-day
it is made plain what are the _heavens_ which _tell of the glory of
God_. Behold on my right hand and on my left the holy relics, behold
men of heavenly conversation, behold the trophies of a lofty mind.
These are the _heavens_ which _declare the glory of God_; these are
_the works of His hands_ which _are told by the firmament_. For it
was not worldly snares, but the favour of the Divine operation, which
raised them to the firmament of the most sacred Passion, and long
beforehand by the evidence of their conversation and virtues bore this
testimony of them, that they remained stedfast against the slippery
wiles of this world.

  Sidenote: Phil. iii. 20.

  Sidenote: S. Mark iii. 17.

  Sidenote: S. John i. 1.

  Sidenote: Ib. 18.

  Sidenote: Job xxxiii. 4.

5. Paul was an heaven, when he says, _Our conversation is in heaven_.
James and John were heavens; they are called _sons of thunder_; and
therefore being as it were, an heaven, John saw _the Word with God_.
The Lord Jesus Christ Himself was an heaven of perpetual light, when He
told forth the glory of God, that glory which no man had before beheld.
And therefore He said, _No man hath seen God at any time, but the
Only-Begotten Son, Who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared
Him_. Moreover, if you look for the handiwork of God, hear what Job
says, _The Spirit of God hath made me_. And so, strengthened against
the temptations of the devil, he preserved his steps stedfast and
without stumbling. But let us proceed to what follows.

  Sidenote: Ps. xix. 2.

6. _Day unto day_, the Psalm says, _uttereth speech_. These are the
true _days_, which no shades of night obscure; these are the true
_days_, full of light and eternal radiance, who have _uttered the word_
of God not by any mere transient utterance but from their inmost heart,
continuing constant in their confession, persevering in their testimony.

  Sidenote: Ps. cxiii. 5, 6.

  Sidenote: Ps. cxiii. 7, 8.

  Sidenote: Ib. 9.

7. Another Psalm we read saith, _Who is like unto the Lord our God,
that hath His dwelling so high, and yet regardeth the lowly things
that are in heaven and earth_. Truly God hath _regarded the lowly_, Who
hath discovered the relics of the martyrs of His Church as they lay hid
under the unnoted sod, of those whose souls are in heaven, while their
bodies are in the earth, _taking up the simple out of the dust and
lifting the poor out of the mire_, even those whom ye see, _to set them
with the princes of His people_. For whom but the holy martyrs shall
we deem to be _princes of the people_? In their number Protasius and
Gervasius heretofore long unknown are enrolled, they who have caused
the Church of Milan, once _barren_ of martyrs, but now _the mother of
many children_, to exult both in the honors and examples of her own

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. xv. 41.

8. Nor let this be considered alien from the true Faith: _Day unto
day uttereth speech_, soul to soul, life to life, resurrection to
resurrection. _And night unto night uttereth knowledge_, that is, flesh
to flesh, the flesh whose sufferings have declared to all the true
knowledge of faith. Bright and fair nights, full of stars: _For one
star differeth from another star in glory, so also is the resurrection
of the dead_.

9. But many not improperly call this the resurrection of the martyrs;
whether they have risen for themselves is another question, for us
beyond a doubt they are risen. Ye have heard, nay, yourselves have seen,
many cleansed from evil spirits; many also, after touching with their
hands the garments of the saints, delivered from the infirmities under
which they suffered: ye have seen the miracles of old time renewed,
when through the coming of the Lord Jesus, a fuller Grace descended
upon the earth; ye see many healed by the shadow, as it were, of the
holy bodies. How many napkins are passed to and fro? How many garments
placed on these holy relics, and endowed by the mere contact with the
power of healing are reclaimed by their owners. All think themselves
happy in touching even the outer-most thread, and whoever touches them
will be made whole.

  Sidenote: Ps. xx. 7.

10. Thanks be to Thee, Lord Jesus, that at this time, when Thy Church
requires greater guardianship, Thou hast raised up for us the spirits
of the holy martyrs. Let all be well aware what kind of champions I
desire, such as are wont to be protectors not assailants. Such are
they, O holy people, whom I have obtained for you, a benefit to all,
and a hurt to none. These are the defenders whom I desire, these are
my soldiers, not the world’s soldiers, but Christ’s. I fear no odium on
account of these; their patronage is safe in proportion to its power.
Nay, I desire their protection for the very men who grudge them to
me. Let them come then and see my body-guard: I deny not that I am
surrounded by such weapons as these; _Some put their trust in chariots
and some in horses, but we will magnify ourselves in the Name of the
Lord our God_.

  Sidenote: 2 Kings vi. 16 sqq.

  Sidenote: 2 Cor. iii. 18.

11. The Lesson from Holy Scripture relates how Elisha, when surrounded
by the army of the Syrians, told his trembling servant not to fear,
_for they_, said he, _that are for us are more than they which are
against us_; and in order to convince Gehazi of this, he prayed that
his eyes might be opened, and when this was done he saw a countless
host of Angels present with the prophet. And we, though we see them
not, yet are conscious of their presence. Our eyes were held, as long
as the bodies of the saints lay hid in their graves. Now God has opened
our eyes, and we have seen the aids which had so often succoured us.
Before, we saw them not, although we possessed them. And so, as though
the Lord said to our trembling hearts, ‘Behold what great martyrs I
have given you;’ even so _with opened eyes we behold the glory of the
Lord_, which as to the passion of the martyrs is past, as to their
operation is present. We have escaped, my brethren, no light load of
shame; we had patrons and we knew it not. This one thing we have found,
wherein we seem to excel our ancestors; they lost the knowledge of the
holy martyrs, and we have gained it.

12. These noble relics are dug out of an ignoble sepulchre; these
trophies are displayed in the face of day. The tomb is moist with blood,
the tokens of a triumphant death are displayed, the uninjured relics
are found in their proper place and order, the head separated from the
body. Old men now relate that they have formerly heard the names of
these martyrs, and read their titles. The city which had seized on the
martyrs of other places had lost her own. This is the gift of God, and
yet the favour which the Lord Jesus has conferred in the time of my
episcopate I cannot deny, and since I myself am not counted worthy to
be a martyr, I have gained these martyrs for you.

13. Bring these victorious victims to the spot where Christ is the
sacrifice. But He, Who suffered for all, upon the Altar, they, who have
been redeemed by His passion, under the Altar. This spot I had destined
for myself, for it is fitting that the priest should rest where he hath
been wont to offer, but I give up the right side to the sacred victims:
that spot was due to the martyrs. Wherefore let us bury the hallowed
relics, placing them in a worthy home, and let us employ the whole day
in faithful devotion.

14. The people loudly requested that the deposition of the martyrs
should be deferred until the Lord’s Day; but at length I prevailed that
it should take place on the following day. On that day I delivered a
second sermon to the people to the following effect.

  Sidenote: Ps. xix. 2.

15. Yesterday I discoursed upon the verse, _Day unto day uttereth
speech_, speaking according to my capacity: to-day Holy Scripture
seems to me to have prophecied, not only before, but now. For seeing
that this your devout celebration has continued night and day, the
oracles of prophetic song have declared that these, even yesterday
and to-day, are the days of which it is most opportunely said _day
unto day uttereth speech_, and these the nights to which the saying is
appropriate that _night unto night uttereth knowledge_. For what else
have ye done during these two days but utter the word of God with deep
emotion, and prove yourselves to have the knowledge of faith?

  Sidenote: S. Matt. viii. 29.

16. This your celebration some, as is their wont, are envious of. And
since their envious minds cannot endure it, they also hate its cause,
and proceed to such a pitch of folly as to deny the merits of the
martyrs, whose power the very devils confess. But this is not strange;
for such is the faithlessness of unbelievers that the confession of the
devil himself is often less intolerable. For the devil said, _Jesus,
Thou Son of the living God, art Thou come to torment us before the
time?_ And yet when the Jews heard this they even then denied the Son
of God. And now ye have heard the devils crying out, and owning to the
martyrs that they cannot bear their tortures, and saying ‘Why are ye
come to torment us so grievously?’ And the Arians say, ‘These are not
martyrs, nor can they torment the devil nor dispossess any one:’ while
yet their own words are evidence of the torments of the evil spirits,
and the benefits of the martyrs are shewn by the recovery of the healed,
and the manifest proof of those that were dispossessed.

17. They deny that the blind man received his sight, but he denies
not his own cure. He says, ‘I who was blind now see.’ He says, ‘My
blindness has left me;’ he evidences it by the fact. They deny the
benefit, though they cannot deny the fact. The man is well known:
when in health he was employed in public trade, his name is Severus,
a butcher by business. When his affliction befell him he laid down his
employment. He calls as his witnesses those men by whose charities he
was supported; he summons as witnesses of his present visitation the
very men who bore testimony to his blindness. He declares that when he
touched the border of the garment with which the martyrs’ bodies were
clothed, his sight was restored to him.

  Sidenote: S. John ix. 25.

18. Is not this like what we read in the Gospel? For the power which
we admire proceeds from one and the same Author; nor does it signify
whether it is a work or a gift, seeing that He confers gifts in His
works and works by His gifts. For what He has enabled some themselves
to perform, this in the work of others His Name effects. Thus we read
in the Gospel that the Jews, when they saw that the blind man had
received his sight, required the testimony of his parents. They asked,
‘How has your son received his sight?’ That blind man said, _Whereas I
was blind now I see_, and so too our blind man says, ‘I was blind, and
now I see.’ Enquire of others, if ye believe me not; question strangers,
if you suspect his parents of being in collusion with me. The obstinacy
of these men is more detestable than that of the Jews, for the latter
inquired of the man’s parents to solve their doubts; they secretly
inquire but openly deny, no longer refusing credit to the miracle but
to its Author.

  Sidenote: S. John xiv. 12.

19 and 20. But I would fain ask, what it is they will not believe;
is it that any one can be relieved by the martyrs? But this is not to
believe in Christ, for He hath said, _And greater things than these
shall ye do_. Or only by those martyrs, whose merits have long been
efficacious, and whose bodies have long been discovered? Here I ask
whether it is of myself or of the holy martyrs that they are jealous?
If of me, have I wrought any miracles by my own means, in my own name?
Why then do they envy me that which is not mine? But if of the martyrs
(for if not of me it must be of them they are envious) they show that
their Creed is different from that of the martyrs. For they would not
envy their works unless they deemed the faith which was in them to be
that which they themselves have not. This is that Faith sealed by the
tradition of our ancestors, which the devils themselves cannot deny,
though the Arians do.

21. We have heard to-day those on whom hands were laid, profess
that no man can be saved who does not believe in the Father, Son,
and Holy Ghost: that he was dead and buried who denied the Holy Ghost,
who believed not the Almighty power of the Trinity. This the devil
confesses, but the Arians will not own it. The devil says, Let him who
denies the divinity of the Holy Spirit be tormented as he himself was
tormented by the Martyrs.

  Sidenote: S. Mark i. 24.

  Sidenote: S. John ix. 29.

22. What I accept from the devil is not his testimony, but his
confession. He spoke unwillingly, compelled and tortured. That which
wickedness suppressed, force extorted. The devil yields to blows,
but as yet the Arians have not learned to yield. How much have they
suffered, and like ♦Pharaoh, they are hardened by their calamities! The
devil said, as we find it written, _I know Thee Who Thou art, the Son
of the Living God_. The Jews said, _We know not who He is_. Yesterday,
and the preceding night and day the devils said, ‘We know that ye are
martyrs,’ while the Arians said, ‘We know not, we will not understand
nor believe.’ The devils say to the martyrs, ‘Ye are come to destroy
us,’ the Arians say, ‘These torments of the devil are not true torments
but pretended and counterfeit.’ I have heard of many counterfeits, but
no man could ever feign himself a devil. Again, what is the meaning of
the agony we see in them, when the hand is laid on them? What room is
here for fraud and what suspicion of imposture?

  Sidenote: Gen. iv. 10.

23. But I will not call the words of devils as a testimony to the
martyrs: let the sacred sufferings of the martyrs be established
by their own supernatural acts; judges indeed they have, namely,
those that have been cleansed, witnesses, namely those that have
been dispossessed. Better than that of devils is their voice who came
diseased and are now healed, better is that voice which the martyrs
blood sends forth, for blood has a loud voice which reaches from earth
to heaven. Ye have read those words of God, _Thy brother’s blood crieth
unto Me!_ This blood cries by its purple stains, it cries by its signal
efficacy, it cries by its triumphant suffering.

We have granted your request and have put off till to-day the burial of
the relics which should have taken place yesterday.

                             LETTER XXIII.
                               A.D. 386.

  THIS letter is addressed to the Bishops of the province of
  Æmilia, which, as forming part of the political diocese of Italy,
  was under the ecclesiastical superintendence of the Bishop of
  Milan, who exercised the powers, if he had not the title, of
  Exarch. (See Bingham Antiq. ix. 1, § 6, 8.) The Bishops apply to
  him for his decision as to the proper day for observing Easter
  in the following year, A.D. 387, in which the first day of
  the week fell on the fourteenth day of the moon, or, as it is
  called here, the ‘fourteenth moon.’ This was a question which
  for long troubled the Church, and divided the East and West,
  and much importance was attached to it. The whole question is
  fully discussed in Dict. of Christ. Antiq. under ‘Easter,’ in a
  learned article by the Rev. L. Hensley. Some interesting remarks
  on it, in connection with disputes in England, may be seen in
  Prof. Bright’s Early English Ch. Hist. pp. 76–79, and 193–200.

  Mr. Hensley has kindly drawn up the following table, which
  exhibits at a glance the points on which S. Ambrose enters in
  this letter.

            TABLE OF EASTER FROM A.D. 373 TO A.D. 387.

                GOLDEN    SUNDAY
        *373      13         F      March 24  F     March 31
         374      14         E      April 12  D     April 13
         375      15         D      April  1  G     April  5
         376      16         CB     April 21  C     April 27
        *377      17         A      April  9  A     April 16
         378      18         G      March 29  D     April  1
         379      19         F      April 17  B     April 21
        *380       1         ED     April  5  D     April 12
         381       2         C      March 25  G     March 28
         382       3         B      April 13  E     April 17
        *383       4         A      April  2  A     April  9
         384       5         GF     March 22  D     March 24
         385       6         E      April 10  B     April 13
         386       7         D      March 30  E     April  5
        *387       8         C      April 18  G     April 25

        * The asterisks mark the year in which the full moon falls
      on the Sunday, and which are referred to in the Letter.


1. THAT to settle the day of the celebration of the Passover requires
more than ordinary wisdom, we are taught both by the Holy Scripture
and by the tradition of the Fathers, who, when assembled at the Nicene
Synod, in addition to their true and admirable decrees concerning
the Faith, formed also for the above-mentioned celebration a plan
for nineteen years with the aid of the most skilful calculators,
and constituted a sort of cycle to serve as a pattern for subsequent
years. This cycle they called the nineteen years’ cycle[127], their aim
being that we should not waver in uncertain and ungrounded opinions on
such a celebration, but ascertain the true method and so ensure such
concurrence of the affections of all, that the sacrifice for the Lord’s
Resurrection should be offered every where on the same night.

  Sidenote: S. Luke xxii. 7–12.

2. My Lords and brethren most beloved, we ought not so far to deviate
from truth, or to be of such varying and wandering minds, as to the
obligation of this celebration having been imposed upon all Christians:
since our Lord Himself selected the day to celebrate it upon, which
agreed with the method of the true observance. For it is written: _Then
came the day when the Passover must be killed. And He sent Peter and
John, saying, Go and prepare us the Passover that we may eat. And they
said unto Him, Where wilt Thou that we prepare? And He said unto them,
Behold when ye are entered into the city, there shall a man meet you,
bearing a pitcher of water: follow him into the house where he entereth
in. And ye shall say unto the goodman of the house, the Master saith
unto thee, Where is the guest-chamber, where I shall eat the Passover
with My disciples? And he shall shew you a large upper room, there make

  Sidenote: Gal. iv. 10, 11.

3. We observe then that we ought not to go down to places in the earth,
but to seek _a large upper room furnished_, for us to celebrate the
Lord’s Passover. For we ought to wash our senses, so to speak, with the
spiritual water of the everlasting fountain, and maintain the rule of
the devout celebration, and not follow common notions and go in quest
of days according to the moon, whereas the Apostle says, _Ye observe
days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have
bestowed upon you labour in vain_. For it is sure to be injurious[128].

  Sidenote: Ps. cxviii. 24.

  Sidenote: Ib. lxxxix. 36, 37.

4. But it is one thing to observe them after the heathen fashion,
so as to decide on what day of the moon you are to attempt anything,
for instance, that you should avoid the fifth[129] and begin no work
upon it, and to recommend different points in the moon’s course for
commencing employments, or to avoid certain days, as many are in the
habit of avoiding days called ‘following’[130] or the Egyptian days: it
is another thing to turn the observance of a religious mind to the day
of which it is written, _This is the day which the Lord hath made_. For
although it is written that the Lord’s Passover ought to be celebrated
on the fourteenth day of the first month, and we ought to look for what
is truly the fourteenth moon[131] for celebrating the course of our
Lord’s Passion, still we can understand from this that to fix such a
solemnity there is required either the perfection of the Church, or the
fulness of clear faith, as the Prophet said when he spoke of the Son of
God, that _his throne is as the sun before me, and as the perfect moon,
it shall remain for ever_.

  Sidenote: S. John xvii. 1.

  Sidenote: S. Luke xiii. 32.

5. Hence it is that our Lord Himself also, when He had performed His
wonderful works upon the earth, as if the faith of human minds were
now established, observed that it was the time of His Passion, saying,
_Father, the hour is come, glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son also may
glorify Thee_. For He teaches elsewhere that He sought this glory of
celebrating His Passion, where He says, _Go ye, and tell that fox,
Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to-day and to-morrow, and the
third day I am perfected_. In them indeed is Jesus perfected, who begin
to be perfect, that with their faith they may believe on the fulness of
His Divinity and His Redemption.

  Sidenote: Ps. cxix. 126.

  Sidenote: Eccl. iii. 1.

  Sidenote: Jerem. viii. 7.

  Sidenote: Isaiah i. 3.

6. Therefore we seek out both the day and the hour, as the Scripture
teaches us. The prophet David also says, _It is time for thee, Lord,
to work_, when he sought understanding to know the testimonies of the
Lord. The Preacher also saith, _To every thing there is a season_;
Jeremy exclaims, _The turtle and the swallow and the sparrows of the
ground observe the time of their coming_. But what can appear more
evident than that it is of the Passion of our Lord that it is said,
_The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib_? Let us then
acknowledge this _crib of our Master_, wherein we are nourished, fed,
and refreshed.

  Sidenote: Isa. xlix. 8.

  Sidenote: 2 Cor. vi. 2.

7. We ought therefore especially to know this time, at which over
the universal world the accordant prayers of the sacred night are to
be poured forth; for prayers are commended by season also, as it is
written, _In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of
salvation have I helped thee_. This is the time of which the Apostle
said, _Behold, now is the accepted time, behold, now is the day of

8. Accordingly, since, even after the calculations of the Egyptians,
and the definitions of the church of Alexandria, and also of the Bishop
of the church of Rome, several persons are still waiting my judgement
by letter, it is needful that I should write what my opinion is about
the day of the Passover. For though the question which has arisen is
about the approaching Paschal day, yet we state what we think should
be maintained for all subsequent time, in case any question of the kind
should come up.

  Sidenote: Exod. xiii. 4.

  Sidenote: Exod. xii. 2.

  Sidenote: Lev. xxiii. 5.

9. But there are two things to be observed in the solemnity of the
passover, the fourteenth moon, and the first month, which is called
_the month of the new fruits_[132]. Therefore that we may not appear
to be departing from the Old Testament, let us recite the words of the
section concerning the day of celebrating the Passover. Moses warns
the people, saying that they must keep the month of the new fruits,
proclaiming that it is the first month, for he says, _This month shall
be unto you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the
year to you_, and _thou shalt offer the Passover of the Lord thy God on
the fourteenth day of the first month_.

  Sidenote: S. John i. 17.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. v. 17.

10. _The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus
Christ._ He therefore, Who spake the law, afterwards coming by the
Virgin in the last times, accomplished the fulness of the Law, for He
came _not to destroy the Law but to fulfil it_, and He celebrated the
Passover in the week in which the fourteenth moon was the fifth day of
the week, and then on that very day, as what is said before teaches us,
He ate the Passover with his disciples: but on the following day, on
the sixth day of the week, He was crucified on the fifteenth moon. But
the sixteenth moon was the _Sabbath which was an high day_, and so on
the seventeenth moon He rose again from the dead.

  Sidenote: Ps. cxviii. 24.

11. We must then keep this law of Easter, not to keep the fourteenth
day as the day of the Resurrection, but rather as the day of the
Passion, or at least one of the next preceding days, because the
feast of the Resurrection is kept on the Lord’s day; and on the Lord’s
day we cannot fast; for we rightly condemn the Manichæans for their
fast upon this day. For it is unbelief in Christ’s Resurrection, to
appoint a rule of fasting for the day of the Resurrection, since the
Law says that the Passion is to be eaten with bitterness[133], that
is, with grief, because the Author of Salvation was slain by so great a
sacrilege on the part of men; but on the Lord’s day the Prophet teaches
us that we should rejoice, saying, _This is the day which the Lord hath
made: let us rejoice and be glad in it_.

12. Therefore it is fit that not only the day of the Passion, but also
that of the Resurrection be observed by us, that we may have a day both
of bitterness and of joy; fast on the one, on the other be refreshed.
Consequently, if the fourteenth moon of the first month fall, as will
be the case next time, on the Lord’s day, inasmuch as we ought neither
to fast on the Lord’s day, nor on the thirteenth moon which falls on
the Sabbath-day to break the fast, which must especially be observed
on the day of the Passion, the celebration of Easter must be postponed
to the next week. For the fifteenth day of the month follows, on
which Christ suffered, and it will be the second day of the week. The
third day of the week will be the sixteenth moon, on which our Lord’s
Flesh rested in the tomb; and the fourth day of the week will be the
seventeenth moon on which our Lord rose again.

  Sidenote: S. John ii. 19.

13. When therefore these three sacred days run as they do next time
into the further week, within which three days He both suffered and
rested and rose again, of which three days He says, _Destroy this
temple, and in three days I will raise it up_, what can bring us
trouble or doubt? For if it raises a scruple that we do not on the
fourteenth moon celebrate the particular day either of His Passion or
Resurrection, we may remember that our Lord Himself did not suffer on
the fourteenth moon, but on the fifteenth, and on the seventeenth He
rose again. But if any are troubled at our passing over the fourteenth
moon, which falls upon the Lord’s day, that is the 18th of April, and
recommending its celebration on the following Lord’s day, there is this
authority for doing so.

14. In times lately past, when the fourteenth moon of the first
month fell on the Lord’s day, the solemnity was celebrated on the
Lord’s day next ensuing. But in the eighty-ninth year of the Era of
Diocletian[134], when the fourteenth moon was on the 24th of March,
Easter was kept by us on the last day of March. The Alexandrians and
Egyptians also, as they wrote themselves, when the fourteenth day of
the moon fell on the 28th day of the month Phamenoth, kept Easter on
the fifth day of the month Pharmuthi, which is the last day of March,
and so agreed with us. Again in the ninety-third year of the Era of
Diocletian, when the fourteenth moon fell on the fourteenth day of
the month Pharmuthi, which is the 9th of April, and was the Lord’s
day, Easter was kept on the Lord’s day, the 21st day of Pharmuthi,
or according to us on the 16th of April. Wherefore since we have both
reason and precedent, nothing should disturb us upon this head.

  Sidenote: Deut. xvi. 1.

15. There is yet this further point that seems to require explanation,
that several persons think that we shall be keeping Easter in the
second month, whereas it is written, _Keep the first month, the month
of new fruits_. The case however cannot occur that any should keep
Easter out of the month of the new fruits, except those who keep the
fourteenth moon so strictly to the letter, that they will not celebrate
their Easter on any day but that. Moreover the Jews are going to
celebrate the approaching Passover in the twelfth and not in the first
month, viz. on the 20th of March according to us, but according to the
Egyptians on the twenty-fourth day of the month Phamenoth, which is not
the first month but the twelfth, for the first month of the Egyptians
is called Pharmuthi, and begins on the 27th of March and ends on the
25th of April. Therefore according to the Egyptians we shall keep
Easter Sunday in the first month, that is, on the 25th of April, which
is the thirtieth day of the month Pharmuthi.

16. Nor do I consider it unreasonable to borrow a precedent for
observing the month from the country in which the first Passover was
celebrated. For which reason also our predecessors in the ordinance of
the Nicene Council thought fit to decide that their cycle of nineteen
years should belong to the same month, if one observes it diligently;
and they rightly kept the very month of the new fruits, for in Egypt it
is in this the first month that the new corn is cut: and this month is
the first in respect of the crops of the Egyptians and first according
to the Law, but the eighth according to our custom, for the indiction
begins in the month of September. The first of April therefore is in
the eighth month. But the month begins not according to vulgar usage,
but according to the custom of learned men, from the day of the equinox,
which is the 21st of March, and ends on the 21st of April. Therefore
the days of Easter have been generally kept as much as possible within
these thirty-one[135] days.

17. But after keeping Easter Sunday six years ago[136] on the 21st
of April, that is on the thirtieth day of the month according to our
reckoning, we have no reason to be distressed if this next time also
we are to keep it on the thirtieth day of the month Pharmuthi. If any
one think that it is the second month, because Easter Sunday will be on
the third day from the completion of the month (but this appears to be
completed on the 21st of April) he should consider that the fourteenth
moon, which is our object, will fall on the 18th of April and thus
within the regular counting of the month. But what the law requires is
that the day of the Passion should be kept within the first month, the
month of new fruits.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. v. 7.

  Sidenote: Exod. xii. 18.
            Lev. xxiii. 5.
            Num. xxviii. 16.

18. The method then is satisfactory as far as the complete course of
the moon is concerned, inasmuch as three more days remain to complete
the month. Easter then does not pass on into another month, since
it will be kept within the same month, that is, the first. But that
it is not fit that we should be tied to the letter, not only does
the customary method of keeping Easter of itself instruct us, but
the Apostle too teaches us, when he says, _Christ our Passover is
sacrificed_. The passage also which has been cited teaches us that
we are not to follow the letter, for thus it runs: _And thou shalt
sacrifice the Passover to the Lord thy God on the fourteenth day of
the first month_[137]. He uses the word ‘day’ in the place of ‘moon;’
and so the most skilful according to the law calculate the month by
the moon’s course, and since the moon’s course, that is the first day,
may begin with more than one of the nones, you perceive that the nones
of May do still admit of being reckoned in the first month of the new
fruits. Therefore even according to the judgement of the law this is
the first ♦month. To conclude, the Greeks call the moon μήνη, owing to
which they call the months in Greek μῆνες, and the ordinary usage of
foreign nation employs moon in the sense of day.

  Sidenote: Exod. xii. 5–8.

  Sidenote: Exod. xii. 11–14.

19. But even the Lessons of the Old Testament shew that different days
are to be observed for the Passion and Resurrection: for there it runs,
_Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall
take it out from the sheep or from the goats; and ye shall keep it up
until the fourteenth day of the same month, and the whole assembly of
the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening. And they shall
take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts, and on the
upper door post of the house wherein they shall eat it. And they shall
eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire_, and further on, _And
ye shall eat it with anxiety[138]: it is the Lord’s Passover. For I
will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all
the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and in all
the land of Egypt[139] will I execute vengeance: I am the Lord. And
the blood shall be to you for a token in the houses where ye are;
and I will see the blood and I will protect you and the plague of
extermination shall not be on you. And I will smite the land of Egypt,
And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a
feast to the Lord throughout your generations: ye shall keep it a feast
by an ordinance for ever._

  Sidenote: 1 S. John ii. 18.

  Sidenote: Exod. xii. 29.

  Sidenote: Ib. 31.

  Sidenote: Ib. 33.

20. We observe that the day of the Passion is marked out as a fast, for
the lamb is to be slain at the evening: though we might understand by
evening the last time, according to John who says, _Children, it is the
last time_. But even according to the mystery, it is plain that it was
killed in the evening, when darkness immediately took place, and true
fasting is to be observed on that day, for _thus shall ye eat it with
anxiety_: but anxiety belongs to those who fast. But on the day of the
Resurrection there is the exultation of refreshment and joy, on which
day the people appears to have gone out of Egypt, when the first-born
of the Egyptians had been killed. And this is shewn more evidently
by what follows, wherein the Scripture says, that after the Jews kept
the Passover as Moses ordered, _It came to pass that at midnight the
Lord smote all the first-born in the land of Egypt from the first-born
of Pharaoh. And Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron by night, and
said, Rise up, and get you forth from among my people, both ye and
the children of Israel, and go serve the Lord. And the Egyptians were
urgent upon the people, that they might send them out of the land in
haste._ Eventually the Israelites went in such manner, that they had
not opportunity to leaven their dough, for the Egyptians thrust them
out, and would not wait for them to take the preparation they had made
for themselves for the way.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. x. 2.

21. We have made it clear then that the day of the Resurrection ought
to be observed after the day of the Passion, and that this day of the
Resurrection ought not to be on the fourteenth moon, but later, as
the Old Testament says, because the day of the Resurrection is that
on which the people going out of Egypt, after being _baptized_, as the
Apostle says, _in the sea and in the cloud_, overcame death, receiving
spiritual bread, and drinking spiritual drink from the rock: and
further that the Lord’s Passion cannot be celebrated on the Lord’s
day, and that if the fourteenth moon should fall upon the Lord’s day,
that another week ought to be added, as was done in the seventy sixth
year[140] of the era of Diocletian. For then without any doubt or
hesitation on the part of our fathers we celebrated Easter Sunday on
the twenty-eighth day of the month Pharmuthi, which is the 23rd of
April. And both the course of the moon and the reason of the case
concur in recommending this, for next Easter is to be kept on the
twenty first moon, for to that day its range has commonly extended.

  Sidenote: Col. iv. 3.

  Sidenote: Ps. cxli. 3.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. v. 8.

22. Since therefore so many indications of truth are combined, let us
after the example of our fathers celebrate the festival of our general
Salvation with joy and exultation, colouring our side posts, between
which is the door of the word which the Apostle wishes to be opened
unto him, with faith in the Lord’s Passion. Of this door David also
says, _Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my
lips_, that we may speak of nothing but the Blood of Christ, whereby
we have conquered death, whereby we are redeemed. Let the sweet odour
of Christ burn in us. To Him let us listen, on Him let us turn the eyes
both of mind and body, admiring His works, proclaiming His blessings;
over the threshold of our door let the confession of holy Redemption
shine resplendent. Let us with fervent spirit keep the holy Feast,
_in the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth_, and singing in pious
♦doctrine with one accord the Glory of the Father and of the Son and
the undivided Majesty of the Holy Spirit.

                             LETTER XXIV.
                               A.D. 387.

  S. AMBROSE here reports the result of his second mission to
  Maximus in behalf of Justina and her son Valentinian the 2nd.
  He had before gone, as he mentions in this letter, immediately
  after the murder of Gratian, A.D. 383, and had then, at much
  risk to himself, done them good service, and been mainly
  instrumental in securing peace, and inducing Maximus to abstain
  from invading Italy, and to leave Valentinian in possession
  of a share of the Empire. Now it seemed certain that Maximus
  was preparing to cross the Alps and deprive Valentinian of his
  dominions and probably of his life, and once more Justina and
  her son seek the aid of the great Bishop, whom they had so
  cruelly persecuted during the peace he had procured for them.
  It is very striking to see the persecutors thus reduced to
  be suppliants of their victim, and the good Bishop at once
  rendering them the service which they sought. He writes this
  report while on his way back, and sends it before him, that
  Valentinian and his mother might learn the truth at once, and
  lose no time in making preparation to meet their danger. He was
  commissioned to induce Maximus to maintain peace, and to restore
  the body of Gratian for burial at Milan. S. Ambrose was less
  successful in this embassy than in the former one, and Justina
  and Valentinian had to escape to the East and put themselves
  under the protection of Theodosius, who took up arms in their
  behalf, and marched to the West, defeated and captured Maximus
  at Aquileia, and had him put to death, and so restored
  Valentinian to the Empire of all the West, A.D. 388.

  S. Ambrose cannot have started on his mission till after Easter,
  as this was the year in which he baptized S. Augustine.


1. OF my fidelity in my former mission you were so well assured
as to require from me no account of it. Indeed the very fact that
I was detained some days in Gaul sufficiently proved that I had made
no promises acceptable to Maximus, nor agreed to any measures which
inclined to what was pleasing to him rather than to the establishment
of peace. And again, had you not approved of my first mission you would
not have committed to me a second. But since as I was on the point
of retiring he laid upon me the necessity of a discussion with him,
I have thought it best to address to you in this letter an account of
my mission, for fear any one should give you an account which mingled
truth with falsehood, before my return could declare to you the truth
in its perfect and sincere characters.

2. The day after I reached Trèves I presented myself at the palace;
a Gaul came out to receive me, who was the Emperor’s Chamberlain, and
one of the royal eunuchs. I requested an audience; he enquired whether
I had your Majesty’s commission: I replied that I had. He said that
I could only be heard in the Consistory. I answered that this was not
usual for Bishops, and at all events that there were matters whereon I
required serious conference with his master. To be brief; he consulted
his master, and brought back the same answer, so that it was plain that
the former had originated with his will. I said that such a course was
inconsistent with the office I bore, but that I would not shrink from
the duty I had undertaken, and that more especially in your service,
and as it really was to support your brotherly affection, I was glad
to humble myself.

3. As soon as he had taken his seat in the Consistory I entered; he
rose to give me the kiss of peace. I stood among the members of the
Consistory; some of them urged me to go up the steps, and he himself
invited me. I replied, ‘Why do you offer a kiss to one whom you do not
acknowledge[141]? for had you acknowledged me you would not have seen
me here.’ ‘You are excited, Bishop,’ said he. ‘It is not anger,’ I said,
‘that I feel, but shame at appearing in a place unsuited to me.’ ‘Yet
on your first mission,’ he said, ‘you entered the Consistory.’ ‘True,’
I replied, ‘but the blame rests on him who summoned, not on me who
entered.’ ‘Why,’ said he, ‘did you then enter?’ ‘Because,’ I replied,
‘I was then suing for peace on behalf of one who was inferior to you,
but I now appear for your equal.’ ‘By whose favour,’ said he, ‘is he my
equal?’ ‘By that of Almighty God, who has maintained Valentinian in the
empire He bestowed on him.’

4. At length he broke out, ‘It is you who have cajoled me, you and
the wretch Bauto, who wished by setting up a boy to acquire sovereignty
for himself, who also brought barbarians upon me; as if I also had
not those whom I could bring, seeing I have so many barbarians in
my service and pay. But had I not been withheld at the time of your
arrival, who could have resisted me and my power?’

  Sidenote: Isa. i. 17.

  Sidenote: Ps. lxviii. 5.

5. I answered mildly, ‘You need not be excited, for there is no
occasion for excitement; listen rather with patience to the reply which
I have to make. My reason for coming is, that you have declared that on
my first mission you trusted me and were deceived by me. It is a glory
to me to have done this for the safety of an orphan Emperor, for whom
rather than orphans ought we bishops to protect? For it is written,
_Relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow_;
and in another place, _father of the fatherless, and a judge of the

6. But I will not make a boast of my services to Valentinian. To speak
the truth, when did I oppose your legions, and resist your descent upon
Italy? By what works, by what armies, with what forces? Did I block up
against you the passes of the Alps with my body? Would that this were
in my power, then I should not fear this allegation, nor your charges.
By what promises did I beguile you into a consent to peace? Did not
Count Victor, whom you had sent to request peace, meet me within the
frontier of the provinces of Gaul, near the city of Mayence? Wherein
then did Valentinian deceive you, whom you asked to grant you peace
before he himself asked for it? Wherein did Bauto deceive you, who
shewed fidelity to his Emperor? Did he do so by not betraying his own

7. Wherein have I circumvented you? Was it when, on my first arrival,
on your saying that Valentinian ought to have come to you as a son
to a father, I answered that it was not reasonable for a boy with his
widowed mother to cross the Alps in severe winter weather, or without
his mother be exposed under critical circumstances to such a journey?
My business was to bring a message concerning peace, not to make any
promise of his coming: it is certain that I have given no pledge of
that, concerning which I had received no commands, and that I did not
make any promise whatever, for you said, ‘Let us wait to see what
answer Victor will bring back.’ But it is well known that he arrived
at Milan while I was detained here, and that his request was refused.
It was only about peace that we felt a common zeal, not about the
Emperor’s arrival; whose coming ought not to have been required. I
was present when Victor returned. How then did I meet Valentinian? The
emissaries who were sent a second time into Gaul to say that he would
not come, found me at Valence in Gaul. The soldiers of either party,
sent to guard the mountain passes, I met on my return. What armies of
yours did I then recall? what eagles did I turn back from Italy? what
barbarians did Count Bauto send against you?

8. And what wonder if Bauto, whose native country lies beyond the Rhine,
had done so, when you yourself threaten the Roman Empire with barbarian
allies, and with troops from beyond the military frontier, whose
commissariat was supplied by the taxes of the provinces? But consider
what a difference there is between your threats and the mildness of
the young Emperor Valentinian. You insisted on making an incursion into
Italy accompanied by armies of barbarians, Valentinian turned back the
Huns and Alans on their approach to Italy through the territory of the
Germans. What need for displeasure is there if Bauto set the barbarians
at variance with each other? While you were employing the Roman forces,
while he was presenting himself to oppose you on both sides, the
Juthungi[142] in the very heart of the Roman Empire were laying Rhætia
waste, and so the Huns were called in against the Juthungi. And yet
when he was attacking the country of the Alemanni on your frontier, and
was already threatening the provinces of Gaul with the near approach of
danger, he was obliged to relinquish his triumphs, lest you should be
alarmed. Compare the acts of the two; you caused the invasion of Rhætia,
Valentinian by his gold has regained peace for you.

9. Look too at the man[143] who now stands at your right hand, whom
Valentinian, when he had the opportunity of avenging his grief, sent
back to you loaded with honours. He had him in his own territory,
and yet restrained his hand: even when he received the tidings of his
brother’s death, he restrained his natural feelings, and abstained from
retaliation, where the relationship was the same, though the rank was
not. Compare therefore, yourself being judge, the two actions. He sent
back your brother alive; do you restore to him his brother at least now
that he is dead. Why do you refuse to him his relation’s remains, when
he refused not to you those who would assist you against him?

10. But you allege that you are alarmed lest the grief of the troops
should be renewed by the return of these remains. Will they then defend
after death one whom they deserted in life? Why do you fear him now
he is dead, whom, when you might have saved him, you slew? ‘It was my
enemy’ you say, ‘that I have slain.’ It was not he that was your enemy,
but you that were his. He is no longer conscious of my advocacy, do you
consider the case yourself[144]. If any one were to think of setting
up a claim to the empire in these parts against you, I ask whether you
would deem yourself to be his enemy, or him to be yours? If I mistake
not, it is the part of an usurper to excite war, of an Emperor to
defend his rights. Will you then withhold even the body of him whom
you ought not to have slain? Let Valentinian have at least the remains
of his brother as a pledge of your peaceful intentions. How moreover
will[145] you assert that you did not command him to be slain, when you
forbid him to be buried? Will it be believed that you did not grudge
him life, when you even grudge him burial?

11. But to return to myself. I find that you complain of the followers
of Valentinian betaking themselves to the Emperor Theodosius rather
than to yourself. But what could you expect, when you called for
punishment on the fugitives, and put to death those who were taken,
Theodosius on the other hand loaded them with gifts and honours. ‘Whom,’
said he, ‘have I slain?’ ‘Vallio,’ I replied. ‘And what a man, what
a soldier! Was it then a just cause of death, that he maintained his
fidelity to his Emperor?’ ‘I gave no orders,’ said he, ‘for his death.’
‘We have heard,’ I replied, ‘that the order was given for him to be put
to death.’ ‘Nay,’ said he, ‘had he not laid violent hands on himself
I had ordered him to be taken to Cabillonum[146] and there burnt alive.’
‘Yes,’ I replied, ‘and that was why it was believed that you had put
him to death. And who could suppose that he would himself be spared,
when a valiant warrior, a faithful soldier, a valuable comrade was thus
slain?’ At that time, on taking my leave, he said he was willing to

12. But afterwards on finding that I would not communicate with the
Bishops who communicated with him, or who sought the death of any one,
even though they were heretics[147], he grew angry and bade me depart
without delay. And I, although many thought I should be waylaid, set
forth gladly, grieving only that the aged Bishop Hyginus, now almost
at his last gasp, was being carried into exile. And when I appealed to
his guards against their suffering the old man to be driven out without
a curtain or a pillow to rest upon, I was driven forth myself.

13. Such is the account of my mission. Farewell, your Majesty, and be
well on your guard against a man who conceals war under the cloak of

                              LETTER XXV.

  THAT this and the following letter were addressed to the
  same person is clear from their contents, especially from the
  commencement of Letter xxvi. Whether Studius and Irenæus were
  two names of the same person, as the Benedictines suggest,
  or whether there is any error in either title, cannot be
  ascertained for certain. Is it not most probable that the name
  of Irenæus, to whom a long series of letters follows, has been
  affixed to one immediately preceding them by mistake, and that
  we should put ‘Studio’ for ‘Irenæo’ at the head of xxvi?

  The letter deals briefly with the question which Studius, a
  layman apparently and a judge, puts to S. Ambrose, whether he
  did violence to his duty as a Christian in sentencing criminals
  to death. S. Ambrose replies that it is lawful, but recommends
  merciful dealing wherever possible, in hope of amendment of life.

                          AMBROSE TO STUDIUS.

  Sidenote: Rom. xiii. 4.

I RECOGNIZE in your application to me a pure intention of mind, zeal
for the faith, and fear of our Lord Jesus Christ. And indeed I should
fear to reply to it, being checked on the one hand by the obligation of
the trust committed to you for the maintenance of the laws, and on the
other by claims of mercy and clemency, had you not in this matter the
Apostle’s authority that he who judgeth _beareth not the sword in vain,
for he is the avenger of God, upon him that doeth evil_.

2. But although you knew this, it was not without reason that you have
thought fit to make the enquiry. For some there are, although out of
the pale of the Church[148], who will not admit to the divine Mysteries
those who have deemed it right to pass sentence of death on any man.
Many too abstain of their own accord, and are commended, nor can we
ourselves but praise them, although we so far observe the Apostle’s
rule as not to dare to refuse them Communion.

3. You see therefore both what power your commission gives you, and
also whither mercy would lead you; you will be excused if you do it,
and praised if you do it not. Should you feel unable to do it, and
are unwilling to afflict the criminal by the horrors of a dungeon,
I shall, as a priest, the more commend you. For it may well be that
when the cause is heard, the criminal may be reserved for judgment,
who afterwards may ask for pardon for himself, or at any rate may
suffer what is called mild confinement in prison. Even heathen are,
I know, wont to boast that they have borne back their axes from their
provincial government unstained by blood. And if heathen do this what
ought Christians to do?

  Sidenote: S. Matt. v. 27.

  Sidenote: Jer. xxii. 29, 30.

4. But in all these matters let our Saviour’s answer suffice for you.
The Jews apprehended an adultress and brought her to the Saviour, with
the insidious intent that if He were to acquit her He might seem to
destroy the law, though He had said, _I am not come to destroy, but
to fulfil the law_, and on the other hand, were He to condemn her, He
might seem to be acting against the purpose of His coming. Wherefore
the Lord Jesus, foreseeing this, stooped down and wrote upon the earth.
And what did He write but that word of the prophet, _O Earth, Earth,
Write these men deposed_[149], which is spoken of Jeconiah in the
prophet Jeremiah.

  Sidenote: S. John viii. 8.

  Sidenote: Ib. 9.

5. When the Jews interrupt Him, their names are written in the earth,
when the Christians draw near, the names of the faithful are written
not on the earth but in heaven. For they who tempt their Father, and
heap insult on the Author of salvation, are written on the earth as
cast off[150] by their Father. When the Jews interrupt Him, Jesus
stoops His head, but not having where to lay His head, He raises it
again, is about to give sentence, and says, _Let him that is without
sin cast the first stone at her. And again He stooped down and wrote
on the ground._

6. When they heard this they began to go out one by one beginning at
the eldest, and this either because they who had lived longest had
committed most sins, or because, as being most sagacious, they were the
first to comprehend the force of His sentence, and though they had come
as the accusers of another’s sins, began rather to lament their own.

  Sidenote: S. John viii. 10, 11.

7. So when they departed Jesus was left alone, and lifting up His head,
He said to the woman, _Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no
man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her,
Neither do I condemn thee, go, and sin no more._ Being the Redemption,
He refuses to condemn her, being the Life He restores her, being the
Fountain He washes her. And since Jesus, when He stoops down stoops
that He may raise up the fallen, He says, as the Absolver of sins,
_Neither do I condemn thee_.

8. Here is an example for you to follow, for it may be that there is
hope of amendment for this guilty person; if he be yet unbaptized, that
he may receive remission, if baptized that he may do penance[151], and
offer up his body for Christ. See how many roads there are to salvation!

9. This is why our ancestors thought it better to be indulgent towards
Judges; that by the terror of their sword the madness of crime should
be repressed, and no encouragement given to it. For if Communion were
denied to Judges, it would seem like a retribution on their punishment
of the wicked. Our ancestors wished then that their clemency should
proceed from their own free-will and forbearance, rather than from any
legal necessity. Farewell, and love us, as we on our part love you.

                             LETTER XXVI.

  THAT this letter is addressed to the same person as the
  preceding, in spite of the discrepancy in the address, is clear
  from the first sentence (See Introd. to xxv.). It resumes the
  subject, and dwells in detail on the example of our Lord’s
  dealing with the woman taken in adultery.

                    AMBROSE TO IRENÆUS. [STUDIUS?]

1. ALTHOUGH in my previous letter I have resolved the question which
you proposed to me, I will not refuse your request, my son, that I
would somewhat more fully state and express my meaning.

2. Much agitated has ever been the question, and very famous this
acquittal of that woman who in the Gospel according to John was brought
to Christ accused of adultery. The stratagem which the equivocating
Jews devised was this, that in case of the Lord Jesus acquitting
her contrary to the Law, His sentence might be convicted of being at
variance with the Law, but if she were to be condemned according to
the Law, the Grace of Christ might seem to be made void.

3. And still more warm has the discussion become, since the time that
bishops[152] have begun to accuse those guilty of the most heinous
crimes before the public tribunals, and some even to urge them to the
use of the sword and of capital punishment, while others again approve
of such kind of accusations and of blood-stained triumphs of the
priesthood. For those men say just the same as did the Jews, that the
guilty ought to be punished by the public laws, and therefore that they
ought also to be accused by the priests before the public tribunals,
who, they assert, ought to be punished according to the laws. The case
is the same, though the number is less, that is to say, the question
as to judgment is similar, the odium of the punishment is dissimilar.
Christ would not permit one woman to be punished according to the Law;
they assert that too small a number has been punished.

  Sidenote: S. John x. 30.

  Sidenote: Ib. vii. 16.

  Sidenote: Ib. viii. 20.

  Sidenote: S. Luke xxi. 2.

4. But in what place does Christ give this decision? For He generally
vouchsafed to adapt His discourses to the character of the place
wherein He was teaching His disciples[153]. For instance while walking
in the porch of Solomon, that is, of the Wise man, He said, _I and
My Father are One_; and in God’s Temple He said, _My doctrine is not
Mine, but His that sent Me_. It was in the Temple also that He gave the
sentence of which we now speak, for in the verse following it is thus
written, _These words spake Jesus in the treasury, as He taught in the
Temple, and no man laid hands on Him_. What is the Treasury? It is the
place of offering for the faithful, the bank of the poor, the refuge of
the needy, near which Christ sat, when, according to Luke, He declared
that the widow’s two mites were to be preferred to the gifts of the
rich, thus bearing Divine testimony to a zealous and cordial charity as
preferable to the offerings of an affluent munificence.

  Sidenote: Ib. x. 35.

5. Now let us consider what He Who passed such a judgment as this
contributed when sitting near the Treasury, for not without a purpose
did He prefer the woman who threw in two mites. Precious was her
poverty, and rich in the mystery of faith. These are the same two
pieces of money which the Samaritan in the Gospel left with the host
in order to cure the wounds of the man who had fallen among thieves.
So too this woman, outwardly a widow, but mystically representing the
Church, thought it right to cast into the sacred Treasury this gift
whereby the wounds of the poor might be healed and the hunger of the
strangers satisfied.

  Sidenote: Ps. xi. 7.

6. Now then it behoves you spiritually to consider what Christ bestows;
for He distributed among the people silver tried by the fire of the
heavenly oracles, and to the desires of the people He told out money
stamped with the Royal image. No one could give more than He Who gave
all. He satisfied the hungry, He replenished the needy, He enlightened
the blind, He redeemed the captives, He raised the palsied, He restored
the dead, nay, what is more, He gave absolution to the guilty and
forgave their sins. These are the two pence which the Church cast in,
after having received them from Christ. And what are the two pence but
the price of the New and Old Testament? The price of the Scripture is
our faith, for it is according to the intelligence and will of each
that what we read therein is valued. So then the remission of sins is
the price of both Testaments, and is announced in type by the Lamb, and
accomplished in verity by Christ.

  Sidenote: Exod. xii. 3.
            Lev. xii. 2.

  Sidenote: S. Luke xxiv. 7.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. iii. 11.

7. You understand therefore that the purification of seven days brought
with it also the purification of three days. The purification of
seven days is according to the Law, which, under the semblance of the
sabbath that now is, announced a spiritual sabbath; the purification
of three days is according to Grace, and is sealed by the witness of
the Gospel, for the Lord rose on the third day. Where a penalty for
sin is prescribed there also must penitence be, where remission of sins
is accorded there follows Grace. Penitence precedes, Grace follows. So
that there can neither be penitence without Grace, nor Grace without
penitence, for penitence must first condemn sin, that Grace may abolish
it. Wherefore John, fulfilling the type of the Law, baptized unto
repentance, Christ unto Grace.

  Sidenote: Eccles. xi. 2.

  Sidenote: Hosea i. 2.

8. Now the seventh day denotes the mystery of the Law, the eighth that
of the Resurrection, as you have in Ecclesiastes, _Give a portion to
seven and also to eight_. In the prophet Hosea also you have read that
it was said to him, _Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms for fifteen
pieces of silver_, seeing that by the double price of the Old and New
Testament, that is, by the full price of faith, that woman is hired who
was attended by a vagrant and licentious train of ♦sojourners.

  Sidenote: Ib. iii. 2.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. v. 17.

9. _And I bought her to me_, saith the prophet, _for fifteen pieces of
silver, and for an homer of barley, and an half homer of barley and a
measure[154] of wine[155]_. By barley is signified that the imperfect
are called to the Faith that they may be made perfect, by the homer is
understood a full measure, by the half homer a half measure. The full
measure is the Gospel, the half measure is the Law, the fulfilment of
which is the New Testament. Thus the Lord Himself saith, _I am not come
to destroy the Law, but to fulfil_.

  Sidenote: Isa. xxxviii. 8.

  Sidenote: Mal. iv. 2.

  Sidenote: Gal. i. 18.

10. Nor is it without meaning that we read in the Psalms of David
of fifteen degrees, and that the sun had risen fifteen degrees, when
Hezekiah the righteous king received a new supply of life. Hereby
was signified the coming of the Sun of Righteousness, Who was about
to enlighten by His presence these fifteen steps of the Old and New
Testament whereby our faith mounts up to life eternal. And this leads
me to believe that what was read this day from the Apostle of his
remaining fifteen days with Peter has a mystical meaning; for it
appears that while the holy Apostles held various discourses among
themselves upon the interpretation of the Divine Scriptures a full and
bright light fell upon them, and the shades of ignorance were dispersed.
But now let us come to the absolution of the woman taken in adultery.

  Sidenote: S. John viii. 15.

  Sidenote: Ib. 4, 5.
            Lev. xx. 8.

11. A woman accused of adultery was brought by the Scribes and
Pharisees to the Lord Jesus with the malicious intent, that, if He
was to acquit her, He might seem to annul the Law, if He condemned
her, that He might seem to have changed the purpose of His coming,
since He came to remit the sins of all men. To the same purport He
said above[156], _I judge no man_. So when they brought her they said,
_This woman was taken in adultery, in the very act; now Moses in the
Law commanded us that such should be stoned, but what sayest Thou?_

  Sidenote: v. 7.

12. While they were saying this, Jesus stooped down and wrote with His
finger on the ground. And as they waited for His answer, He lifted up
His head and said, _He that is without sin among you, let him first
cast a stone at her_. What can be more Divine than this sentence, that
he should punish sins who is himself free from sin? For how can we
endure one who takes vengeance on guilt in another and excuses it in
himself? When a man ♦condemns in another what he commits himself, does
he not rather pronounce his own condemnation?

  Sidenote: S. Matt. vii. 3.

13. Thus He spake, and wrote upon the ground. What then did He write?
This, _Thou beholdest the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but
considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye_. For lust is like a
mote, it is quickly kindled, quickly consumed; the sacrilegious perfidy
which led the Jews to deny the Author of their salvation declared the
magnitude of their crime.

  Sidenote: Jer. xvii. 13.

  Sidenote: S. Luke x. 20.

14. He wrote upon the ground with the finger with which He had written
the Law. Sinners’ names are written in the earth, those of the just in
heaven, as He said to His disciples, _Rejoice, because your names are
written in heaven_. And He wrote a second time, that you may know that
the Jews were condemned by both Testaments.

15. When they heard these words they went out one after another,
beginning at the eldest, and sat down thinking upon themselves. _And
Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst._ It is well
said that they went out who chose not to be with Christ. Without is
the letter, within are the mysteries. For in the Divine lessons they
sought, as it were, after the leaves of trees, and not after the fruit;
they lived in the shadow of the Law, and could not discern the Sun of

  Sidenote: S. John xvi. 32.

  Sidenote: Ib. i. 29.

16. Finally, when they departed Jesus was left alone, and the woman
standing in the midst. Jesus about to remit sin remains alone, as He
says Himself, _Behold the hour cometh, yea is now come, that ye shall
be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave Me alone_; for
it was no messenger, no herald, but the Lord Himself Who saved His
people. He remains alone, because in the remission of sins no man can
participate with Christ. This is the gift of Christ alone, Who _took
away the sins of the world_. The woman too was counted worthy to be
absolved, seeing that, on the departure of the Jews, she remained alone
with Jesus.

  Sidenote: Ib. viii. 10.

17. Then Jesus lifted up His head, and said to the woman, _Where are
those thine accusers, hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man,
Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee, go, and
sin no more._ See, O reader, these Divine mysteries, and the mercy of
Christ. When the woman is accused, Christ stoops His head, but when the
accusers retire He lifts it up again; thus we see that He would have no
man condemned, but all absolved.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xx. 23.

18. By the words, _Hath no man condemned thee?_ He briefly overthrows
all the quibbles of heretics, who say that Christ knows not the day
of judgment. He Who says, _But to sit on My right hand and on My left
is not Mine to give_, says also in this place, _Hath no man condemned
thee?_ How is it that He asks concerning that which He saw? It is for
our sakes that He asks, that we might know the woman was not condemned.
And such is the wont of the human mind, often to enquire concerning
that which we know. The woman too answered, _No man, Lord_, that is to
say, Who can condemn when Thou dost not condemn? Who can punish another
under such a condition as Thou hast attached to his sentence?

19. The Lord answered her, _Neither do I condemn thee_. Observe how
He has modified His own sentence; that the Jews might have no ground
of allegation against Him for the absolution of the woman, but by
complaining only draw down a charge upon themselves; for the woman
is dismissed not absolved; and this because there was no accuser, not
because her innocence was established. How then could they complain,
who were the first to abandon the prosecution of the crime, and the
execution of the punishment?

20. Then He said to her who had gone astray, _Go, and sin no more_. He
reformed the criminal, He did not absolve the sin. Faults are condemned
by a severer sentence, whenever a man hates his own sin, and begins the
condemnation of it in himself. When the criminal is put to death, it is
the person rather than the ♦transgression which is punished, but when
the transgression is forsaken, the absolution of the person becomes
the punishment of the sin. What is the meaning then of, _Go, and sin
no more_? It is this; Since Christ hath redeemed thee, suffer thyself
to be corrected by Grace; punishment would not reform but only afflict
thee. Farewell, my son, and love me as a son, for I on my part love you
as a parent.

                             LETTER XXVII.
                               A.D. 387.

  WHO Irenæus was to whom the series of letters from xxvii. to
  xxxiii. are addressed is not ascertained. From the affectionate
  and parental way in which S. Ambrose addresses him, and from
  Irenæus’ applying to him for elucidation of his difficulties
  in the study of Holy Scripture, it is probable that he was one
  who had been trained, perhaps converted by him. The Benedictine
  Editors think that he must have been one of his Milan Clergy.
  All the letters are occupied in expounding passages of the Old
  Testament, or in solving questions connected with it; they are
  specimens of his method of mystical interpretation, in which he
  took great delight.

  In this Letter he begins a reply to a question on Exodus viii.
  26. and then goes off into a mystical interpretation of Rachel
  and Leah, making them an allegory, as S. Paul does Hagar and

                     AMBROSE TO IRENÆUS, GREETING.

  Sidenote: Exod. viii. 26.

  Sidenote: Gen. xlvi. 34.

1. YOU tell me that you have felt a difficulty in the text _We shall
sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians to the Lord our God_. But
you had the means of solving it, for it is written in the book of
Genesis, that _a shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians_, and
this not on account of the shepherd himself, but of his flocks. For
the Egyptians were tillers of the ground, but Abraham and Jacob,
and afterwards Moses and David, were shepherds, and in this function
exercised a certain kingly discipline.

2. The Egyptians then hated sacrifices which were duly offered;
the pursuit of virtue, that is, which is perfect and replete with
discipline. But that which these evil men hated is in the sight of the
good sincere and pious. The licentious man hates the works of virtue,
the glutton shrinks from them. And so the Egyptian’s body, loving the
charms of pleasure, has an aversion to the virtues of the soul, hates
its rule, and shrinks from the discipline of virtue, and all such like

3. But what the Egyptian shrinks from――he who is an Egyptian rather
than a man,――that do thou, who hast the knowledge of what befits man,
embrace and follow: and shun those things which they pursue and choose;
for these two things cannot agree together, wisdom and folly. Thus
as wisdom and continence remove themselves from those who are, as it
were, in the ranks of unwisdom and intemperance, so no foolish and
♦incontinent man has any part in what belongs to the goods and heritage
of the wise and continent man.

  Sidenote: Gen. xxxi. 14, 15.

4. Again, those women who were sanctified by their marriage, Leah and
Rachel, (the one meaning ‘wearied,’ the other ‘strong breath’[157])
from aversion not to the ties of kindred but to their differing
manners, and informed by the much tried Jacob, that he desired to
depart in order to shun the envy and sloth of Laban and his sons, made
answer thus: _Is there yet any portion or inheritance for us in our
father’s house? Are we not counted of him strangers? for he hath sold
us, and hath quite devoured also all our money?_ Observe first that
the slothful and envious man alienates from himself one who labours
and keeps strict discipline; he flies from her and seeks to separate
himself. Finding that they will be burthensome to him he thinks he has
gained by their removal, and esteems this to be his reward, and this
the point of his pleasure.

  Sidenote: Ib. v. 16.

5. Now let us hear how what virtue has, sloth has not: for they say,
_For all the riches which God hath taken from our father, that is ours,
and our children’s_. Rightly do they say that they were taken away by
God’s appointment, for it is He Who created the good, for whose sake
the slothful are despoiled; for weak and evil men cannot apprehend
the beauty of the Divine inheritance; and thus the resolute, and he
who hath in him the spirit of a brave man, succeeds to it. But who is
strong but God alone Who regulates and governs all things?

  Sidenote: Isa. liv. 17.

  Sidenote: Ps. cxix. 57.

  Sidenote: Ib. 111.

6. To these therefore the heritage of God is justly due. Wherefore
Isaiah also says, _There is an heritage for them that believe in the
Lord_. Well saith he, _There is an heritage_, for this is the sole
heritage, there is no other. For neither is blind treasure an heritage,
nor have any transitory things the advantage of an heritage; that
alone is an heritage wherein God is the portion. Wherefore the Saint
of the Lord saith, _Thou art my portion, O Lord_, and again, _Thy
testimonies have I claimed as mine heritage for ever_. You see what
are the possessions of the just, the commandments of God, His oracles,
His precepts, hereby he is enriched, hereby he is fed, hereby he is
delighted as by all manner of riches.

7. Now Leah and Rachel, possessing these, required not their father’s
riches, for therein there was base coin, a senseless outward show,
destitute of spiritual vigour. Again, being rich and liberal themselves
they accounted their father rather indigent than rich. For no one who
participates in good and liberal discipline deems any foolish man to
be rich, but poor and needy, and even abject; and this although he
overflow with royal riches, and in the pride of his gold boasts of his
own power.

  Sidenote: Ps. xviii. 26.

8. The society of such we must shun then, even though they be united
to us by the ties of kindred: the conversation of the foolish is to be
avoided, for it infects and discolors the mind, for as _with the clean
thou shalt be clean_, so _with the froward thou shalt be froward_.
For it frequently happens that one who listens to an intemperate man
against his own resolution, much as he himself desires to maintain
the rule of continence, is yet stained by the hue of folly, and thus
discipline and insolence truly prove themselves contrary and repugnant
to each other.

  Sidenote: Gen. xxxi. 14.

9. Hence when much-tried Jacob inquired their opinion, they utter the
words of virtue now proved by long exercise, _Is there yet any portion
or inheritance for us in our father’s house?_ that is, ‘Do you ask us
whether we wish to depart from him? As if you knew not that we have no
desire of his society, nor are we possessed with that thirst for riches
and delight in luxury which is so sweet to most worldlings. These are
the things which we deem miserable and alien to our feelings, these are
the things which we deem to be full of poverty and want.’

10. They add also the cause of their departure, that Laban had lost
the true glory and those stores of good treasure in which we are born.
Vigour of mind has been given us, and the good coinage of God’s image
and likeness, which is a spiritual coinage. He lost these because he
preferred the splendour of this world to things true and profitable
for his true life; for the beauty of these things escapes one who is
ignorant of the good things of God, while in his judgment of what is
beautiful he deludes and deceives himself. Hear then his words and

  Sidenote: Gen. xxxi. 27.

11. He pursued holy Jacob and his daughters, thinking haply to find
upon them some of his own vices, and thus to have a plea for reclaiming
them to himself, censuring the righteous, whereas he himself was
refuted by reason, and could give no answer or reply why he had any
right to detain him. _Wherefore_, says he, _didst thou not tell me,
that I might have sent thee away?_ Wherein he discloses what it was
the just man feared, namely, such attendance, such a convoy, lest he
should go forth escorted by such a company: in the first place because
it behoved him not to submit himself to the service of many masters,
so as to be dismissed by Laban as a servant: and next because this man,
intent upon good discipline and desirous of following the true path
of virtue, sought no man to guide him but the heavenly oracles. These,
said he, have commanded me to depart from hence and now accompany me on
my journey.

12. But how wouldst thou have dismissed me, he would say? Would it
have been with such joy as thine which is full of sadness, with cymbals
namely and instruments of ill-modulated harmony, and with the sweet
notes of flutes sounding forth unpleasing strains, dissonant sounds,
discordant noises, mute voices, cymbals jarring upon the sense? Didst
thou believe that I could be delighted, that I be recalled by such
things? It is from them that I fled, nor do I fear thy reproachful
words. I fled that such things might not follow me, that I might
receive no present from thee on my departure.

13. It is not by such guides as these that we arrive at the Church of
Christ, to which Jacob was bending his steps, to carry down thither
the wealth of the nations and the riches of the Gentiles, that he might
transplant thither his posterity, flying from the shadows of empty
things, preferring to senseless images of virtues their breathing
beauty, and serious things to outward show. You see how the Gentiles
deck out their banquets, and proclaim their feasts; but such things
are hateful to pious minds, for by their means many are deceived, they
are captivated by pleasant food, by the bands of dancers, while they
fly from our fasts, deeming them irksome to them, and noxious and
troublesome to the body.

  Sidenote: Ps. xii. 7.

14. Or didst thou think that I should desire thy gold? But thou hast
not _gold tried by_ that _fire_ wherein the just are proved. Or was it
silver that I desired? But thou hast not silver, for thou possessest
not the brightness of the heavenly words. But perhaps I hoped that thou
wouldst give me some of thy slaves to serve me? Nay, I seek for free
men, and not the slaves of sin. But perhaps companions of my journey
and guides of my path were necessary? Would that they had power to
follow me! for I would have shewn them the ways of the Lord. But ye who
know not God, how can ye know His ways? The elect of the Lord walk in
His ways, not every one who enters them, and yet no man is excluded.

  Sidenote: Gen. xxx. 32.

15. Let him who is prepared follow, let him enter upon the way which
leads to Mesopotamia; so that he who seeks that country may pass
through the waters, the waters of Tigris and Euphrates, the waters of
courage and righteousness, through the tears of penitence, the baptism
of grace. Here is the path of the army of God, for all who are in
the Church are God’s soldiers. There is that flock marked with divers
virtues, which Jacob chose for himself; for every soul which is not so
marked is unlearned and uninstructed, ignorant of discipline: but that
which is marked is rich in works and fertile in grace.

  Sidenote: Ib. xxxiv. 25. sqq.

  Sidenote: Ib. xxxii. 24.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. xiii. 4.

16. Let him who comes to it first be reconciled to his angry brother.
Let him who comes to it inhabit Shechem, that precious and active
laboratory of virtue, where injured chastity is so deeply avenged.
Let him who comes to it wrestle with God, that he may inure himself
to imitate Him, that he may come in contact with the humility of Christ
and His sufferings. Let him take up his cross and follow Christ. Lastly,
a good combatant _envieth not, is not puffed up_, nay, he even blesses
his antagonist with a like gift.

  Sidenote: Rom. v. 3, 4, 5.

17. Let us then follow holy Jacob and his ways, that we may reach
these sufferings, these combats, that we may reach the shoulder[158],
that we may attain to patience, the mother of the faithful, and to
their father Isaac, that is, one capable of delight[159], abounding in
joy. For where patience is, there also is joy, for after tribulation
comes patience, and _patience worketh experience_, wherein is _hope,
whereby we are not ashamed_, for whoso is not ashamed the cross of
Christ, neither will Christ be ashamed of him.

Farewell, my son; blush not to ask questions of your father, as you
blush not to glory in the sufferings of Christ.

                            LETTER XXVIII.
                               A.D. 387.

  S. AMBROSE in this Letter maintains that Pythagoras derived much
  of his wisdom from a knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures, and
  dwells on his maxim, ‘not to follow the beaten track,’ as one
  specially addressed to the priesthood.

                     AMBROSE TO IRENÆUS, GREETING.

  Sidenote: Exod. iii. 5.

  Sidenote: Josh. v. 15.

  Sidenote: Exod. xxiv. 13, 14.

1. IN the writings of certain authors we find a precept of Pythagoras
forbidding his disciples to enter upon the common path trodden by the
people. Now the source from whence he drew this is not unknown. For as
he derived (according to the general opinion) his descent from the Jews,
from their learning he derived also the precepts of his school. This
rendered him highly esteemed among philosophers, so that he hardly met,
it is said, with his equal. Now he had read in the book of Exodus that
by the Divine command Moses was bid _put off his shoes from off his
feet_. This command was also given to Joshua the son of Nun, namely
that they, when desired to walk along the Lord’s path, should shake off
the dust of the beaten and vulgar tracks. He had also read the command
to Moses to go up to the mount with the priests, while the people stood
apart. So God separated the priests from the people, and subsequently
commanded Moses himself to enter into the cloud.

2. You see then the separation. Nothing vulgar, nothing popular,
nothing in common with the desires and usages and manners of the rude
multitude is looked for in priests. The dignity of the priesthood
claims for itself a sober and unruffled calmness, a serious life,
an especial gravity. How can he be respected by the people, who is in
nothing distinct from the people, or different from the multitude? And
what can a man look up to in you who recognizes himself in you, who
sees nothing in you which is beyond himself, and who finds in you, to
whom he deems respect to be due, the things which he blushes at in

  Sidenote: Job ix. 25.

  Sidenote: Ib. vi. 19–21.

3. Wherefore let us pass over the opinions of the people, and the
resorts of the common herd, and the line of the beaten track, the
ground also of that common path along which he runs, whose _days
are swifter than a post_, of whom it is said, _they flee away, they
see no good_. But let us find for ourselves a path secluded from the
conversation of the proud, inaccessible to the works of the unlearned,
trodden by no polluted person, polluted that is by the stains of his
own sloth, and smeared by the smoke of iniquity, his soul darkened
and ruinous, one who has never tasted the sweetness of virtue, or at
any rate has thought that she should be looked upon askance rather
than met with direct regard and with open arms, who moreover (as is the
wont of many who seem to themselves witty and polite, and transform the
beauty of wisdom into dishonourable guile,) regards not true Grace, but
shrouded as it were in darkness, gives no credence to those who live
in the light of day, being of the number of the men of Tema and Sheba,
who fall off and turn away from the truth; of whom Job says, _Behold
ye the ways of them of Tema, the paths of the Sabæans, for they shall
be confounded who put their hopes in cities and in riches. So ye also
have risen against me without pity, therefore when ye see my wound, be

  Sidenote: Ib. xxviii. 14.

4. Let us then abandon these devious paths of them that turn aside,
and this dust of those who fail, who through their lust fall oftentimes
in the desert, and let us be converted and follow the way of wisdom,
that way which the children of those who boast and glorify themselves
have not trodden, that way which destruction knows not, and death is
ignorant of; for God hath marked it out; _the depth saith, It is not in
me, and the sea saith, It is not with me_. But if you seek for the way
of wisdom and discipline, to worship God, and to be subject to Him is
wisdom, and to abstain from sin is discipline.

5. What then have we to do with the way of this world, wherein is
temptation; yea the life itself of men is temptation, and more empty
even than vain fables, living in houses of clay, spending nights and
days in quest of gain, with their thoughts ever upon it, seeking like
hired servants their daily wages, and as they say grasshoppers do[160],
feeding on the empty breath of desires. Truly, like grasshoppers,
living from day to day, they burst with their own complainings[161].
For what is the semblance of men without gravity or discipline, but
that of grasshoppers, born to a daily death, chirping rather than
speaking? These beneath the heat of burning desires soothe themselves
with a song hurtful to themselves, and quickly die bearing no fruit,
and possessed of no grace. Noxious and crooked are their ways as
those of serpents, whose bodies are drawn along in poisoned folds, who
gather themselves up into a coil of wickedness[162], and cannot raise
themselves to heavenly things.

  Sidenote: Ps. cxviii. 19.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. vii. 14.

6. But let us enter the gates of the Lord, _the gates of righteousness_,
which the righteous entereth and _giveth praise unto the Lord_. But
few enter in here, wherefore the Lord saith, _Straight is the gate and
narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find
it_. But the wide gate and broad way, wherein the many walk, leads to
death, and carries thither them that travel on it.

  Sidenote: Prov. ii. 13.

7. Let our way then be narrow, our virtue abundant, our steps more
careful, our faith more lofty, our path narrow, our energy of mind
overflowing, our paths straight, for the steps of virtue cannot
be turned aside; wherefore Solomon saith, _Who leave the paths of

  Sidenote: Is. xxxi. 1.

  Sidenote: Exod. vii. 1.

8. Let our steps tend upward, for it is better to ascend. Lastly, as
we read to-day, _Woe to them that go down to Egypt!_ Not that to pass
over into Egypt is blameable, but to pass into their habits, to pass
into their cruel perfidy and hideous lusts. He that passes over thither
descends, he that descends falls. Wherefore let us avoid the Egyptian,
who is man, not God. For the king of Egypt himself was given over to
the dominion of his vices, and compared with him Moses was accounted
a god, ruling over kingdoms and subjecting to himself powers. Hence
we read that he was addressed thus, _See I have made thee a god to
♦Pharaoh_. Farewell, and love me, as indeed you do, with the affection
of a son.

                             LETTER XXIX.
                               A.D. 389.

  THIS letter is in fact a meditation on Christ as the true Chief
  good of man, the true Source of happiness, and Food of the soul,
  and Fountain of life, to be sought therefore with eagerness, and
  clung to with all the affection of the soul, which must
  therefore scorn all meaner delights.

                     AMBROSE TO IRENÆUS, GREETING.

  Sidenote: Ps. xlv. 3.

  Sidenote: Rom. x. 15.
            Is. lii. 7.

1. WHILE engaged in reading, after resting my mind for a while and
desisting from study, I began to meditate on that versicle which in the
evening we had sung at Vigils, _Thou art fairer than the children of
men_, and, _How beautiful are the feet of them that bring good tidings_
of Him. And truly nothing is more beautiful than that chief good, the
very preaching of which is beyond measure lovely, and specially the
progress of continuous discourse, and the foot-steps, so to speak, of
Apostolic preaching. But who is equal to these things? They to whom God
gave not only to preach Christ, but also to suffer for Him.

  Sidenote: Ps. lxiii. 6.

  Sidenote: Ib. xxii. 29.

2. Let us, as far as we can, direct our minds to that which is
beautiful seemly and good, let us be occupied therein, let us keep it
in mind, that by its illumination and brightness our souls may become
beautiful and our minds transparent. For if our eyes, when obscured by
dimness, are refreshed by the verdure of the fields and are able by the
beauty of a grove or grassy hill to remedy every defect of the failing
vision, while the very pupils and balls of the eye seem to be coloured
with the hue of health: how much more does this eye of the mind,
beholding that chief good, and dwelling and feeding thereupon, brighten
and shine forth, so as to fulfil that which is written, _My soul shall
be satisfied even as it were with marrow and fatness_. Moreover, he
who has a skilful knowledge of the souls of his flock, pays attention
to wild grasses, that he may obtain much pasturage: for by the sweeter
kind of herbage lambs are made fatter, and the milky juice more
healthful. On these pastures those _fat ones_ have fed, who _have eaten
and worshipped_, for good indeed are those pastures wherein is placed
the saint of God.

  Sidenote: Prov. xxvii. 25.

  Sidenote: Deut. xxxii. 2.

  Sidenote: 2 S. Pet. i. 4.

3. There is grass also, whereby the flocks of sheep are nourished, for
whence come the fleeces of wisdom, and the clothing of prudence. And
perchance this is the _grass of the mountain_, upon which the words
of the prophet distil _as the showers upon the grass_, and which the
wise man carefully gathers, that he may have a fleece for a covering,
that is, for a spiritual garment. And thus proper food and clothing are
provided for that soul which cleaves to the chief Good, that Good Which
is Divine, and which the Apostle Peter exhorts us to seek for, that
by the acquisition of such knowledge we may become _partakers of the
Divine nature_.

  Sidenote: Deut. xxviii. 11, 12.

  Sidenote: Ib. xxxii. 2.

4. The knowledge hereof the good God opens to His saints, and grants
it out of His good treasury, even as the sacred Law testifies, saying,
_The Lord sware unto thy fathers to give thee and open unto thee His
good treasure_. From this heavenly treasure He gives rain to His lands,
to bless all the works of thy hands. By this rain is signified the
utterance of the Law, which moistens the soul fruitful and fertile in
good works, that it may receive the dew of Grace.

  Sidenote: Ps. xxvii. 4.

  Sidenote: v. 13.

  Sidenote: Ps. lxv. 4.

  Sidenote: Ps. cxxviii. 5.

5. The knowledge of this good David sought; as he himself declares,
saying, _One thing have I desired of the Lord, which I will require,
even that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life
to behold the fair beauty of the Lord, and to visit His temple_. And
that this is the chief Good he straightway added in the same Psalm,
_I believe verily to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the
living_. He must be sought after, there He will be clearly seen face to
face. This good is in the house of God, in His secret and hidden place.
Wherefore he says again, _He shall be satisfied with the pleasures of
thy house_. In another place too he has shown this to be the highest
blessing, saying, _The Lord shall bless thee out of Sion, and thou
shalt see the good of Jerusalem_. Wherefore blessed is he who dwells
then in the vestibule of faith and in the spiritual abode, the dwelling
place of devotion and the life of virtue.

  Sidenote: Isa. lii. 7.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. i. 1.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. vii. 17.

  Sidenote: Ps. cxliii. 10.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xx. 15.

  Sidenote: Ps. iv. 6.

  Sidenote: Heb. i. 3.

6. In Him therefore let us be and in Him abide, of Whom Isaiah says,
_How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of Him that bringeth
good tidings, that publisheth peace_. Who are they that preach but
Peter, Paul, and all the Apostles? What do they preach to us but the
Lord Jesus? He is our Peace, He is our chief Good, for He is Good from
Good, and from a good tree is gathered good fruit. And good also is
His Spirit, Who takes of Him and _leads_ His servants _forth into the
land of righteousness_. For who that hath the Spirit of God within him
will deny that He is good, since He says Himself, _Is thine eye evil
because I am good?_ May this Good which the merciful God gives to them
that seek Him come into our soul, and into our inmost heart. He is our
Treasure, He is our Way, He is our Wisdom, He is our Righteousness, our
Shepherd, the good Shepherd, He is our Life. Thou seest how many goods
are in this one Good! These goods the Evangelists preach to us. David
seeking for these goods saith, _Who will shew us any good?_ And he
shews that the Lord Himself is our Good by adding, _Lord, lift Thou
up the light of Thy Countenance upon us_. But Who is the Light of the
Father’s Countenance, but _the Brightness of His Glory_, and the Image
of the invisible God, in Whom the Father is both seen and glorified, as
He also glorifies His Son?

  Sidenote: 1 Tim. iii. 16.

  Sidenote: Heb. i. 3.

  Sidenote: S. John xi. 35.

  Sidenote: Ib. i. 29.

♦8. Wherefore the Lord Jesus Himself is that chief Good which was
announced to us by Prophets, declared by Angels, promised by the
Father, preached by Apostles. He hath come to us as ripeness; nor as
ripeness only, but as ripeness in the mountains; to the intent that in
our counsels there should be nothing sour, or unripe, nothing harsh or
bitter in our actions or manners, the first Preacher of good tidings
hath come among us. Wherefore also He saith, I, Who spoke, am present
with[163] you, that is, I Who spoke in the Prophets, am present in that
Body which I took of the Virgin; I am present as the inward Likeness
of God, and the _express Image of His person_, I am present too as Man.
But who knows Me? For they saw the Man, but His Works made them believe
He was above man. Was He not as man when weeping over Lazarus? again,
was He not above man, when He raised him to life? Was He not as man
when scourged? and again, above man when _He took away the sin of the

  Sidenote: S. Matt. iv. 17.

  Sidenote: Amos v. 14.

  Sidenote: Col. ii. 9.

  Sidenote: S. John i. 16.

9. To Him therefore let us hasten in Whom is the chief Good: for He
is the bounty and patience of Israel, Who calls thee to repentance,
that thou come not into condemnation but mayest receive the remission
of thy sins. He saith, Repent. This is He of Whom the Prophet Amos
cries, _Seek good_. He is the chief Good, Who is in need of nothing,
but abounds in all things. And well may He abound, _in Whom dwelleth
all the fulness of the Godhead bodily_; of _Whose fulness we have all
received_, and _in Whom we are filled_, as saith the Evangelist.

  Sidenote: Ps. cxix. 68.

  Sidenote: Cant. i. 3.

10. If then the mind with its capacities of desire and pleasure hath
tasted the chief Good, and by means of these two affections hath drank
It in, unalloyed by sorrow and fear, it is wonderfully inflamed. For
having embraced the Word of God, she knows no measure and yet feels no
satiety, as it is written, _Thou art good and gracious, O teach me Thy
statutes_: having embraced the Word of God, she desires Him above all
beauty, she loves Him above all joy, she is delighted with Him above
all perfumes, she desires often to see, often to look upon Him, often
to be drawn to Him that she may follow. _Thy Name_, it is said, _is
as ointment poured forth; therefore we maidens love Thee_, therefore
we strive but cannot attain to Thee. _Draw us_ that we may _run after
Thee_, that by the _fragrance of Thy ointments_ we may gain power to
follow Thee.

  Sidenote: Ps. cxix. 103.

  Sidenote: Exod. xxxiv. 28.

  Sidenote: 1 Kings xix. 4.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xvii. 4.

  Sidenote: 1 Pet. i. 12.

11. And the mind presses forward to the sight of internal mysteries, to
the place of rest of the Word, to the very dwelling of that chief Good,
His light and brightness. In that haven and home-retreat she hastens
to hear His words, and having heard, finds them sweeter than all other
things. Learn of the Prophet who had tasted and saith, _O how sweet are
Thy words unto my throat, yea sweeter than honey unto my mouth_. For
what can that soul desire which hath once tasted the sweetness of the
Word, and seen His brightness? When Moses received the Law he remained
forty days on the mount and required no bodily food; Elijah, hastening
to this rest, prayed that his life might be taken away; Peter, himself
also beholding on the Mount the glory of the Lord’s Resurrection, would
fain not have come down, saying, _It is good for us to be here_. How
great then is the glory of the Divine Essence and the graces of the
Word, _which things the Angels desire to look into_.

  Sidenote: Acts vii. 55.

  Sidenote: 2 Cor. xii. 2.

12. The soul then which beholds this chief Good, requires not the body,
and understands that it ought to have as little connexion with it as
possible; it renounces the world, withdraws itself from the chains
of the flesh, and extricates itself from all the bonds of earthly
pleasures. Thus Stephen beheld Jesus, and feared not being stoned,
nay, while he was being stoned, prayed not for himself but for his
murderers. Paul also, when _caught up to the third heaven_, knew not
_whether he was in the body or out of the body: caught up_, I say,
_into Paradise_, he became invisible to the presence of his own body,
and having heard the words of God he blushed to descend again to the
infirmities of the body.

  Sidenote: Col. ii. 20–22.

  Sidenote: 2 Cor. v. 8.

13. Thus, knowing what he had seen and heard in Paradise, he cried
saying, _Why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to
ordinances? Touch not, taste not, handle not, which all are to perish
with the using._ For he would have us of this world in figure and
semblance, not in use or possession, _using as though we used it
not_, as our place of sojourn, not of rest, walking through it as in
a vision, not with desire, so as to pass as lightly as possible over
the mere shadow of this world. In this way S. Paul, who walked by faith
not by sight, was _absent from the body and present with the Lord_, and
although upon earth conversed not with earthly but with heavenly things.

  Sidenote: S. John i. 1.

  Sidenote: Acts xvii. 28.

  Sidenote: 2 Cor. i. 19.

  Sidenote: Exod. iii. 14.

14. Wherefore let our soul, wishing to draw near to God, raise herself
from the body, and ever adhere to that chief End which is divine, Which
is everlasting, _Which was from the beginning_, and _Which was with
God_, that is, the Word of God. This is that Divine Being, _in Whom
we live and move and have our being_. This is _That which was in the
beginning_, the true _I AM_. _For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, was not
yea nor nay but in Him was yea._ He bid Moses say, _I AM hath sent me_.

  Sidenote: Ps. cxix. 109.

15. With this Good therefore let our soul be, and if possible, be
continually, that each of us may say, _My soul is continually in my
hand_. And such will be the case, if it be not in the flesh, but in
the spirit, and does not entangle itself in earthly things. For when
it turns back to carnal things, then the allurements of the body creep
over it, then it swells with rage and anger, then it is pierced with
sorrow, then it is lifted up with arrogance, then it is bowed down with

  Sidenote: S. Matt. v. 44, 45.

  Sidenote: Ib. 48.

  Sidenote: Rom. xiii. 10.

16. These are the heavy griefs of the soul by which it is often
brought down to death, while its eyes are blinded so that they see
not the light of true glory, and the riches of its eternal heritage.
But by keeping them always fixed on God, it will receive from Christ
the brightness of wisdom, so as to have its vision enlightened by the
knowledge of God, and to behold that hope of our calling, and see that
which is good and well-pleasing and perfect. For that which is good is
well-pleasing to the Father, and that which is well-pleasing is perfect,
as it is written in the Gospel, _Love your enemies, that ye may be
the children of your Father Which is in heaven, for, He sendeth rain
on the just and on the unjust_, which is surely a proof of goodness.
Afterwards He concludes by saying, _Be ye therefore perfect, even as
your Father Which is in heaven is perfect_. For charity is perfect;
in short it is _the fulfilling of the Law_; for what can be so good as
_charity_ which _thinketh no evil_?

  Sidenote: Isa. xl. 31.

  Sidenote: Wisd. ix. 15.

  Sidenote: Rom. xi. 36.

17. Fly then those regions where dwell envy, ambition, and contention.
Therefore let thy mind open itself to receive this Good, that it may
mount above the clouds, that it may be _renewed as the eagle_, and like
the eagle spread abroad its wings, that with new vigour in its pinions
it may fearlessly soar aloft and leave its earthly dwelling-place
behind it, _for the earthly habitation weigheth down the mind_. Let
it put off old things, let it cast off wandering desires, let it purge
its eyes that it may see that Fountain of true wisdom, that Source of
eternal life Which flows and abounds with all things and is in want of
nothing. For who hath given to Him, seeing that _of Him and through Him
and to Him are all things_?

  Sidenote: Ps. xvi. 2.

18. The Fountain of life then is that chief Good from Which the
means of life are dispensed to all, but It hath life abiding in Itself.
It receiveth from none as though It were in need, It confers good on
others rather than borrows from others for Itself, for It hath no need
of us. Thus in the person of man it is said, _my goods are nothing
unto Thee_. What then can be more lovely than to approach to Him, to
cleave to Him; what pleasure can be greater? He who has seen and tasted
freely of the Fountain of living water, what else can he desire? what
kingdoms? what powers? what riches? perceiving how miserable even in
this world is the condition of kings, how mutable the state of empires,
how short the space of this life, in what bondage sovereigns themselves
must live, seeing that their life is according to the will of others,
not their own.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xix. 26.

19. But what rich man passes to eternal life unless he be supported
by the riches of virtue, that gift which is the portion of all, and
declared to be impossible for the rich alone? Happiness then does not
consist in using these things but in perceiving that whereby you may
despise them, may regard them as void of truth[164], may judge them
to be empty and fruitless, and may love the true beauty of naked truth
which confesses the cheating vanities of this world.

  Sidenote: Cant. iv. 9.

  Sidenote: Ib. vii. 8.

  Sidenote: Rev. xxi. 23.

  Sidenote: S. John viii. 12.

  Sidenote: S. Luke xxiv. 32.

20. Lift up therefore your eyes, O my soul; those eyes of which the
Word of God saith, _Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse,
thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes. Go up then to the
palm tree_, overcome the world, that thou mayest reach the height of
the Word. Leave out of doors the vain shows of this world, leave its
malice, but bring in with you that goodness of mind which has grace
in the tree of life, that is, if she wash her robes and enter into the
city which is the true grace of the saints, wherein is the Tabernacle
of God, around which the scribes of the Lord encamp, where neither
day nor sun nor moon afford light, but _the Lord Himself is the light
thereof_, and enlightens all that city. For He is the _Light of the
world_, not indeed the visible light, but the intellectual brightness
of the souls which are in this world, upon which He pours the bright
beams of reason and of prudence, and in the Gospel is said to inspire
with the breath of His spiritual influences the inmost soul, and the
recesses of the mind.

  Sidenote: Gen. xix. 30.

  Sidenote: Ib. 17.

21. If then any man hath begun to be an inhabitant of that heavenly
city, an inhabitant, that is, by his life and manners, let him not
depart from it, let him not go out again, or retrace his steps, the
steps, that is, not of his body but of his mind; let him not turn
back. Behind is luxury, behind is impurity. When Lot went up into the
mountain he left behind him the crimes of Sodom, but she who looked
back, could not reach the higher ground. It is not your feet but your
manners which are never to turn back. Let not your hands hang down,
or the knees of your faith and devotion become feeble. Let not the
weakness of your will be backsliding, let there be no recurrence of
crime. Thou hast entered in, remain therefore; thou hast arrived, stay
still; _escape for thy life_.

  Sidenote: Joel iii. 13.

  Sidenote: S. Luke xvii. 31.

  Sidenote: Ps. civ. 2.

22. In your ascent your steps must tend directly upwards, no man can
safely turn back. Here is the way, there, downfall; here ascent, there
a precipice. In ascending there is labour, in descending danger; but
the Lord is mighty, Who, when thou art founded there will guard and
hedge thee round with prophetic walls and apostolic bulwarks. Therefore
the Lord says to thee, _Come, get you down, for the press is full_. Let
us be found within, not out of doors. In the Gospel too the Son of God
saith, _He which shall be upon the house-top let him not come down to
take away his vessels_. And this He says not of this house-top, but of
that of which it is said, _He spreadeth out the heavens like a vault_.

  Sidenote: Joel iii. 9.

  Sidenote: Phil. iv. 13.

23. Remain within therefore, within Jerusalem, within thine own soul,
peaceful, meek, and tranquil. Leave her not, nor descend in order to
raise up this vessel of thine, either with honour, or wealth, or pride.
Remain within, that aliens may not pass through thee, that sins may not
pass through thy mind, vain acts, and idle thoughts: and they will not
pass, if thou wilt wage a holy war in the cause of faith and devotion,
for the love of truth against the snares of passion, and wilt take up
the arms of God against spiritual wickedness and the craft of the devil,
who tempts our senses by fraud and stratagem, but who is easily crushed
by the gentle warrior, who sees no strife, but, as becomes the servant
of God, teaches the faith with modesty, and convinces those who oppose
themselves. Of him the Scripture says, _Let the warrior who is gentle
arise_[165], and let him that is weak say, _I can do all things through
Christ which strengtheneth me_.

  Sidenote: Joel iii. 18.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. iii. 2.

  Sidenote: S. John iv. 14.

24. Supported by this faith, even he who is weak shall prevail, and his
soul will be holy, and the prophetic or apostolic mountains shall _drop
down new wine_ for him, and _the hills shall flow with milk_, like that
hill which gave milk to the Corinthians to drink, and water shall flow
for him from their vessels, and from their well-heads. _From his belly
shall flow living water_, that spiritual water which the Holy Spirit
supplies to His faithful; may He vouchsafe to water thy soul also, that
in thee may be _a fountain springing up into life eternal_. Farewell:
love me as a son, for I love you as a father.

                              LETTER XXX.
                               A.D. 389.

  S. AMBROSE here continues the subject of the last Letter,
  dwelling especially on the duty of rising above the level of
  earthly things, and bringing together various passages of the
  Old Testament which he interprets spiritually as setting forth
  this Lesson. The true follower of Christ will build Him a Temple
  in his heart, which his Lord will fill with the adornment of
  spiritual graces.

                     AMBROSE TO IRENÆUS, GREETING.

  Sidenote: Hag. i. 4.

  Sidenote: Ib. 2.

  Sidenote: Ecclus. xxiii. 18.

1. AFTER I had finished my last letter and directed it to be conveyed
to you, the words which the Lord spake by the prophet Haggai came into
my mind, _Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses?_
What is the meaning of this but that we ought to dwell on high, not
in low and subterranean abodes? For they who dwell beneath the earth,
cannot build the temple of God, but say, _The time is not come, the
time that the Lord’s house should be built_, because it is the mark
of sensual persons to seek underground dwellings, courting the cool
of summer, being enervated by indulgence and requiring shady retreats
to enable them to bear the heat, or because the slothful live at ease
beneath the earth, or lastly because dark and shady places suit them
best, concealing, (as they believe,) their crimes. _I am compassed
about with darkness, the walls cover me, what need I to fear?_ But in
vain do they hope for this, when God beholds the hidden depths of the
abyss, and discovers all things before they take place.

  Sidenote: 1 Kings xvii. 19.

  Sidenote: 2 Kings iv. 8, 10.

  Sidenote: Ib. 16 et seq.

  Sidenote: Acts x. 9.

  Sidenote: 2 Sam. xviii. 17, 18.

  Sidenote: 1 Kings xx. 23.

2. But neither Elijah nor Elisha dwelt in underground dwellings.
Moreover the former carried the dead son of the widow up into the
loft where he abode, and there raised him to life; and for the latter,
that _great woman_, the Shunamite, prepared a _chamber on the wall_,
and there she obtained the privilege of conceiving a son, for she was
barren, and there also she saw the miracle of his restoration to life.
And what shall I say of Peter who at the sixth hour went up upon the
house-top, and there learnt the mystery of the baptism of the Gentiles.
But the homicide Absalom had reared for himself a pillar in the King’s
dale, and then, after his death, he was cast into a great pit. So
then the saints ascend unto the Lord, the wicked descend to crime;
the saints are on the mountains, the wicked in the valleys; _For God
is the God of the hills, not of the plains_.

3. Those therefore who dwelt in the plain, where God dwells not, could
not have the house of God in themselves; for this is the house which
God required of them, that they should build up themselves, and should
erect within them the temple of God with the living stones of faith.
For it was not the erection of earthly walls nor of wooden roofs that
He required, for these, had they existed, would have been destroyed by
the enemies’ hand; but He sought for that temple which should be raised
in men’s minds, to whom it might be said, _Ye are the Temple of God_,
wherein the Lord Jesus was to dwell, and from whence He was to proceed
for the redemption of the world. Thus in the womb of a Virgin a sacred
chamber was to be prepared, wherein the King of heaven might dwell, and
the human Body might become the temple of God, Which also when It was
destroyed, was to be raised again in three days.

  Sidenote: Hag. i. 4.

  Sidenote: Jer. xxii. 13.

4. But such a house as this sensual persons, _they who dwell in cieled
houses_ and delight in chased silver, do not build. For as they despise
pure silver, so also they despise simple dwellings. They enlarge the
site of their houses, they add more and more, joining house to house
and farm to farm, they dig up the ground; so that the very earth itself
gives way to their habitations, and like sons of the earth they are
laid up within her womb, and hidden in her bowels. They surely are
those of whom Jeremiah says, _Woe unto him that buildeth his house in
unrighteousness_. For he who builds in righteousness, builds not on
earth but in heaven.

  Sidenote: Ib. 14.

  Sidenote: Cant. iv. 3.

5. _Thou hast built_, saith the Prophet, _a house, measure the upper
chambers of it, even airy chambers, furnished with windows, cieled
with cedar, and painted with vermilion_. Now he _measureth the upper
chambers_, who, having contemplated the judgment of God, judgeth the
judgment of the humble and the judgment of the poor. But he who seeks
after gain and the blood of the innocent builds not his chambers with
judgment, nor keeps the due measure, because he has not Christ, nor
looks for the breath of Divine grace upon him, nor does he desire the
brightness of full light, nor has he chambers painted with vermilion,
for it cannot be said to him, _Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet_.

  Sidenote: Jer. xxii. 19. He shall be buried with the burial of
            an ass. Engl. Vers.

6. _A man of this sort_, it is said, _shall not be buried_, for he
who has burrowed in the earth, and buried himself alive, so to speak,
in a tomb, has deprived himself when dead of the rest of burial. And
thus, laid in the pit of carnal pleasures, he has found no grave from
whence to rise. Such a man therefore builds no temple to God, because
he hath not known the time of his correction. How then can such men
build a temple, who like wild beasts betake themselves to dens and
hiding places, who like serpents bury themselves in ditches, and burrow
in the earth like crafty foxes?

  Sidenote: 1 Tim. v. 6.

  Sidenote: Ps. xlii. 5.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. vii. 7.

7. Neither does he build a sepulchre for himself who dies before the
time, for _he is dead while he liveth_; and he hears not the voice of
Haggai, that is being interpreted, of the Feaster, for he enters not
the Tabernacle of God, _in the voice of praise and thanksgiving, the
sound of one feasting_. For how can he hear His voice, who sees not
His works? If he saw them, he would have heard the Word which has been
put in His Hand, rejoicing in His acts, whereby _He knocked and it
was opened to Him_, and He descended into his soul that He might feed
therein upon the food of sincerity and truth.

  Sidenote: Hag. i. 8.

8. Now because he has not heard, the word of Haggai comes again to hand,
and says, Rise up from your _cieled houses_ that are weighed down by
wickedness, and _go up to the mountain_ of the heavenly Scriptures, and
_hew wood_, the wood of wisdom, the wood of life, the wood of knowledge;
and make straight your ways, direct your acts that they may keep their
due order which is useful and necessary for building the house of God.

  Sidenote: Ib. 10.

9. For if ye do it not, the _heaven over you shall be stayed of her
dew_, that is, the heavenly Word, Which descends _as the dew upon the
grass_, shall not temper the fevered motions of your bodily passions,
nor extinguish the fiery darts of your various desires; and _the earth_,
that is, your soul, _shall be stayed from her fruit_, so that it shall
be dried up, unless fully watered by the Word of God, and sprinkled
with heavenly dew, even the fulness of spiritual Grace.

  Sidenote: Hag. i. 14.

  Sidenote: Ps. cxxvii. 1.

  Sidenote: Col. i. 16, 17.

  Sidenote: S. John vii. 37.

10. And as He knew how slothful they are who dwelt beneath the earth,
and in the dark abodes of pleasure, _I will stir up_, it is said, _the
spirit of Jerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, Governor of Judah_, and _the
spirit of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest_, that they may
be stirred up to build the Divine house. For _except the Lord build
the house, their labour is lost that build it_. Now Zerubbabel means,
‘constant overflowing,’ like the Fountain of life, and the Word of God,
_by Whom and from Whom are all things and in Whom all things consist_.
Thus saith the overflowing Fountain, _If any man thirst, let him come
unto Me, and drink_; drink, that is, from the stream of the unfailing
flood. We read also of Zabulon, a nocturnal flood, that is to say
prophetic, but it also is now brightened by the intermixture of this
stream, whereby was swallowed up that flood of vanity typified by
Jezabel, which was opposed to truth and to the utterances of prophets,
and was so torn in pieces by dogs that not a trace of it remained,
but all its frame with every mark of its posterity was destroyed.
Zerubbabel therefore of the tribe of Judah, and Jesus the High Priest,
thus designated both by tribe and name seem to represent two persons,
though one only is meant; for He Who as Almighty is born from the
Almighty, as Redeemer is born of the Virgin, being the Same in the
diversity of His two divisible natures, hath fulfilled as the Giant
of salvation[166] the verity of the one Son of God.

  Sidenote: Hag. ii. 6.

  Sidenote: Exod. xiii. 21.

  Sidenote: Ib. xiv. 22.

  Sidenote: S. Luke xxiii. 44.

11. Now being about to raise from the dead holy Zerubbabel He says,
_Yet once, it is a little while, I will shake the heavens, and the
earth, and the sea, and the dry land_. Once before he had shaken these
things when He delivered his people from Egypt, when there was in
heaven a pillar of fire, dry land among the waves, a wall in the sea, a
path in the waters, when in the desert a daily supply of heavenly food
was produced, and the rock was melted into streams of water. But He
shook them also afterwards in the Passion of the Lord Jesus, when the
heaven was covered with darkness, the sun withdrew his light, the rocks
were rent, the tombs opened, the dead raised, the Dragon, vanquished
on his own waves, saw the fishers of men not only sailing, but even
walking on the sea without danger.

  Sidenote: Ps. xix. 4.

  Sidenote: Is. liv. 1.

  Sidenote: Ib. xxxv. 1.

  Sidenote: Rom. xi. 5.

12. The _dry land was also shaken_ when the barren Gentile nations
began to ripen with the harvest of devotion and faith, and the desert
and the Gentiles were so much shaken, that the preaching of the
Apostles, whom He sent to call the Gentiles, was so loud and vehement,
that _their sound went out into all lands, and their words unto the
ends of the world_. So greatly, indeed, was the desert shaken that
_more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married
wife_, and _the desert blossomed as a rose_, the elect of the Gentiles
entered in to the remnant of the people, that the _remnant might be
saved according to the election of grace_.

  Sidenote: Hag. ii. 7, 8.

  Sidenote: Ps. xii. 7.

13. _And I will fill_, it is said, _this house with My silver and gold_,
with the heavenly oracles, which are as _silver tried in the fire_, and
in the brightness of the true light, glistening like spiritual gold in
the secret hearts of the saints. These riches He confers on His Church,
riches whereby spiritual treasures are increased, and the glory of the
house is exalted above the former glory which the elect people enjoyed.

  Sidenote: Phil. iv. 7.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xxiv. 35.

  Sidenote: Heb. iv. 12.

  Sidenote: Zech. ix. 10.

14. For peace and tranquillity of the soul is above all glory of
any house; for _peace passeth all understanding_. This is that peace
above all peace which shall be granted after the third shaking of the
heaven, the sea, the earth and the dry land, when He shall destroy all
Principalities and Powers. For _heaven and earth shall pass away_, and
all the fashion of this world; and every man shall rise up against his
brother with the sword, that is, with the word _piercing the marrow
of the soul_, that whatever opposes itself, the _chariot from Ephraim_
and _the horse from Jerusalem may be cut off_, as Zechariah says. And
thus there will be peace over all, the passions of the body offering no
resistance, and the unbelieving mind no obstacle, that _Christ may be
all in all_, offering in subjection to the Father the hearts of all men.

  Sidenote: Hagg. ii. 23.

  Sidenote: Cant. vi. 13.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. xv. 48.

  Sidenote: Ib. 49.

15. Wherefore to Him alone is it mystically said, _I will take thee,
O Zerubbabel, and will make thee as a signet, for I have chosen thee_.
When our mind shall have become peaceful so that it may be said to her,
_Return, return, o Shulamite_, which signifies ‘peaceful,’ or, to use
your own name, Irenice, then shall she receive Christ like a signet on
herself, that is, the Image of God, that she may be according to that
Image, for _as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly_.
And it behoves us _to bear the image of the heavenly_, that is, peace.

  Sidenote: Cant. viii. 6.

16. And that we may know the truth of this, it is said in the Canticles
to the soul now fully perfect, that which may the Lord Jesus say to you
also, _Set me as a seal upon thine arm_; that peace may shine in your
heart and Christ in your works, and that wisdom and righteousness and
redemption may be formed in you. Farewell, my son: love me for I love

                             LETTER XXXI.

  IRENÆUS had asked S. Ambrose whether God had greater love for
  those who had believed from their early years than for those
  who had been converted later in life. In answering this question,
  S. Ambrose enters into the history of the Jewish and Christian
  Churches, which he considers as set forth under the figures of
  David’s two wives.

                     AMBROSE TO IRENÆUS, GREETING.

  Sidenote: Joel i. 8.

  Sidenote: Hosea ii. 19.

1. YOU have wisely thought it a subject of inquiry, whether there be
any difference in God’s love towards those who have believed from their
childhood, and those who have believed in the course of their youth
or more advanced age; for this also has not been past over nor left
unnoticed in the sacred Scriptures. For it is not without meaning that
the Lord our God says to the Prophet Joel, _Lament to me for the spouse
girded with sackcloth and for the husband of her youth_, expressing
his grief for the Synagogue, who, before, in her virginity, had been
espoused to the Word of God, or, it may be, for a soul which had
fallen from her good deeds, that by the heinousness of her sins she had
incurred hatred, and through the defilement of impiety and the stains
of unbelief had become miserable and despised, and far removed from the
grace of that Spouse which had before been counted worthy to be told,
_I will betroth thee unto Me in righteousness and in judgment and in
lovingkindness and in mercies_.

  Sidenote: Mal. iv. 2.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. ix. 15.

2. Not without reason is she considered miserable, who has lost gifts
of so great a price, and suffered so grievous a loss of her dowry of
virtues as to be deprived of the Spouse of her virginity. For according
to our merits the Word of God either lives or dies in us; for if our
desires and works are good, the Word of God lives and acts in us: if
our thoughts and actions are darksome, the Sun of righteousness sets
within us. And therefore He bids lamentation to be made for such a soul.
For as they have cause of congratulation and feasting with whom the
Bridegroom dwells, so that soul is to be mourned for, from whom the
Spouse has been taken, as it is written of the Apostles in the Gospel;
for _when the Bridegroom shall be taken away from them, then shall they
fast in those days_.

  Sidenote: Ps. civ. 15.

3. Thus too this soul, in former times when she possessed the Virgin
Word, had joy and gladness. And therefore she fasted not, because it
was the season of feasting and refreshment; the Bridegroom was present
bestowing by His presence the riches of plenty, stores of heavenly food,
and dropping _wine, whereby the hearts of men are made glad_. But after
she lost the Bridegroom by her acts, she is commanded to do penance in
sackcloth for her sins, and to bewail herself, because Christ, Who is
the Virgin Word, died and was crucified for her.

  Sidenote: Ecclus. xv. 2.

4. If this soul was espoused from early age, and never bore any other
yoke, but from the beginning dedicated the maiden flower of her faith
to Christ and as a virgin was united to Him in early days in the
mysteries of piety, received a training in holiness as a heifer does
the yoke; she is the very soul of the ancient Jewish stock from the
family of the patriarchs, who, had she kept her course of faith without
stumbling, would have been counted worthy of great things, the Spouse
of the Virginal Word, as she who lays hold of Wisdom, _and as a mother
shall she meet him, and receive him as a wife married of a virgin_.

  Sidenote: 1 Sam. xxv. 39.

5. The other likewise is procured from the Gentiles, and both are the
Spouse of the One Word, which is a great mystery. And this is set forth
to you in the book of Kings; since David had two wives, Ahinoam the
Jezreelitess and Abigail whom he obtained afterwards; the first more
severe, the latter full of mercy and grace, an hospitable and liberal
soul, who saw the Father with open face, having beheld His glory; she
who received the divine dew of paternal Grace, as the interpretation
of the name signifies. Now what is the dew of the Father, but the Word
of God, Who has filled the hearts of all with the moisture of faith and

  Sidenote: Ib. 32.

  Sidenote: Ib. 35.

  Sidenote: Cant. ii. 14.

6. Well therefore does the true David say to this soul what was said to
Abigail, _Blessed is the Lord God of Israel which sent thee this day to
meet me_. And again he says to her, _Go up in peace to thine house; see,
I have hearkened to thy voice, and have accepted thy person_. Lastly in
the Song of Solomon these are the words of the Bridegroom to the Bride,
_Let me see thy countenance; let me hear thy voice_.

7. And at the time she was dismissed, for she had another husband who
in Hebrew was called Nabal, which in Latin means foolish, a man harsh,
inhospitable, uncourteous, ungrateful, who knew not how to repay good
offices; but after his death, she was _set free from the law of her
husband_, and the prophet David took her to wife. By this marriage the
mystery of the Church which was to be called from among the Gentiles
is signified, for she, having lost the husband to whom she had been
married, became converted to Christ, bringing with her a dowry of piety,
of humility and faith, enriched also with the patrimony of mercy.

  Sidenote: Ps. xliv. 15.

  Sidenote: Mic. iv. 4.

8. But in this place it is not this wife, but that Ahinoam, who was
evilly disposed towards her brother, wherefore her brother was made a
trouble to her, and in their person it is said, _thou makest us to be
a bye-word among the heathen, and that the people shake their heads
at us_. The devil, finding her off her guard, fell upon her as a lion,
and deprived her of her charms, rooted up _her vine and fig-tree_ under
which she used to repose, and caused her fruit to wither.

  Sidenote: Joel i. 8.

  Sidenote: Hosea iv. 6.

9. But now God, having compassion on them, thus dried up and withered
by drought, saith to the prophet, _Lament to Me for virgin girded
with sackcloth and for the husband of her youth_, that is to say,
over the dead husband of this soul or of the Synagogue. And with her
He expostulates in another place, forasmuch as she had forgotten her
resolution, forgotten His grace, had wandered from discipline, and had
lost her former affections as a wife. Lastly therefore He reproves her
with His words, calling to mind and repeating her tenderness and her
expressions of affection: ‘Didst Thou not call me one of Thy household,
the parent and guide of Thy virginity.’

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. xi. 14.

  Sidenote: Eph. iv. 13.

10. Wherefore for this soul, to whom through her infidelity the Word of
God is dead, and this Virgin Word is dead also, He appoints grief and
brings in an Intercessor, that so she may be called to penitence, and
may thereby earn compassion. But she who is of prudent understanding
and very beautiful to look upon, was gained for him, like Abigail,
in battle; her adversaries were conquered, and her husband, he who,
surrounded by spiritual wickedness, struggled and fought not to lose
his beautiful wife, being dead. On her, her victorious and loving
Spouse confers sweetness and grace, cleansing her from all that
might obscure her beauty, and taking off from her the garments of her
captivity, that so, laying aside all the hairs of her head, that is,
the curls of sins, which seem to be superfluous parts of our person
(for _if a man have long hair it is a shame unto him_), she may strive
to come _in the unity of the faith, unto a perfect man, unto the
measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ_, that she may lay
aside all trouble of mind, and founded in love may grow up in the Lord
Jesus, and make increase of the whole body.

  Sidenote: Deut. xxi. 12.

  Sidenote: Ib. 12.

  Sidenote: Eccles. ii. 14.

  Sidenote: Deut. xxi. 13.

  Sidenote: Jer. xvii. 12. Vulg.

11. This is that soul whom the Law shews to thee under the figure of
a beautiful woman, and _if thou seest her among the captives, and hast
a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife_, it says
to thee, _thou shalt bring her home to thine house_, that thou mayest
commit to her the whole interior of thy house, the possession of all
thy secrets, that thou mayest take away her superfluities, and cut
off her transgressions; and with a razor not too sharp, lest it come
to evil, may cut off the slough of thy passions, and thy idle senses.
Wherefore it is said, _she shall shave her head_, that so the _wise
man’s eyes_ that _are in his head_ may meet with no hindrance. And _she
shall remain_, it is said, _in thine house a full month_, bewailing
the sins of her nativity, and the lies of her wicked father the devil,
who would fain _gather what he hath not laid_, that so, cleansed by the
purification of this mystic number, she may obtain the keys of marriage.

  Sidenote: Deut. xxi. 13.

  Sidenote: Wisd. viii. 19.

  Sidenote: Cant. iii. 4.

12. And it is well said, _After that thou shalt go in unto her_,
bidding thee to enter wholly into thy soul, and collect thyself within
her, and so dwell in her that thou mayest be not in the flesh but in
the spirit, and purpose to associate her to thyself in the commerce of
life, knowing that she will communicate to thee of her goods, and that
filled with her grace thou mayest say, _I was a witty child, and had
a good spirit_; and she may answer thee, _I will take thee, and bring
thee into my mother’s house, and unto the chamber of her that conceived
me. A good mother of souls in that Jerusalem which is in heaven._

  Sidenote: Deut. xxi. 14.

13. She then shall be thy life, she shall find thee and kiss thee. _And
it shall be, if thou hast no delight in her_, because she chastiseth
her body, and bringeth it into slavery, thou shalt not suffer her to
be a slave, that is, to the lusts of the body, nor subject her to the
flesh, but suffer her to remain free; thou shalt not alienate her,
for this were to sell her, nor shalt thou despise her, but shalt allow
her to serve God in the chastity of faith and sobriety of good works.
Farewell: love me, for I love you.

                             LETTER XXXII.
                               A.D. 387.

  S. AMBROSE in this Letter applies the words of Jeremiah about
  the partridge (Jer. xvii. 11.) to Satan, and from it sets forth
  the way in which Jesus Christ has overcome him, and rescued man
  from his power.

                     AMBROSE TO IRENÆUS, GREETING.

  Sidenote: Jer. xvii. 11.

  Sidenote: 1 Kings iv. 33.

1. _THE partridge hath cried, she hath gathered what she hath not
hatched[167]._ From the conclusion of my last letter I may borrow the
opening of the ensuing. The question has been much mooted: with a view
therefore of solving it, let us consider what natural history tells us
of the nature of this bird. For it is the part of no little sagacity to
consider even this, for Solomon knew the nature _of beasts and of fowl,
and of creeping things and of fishes_!

2. Now this bird is said to be full of craft, fraud, and guile, skilled
in the ways of deceiving the fowler, and experienced in the arts of
turning him aside from her young ones; omitting no artful stratagem
which may draw off the pursuer from her nest and lurking place. And
we know that on observing his approach, she beguiles him until she has
given her offspring the signal and opportunity for flight. As soon as
she perceives they have escaped, she also withdraws herself, leaving
her enemy deluded by her treacherous wiles.

3. It is said also to be a bird which copulates indiscriminately,
and that the male bird rushes eagerly on the female, and burns with
unrestrained desires. Wherefore it has been thought suitable to compare
this impure malicious and deceitful creature with the adversary and
circumventor of the human race, with him who is the arch-deceiver and
author of impurity.

  Sidenote: Gen. iii. 4, 5.

  Sidenote: Exod. v. 2.

  Sidenote: Num. xvi. 2.

  Sidenote: Exod. xxxii. 1.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xxvii. 23–25.

  Sidenote: 1 Sam. viii. 5.

4. _The partridge then cried_, he that is, who derives his name from
destroying[168]: even Satan, which in Latin means the adversary[169].
He cried first in Eve, he cried in Cain, he cried in ♦Pharaoh, in
Dathan, Abiram, ♦Korah. He cried in the Jews, when they demanded gods
to be made for them, while the law was being given to Moses. He cried
again, when they said of the Saviour, _Let Him be crucified, let Him
be crucified_, and, _His blood be on us and on our children_. He cried,
when they required that a king should be given them, that they might
revolt from the Lord God their King. He cried in every one who was vain
and faithless.

  Sidenote: Gen. i. 27.

  Sidenote: Jer. xvii. 11.

  Sidenote: Isa. lxiii. 1.

5. And by these cries he gathered to himself a people whom he had
not created; for God made man after His own likeness and image, and
the Devil drew man to himself by the allurements of his voice: He
gathered to himself the nations of the Gentiles, _getting riches not
by right_[170]. Wherefore it is a common saying concerning the rich
and covetous man, that he is a partridge gathering riches not by right.
But my Jesus, as a good Judge, does all things with righteousness[171],
for He came saying, as it is written, _I speak righteousness and
judgement[172] of salvation_.

  Sidenote: Gen. iv. 10.

  Sidenote: Exod. xiv. 15.

  Sidenote: Josh. i. 1.

  Sidenote: Ps. cxix. 146.

  Sidenote: Isa. xl. 6.

  Sidenote: Prov. ix. 5.

  Sidenote: Hab. ii. 11.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xxvii. 46.

  Sidenote: S. Luke xxiii. 43.

  Sidenote: Jer. xvii. 11.

6. By that grace then He despoiled that partridge the Devil, took
from him the ill-gotten riches, even the multitude that followed Him,
recalled from error the souls of the Gentiles, and the minds of the
nations that wandered from the way. And since He knew that they were
beguiled by the voice of the Devil, and in order that He might Himself
loose the bonds and chains of ancient error, He cried first in Abel,
the voice of whose blood cried out. He cried in Moses, to whom He said,
_Wherefore criest thou unto Me?_ He cried in Joshua, He cried in David,
who says, _Unto Thee do I call, help me_. He cried too in all the
Prophets. Wherefore He says also to Isaiah, _Cry_, and Isaiah answers,
_What shall I cry?_ He cried in Solomon, calling to all with a very
loud voice in the power ♦of Wisdom, _Come eat of my bread, and drink
of the wine which I have mingled_. He cried also in His Body, as the
_Beam out of the timber_. He cried that He might deceive and circumvent
the lurking Enemy, saying, _My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me_.
He cried that He might spoil him of his prey, replying to the thief,
_Verily I say unto thee, this day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise_.
Wherefore when Jesus cried, straightway that partridge was left by
those whom he had gathered _in the midst of his days_.

7. Wherefore some have thought that this also agrees with the nature of
the partridge, forasmuch as it steals the eggs of others, and hatches
them with its own body, seeking by this treachery to gain for itself
the offspring of others. But when she whose eggs have been stolen,
or nest invaded, or her young have been tempted by a fraudulent
resemblance, and deceived by the appearance of beauty, when she, I say,
perceives this, she ‘picks out the crow’s eyes[173]’ as the saying is,
and, being inferior in strength, puts on and arms herself with cunning.
And when all the labour she has bestowed on their nurture has exhausted
her store of food, and her young ones have begun to grow up, she utters
her cries, and calls to her offspring with the trumpet (as it were)
of affection. And they, roused by this natural sound, recognise their
mother, and desert their pretended parent. And thus, seeking to gather
what he has not hatched, he loses those whom he thought to bring up.

  Sidenote: Rom. vi. 8.

8. Not without need therefore was it that Jesus also cried; it was in
order that the whole universe which had been deceived by the voice, the
allurements, the art, the specious beauty of the partridge, and enticed
by his treacherous wiles, and had wandered from the true Author of
their being, might be recalled by the voice of her true Parent, might
abandon this deceiver, and desert him _in the midst of his days_, that
is, before the end of this world. From him the Lord Jesus has rescued
us, and called us to eternal life. Wherefore now, _being dead to the
world we live to God_.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. i. 27.

  Sidenote: Ib. iii. 18.

9. When then this partridge shall have been completely forsaken by his
false children, then that foolish one whom God has chosen and who has
confounded the wise man, will be saved. Wherefore _if any man seemeth
to be wise in this world let him become a fool, that he may be wise_.

Farewell my son, and love me, as indeed you do, for I love you.

                            LETTER XXXIII.

  S. AMBROSE in this Letter explains more fully the text of Deut.
  (xxi. 15 &c.) which he had alluded to in Letter xxi. and makes
  the _two wives_ represent qualities.

                     AMBROSE TO IRENÆUS, GREETING.

  Sidenote: Deut. xxi. 15.

1. IN a previous letter I said that the soul ought to be delivered
from its adversaries, and a bond of life which shall be inseparable
entered into with it. And inasmuch as my discourse took as a proof of
its assertion that passage in the Book of Deuteronomy which speaks of
the man who had two wives, one beloved and the other hated, you seem to
have felt much concern lest any one should suppose this man had taken
to himself two souls, which is impossible.

2. But you yourself know that sometimes, when Scripture uses allegory,
it refers some things to the figure of the Synagogue, some to that
of the Church; some things to the soul, others to the mystery of the
Word, others to souls of different kinds and qualities, which he who
has spiritual discernment can distinguish. And so I conceive that it
is not two souls, but different qualities of the same soul, which are
treated of in the following chapter of the Law. For there is an amiable
kind of soul, which desires pleasure, which shuns labour, shrinks
from compunction, slights the judgments of God. It is amiable because
it seems gentle and sweet for the time, and one that soothes rather
than distresses the mind. But there is another severer kind, which is
consumed with zeal for God, which, like a strict wife, will not permit
or suffer her consort to commit whoredoms, allows no indulgence to the
body, gives no licence to delight or pleasure, renounces the hidden
deeds of shame, devotes herself to arduous labours and to severe perils.

  Sidenote: Ib. 16.

  Sidenote: Exod. xiii. 2.
            S. Luke ii. 23.

3. If therefore both have borne children, _he may not_, it is said,
_when he maketh his sons to inherit that which he hath, make the son
of the beloved first[174] before the son of the hated, which is indeed
the first_. The meaning of which I conceive not to be so much a simple
preference as between two first ones, but rather a declaration that
the son of the hated wife alone has the prerogative of being first. Now
the word ‘primitivus’ means as first-born[175], and the first-born are
holy, for _every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the
Lord_. Nevertheless all first-born are not holy, for Esau who was the
first-born was not holy.

  Sidenote: Numb. iii. 12, 13.

  Sidenote: Heb. xii. 22.

  Sidenote: Gen. xxix. 34.

4. But the holy are the first-born, for it is written in Numbers;
_Behold, I have taken the Levites from among the children of Israel
instead of all the first-born that openeth the matrix among the
children of Israel. For on the day that I smote all the first-born in
the land of Egypt, I hallowed unto Me all the first-born in Israel._
Wherefore He took the Levites for the first-born, as being holy,
for we know that the holy are first-born from the Epistle to the
Hebrews, where it is written, _But ye are come to Mount Sion, and
unto the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of Angels
and to the Church of the first-born_. Wherefore as the first-born of
the Church are holy, so also are the Levites, for they also are the
first-born. For it is not by the order of their birth but by the gift
of sanctification that they are holy; Levi being the third son of Leah
and not the first.

  Sidenote: Ps. lviii. 3.

  Sidenote: Gal. i. 15.

  Sidenote: S. John i. 26.

5. But he who is sanctified himself opens the womb. What womb? Hear
the words, _As soon as they are born they go astray_. As you have
understood the first-born who opens the womb, so understand here the
womb of the good mother, from which it is not saints, but sinners who
go astray. But the Levites are taken away from the midst of Israel,
because they have nothing in common with the people, whose earthly
first-born are destroyed. The first-born of the world are of another
mother, from whose womb Paul was separated when he was called to the
grace of God. He received the Word Who is in the midst of our hearts.
Whence it is said also, _There standeth One among you, Whom ye know

  Sidenote: Deut. xxi. 16.

  Sidenote: Gen. xlv. 22.

6. This digression then of ours from one part of the Law to the other,
for the purpose of shewing that the first-born is not the son of the
beloved, that is of the more remiss and voluptuous wife, has not been
needless, although the words of the chapter before us express the same
truth: _He may not make the son of the beloved first-born before the
son of the hated, which is indeed the first-born_. He is indeed the
first-born who is the holy son of a holy mother; just as she is indeed
the mother, from whose womb not her true sons but sinners go astray.
Wherefore the former is not the son of the true mother, nor the true
first-born, but as though he were so, subsistence is indeed provided
for him that he may not want, but he is not honoured, that he may
become rich. But the other has received double from all, that he may
abound; just as in Genesis each of the patriarchs had two changes of
raiment given to them by their brother Joseph, when they were sent back
to their father to tell him that he whom he had believed to be dead was

  Sidenote: Deut. xxi. 17.

  Sidenote: Rev. i. 8.

  Sidenote: Gen. xxi. 10.

7. Thus the first-born has received the prerogative of inheritance,
as the Scripture says, _He is the beginning of his strength, the right
of the first-born is his_. Thus from the first-born Son of God the
first-born are holy, and from that beginning, (for He is the Beginning
and the Ending,) the beginning is called holy, the beginning is the
son to whom the prerogative of the first-fruits is due, according to
that which was said to Abraham, _Cast out this bondwoman and her son,
for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with

  Sidenote: Ib. xxi. 12.

8. Now the Divine Oracle teaches us that this relates to the
inheritance of virtues rather than that of mercy, for the Lord says,
_In all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for
in Isaac shall thy seed be called_. What other inheritance was there
in Isaac which could ennoble his father, but that of sanctity? The
son of the handmaid indeed he set over the Gentiles, as bestowing upon
him a simple portion of his patrimony, but to the son of Sarah he gave
a double portion, for on him he bestowed not only temporal but also
heavenly and eternal things.

Farewell: love me, for I love you.

                             LETTER XXXIV.

  HORONTIANUS asks whether the soul is from heaven. S. Ambrose
  first refers him to the Book of Esdras, and then dwells upon
  S. Paul’s statement in Rom. viii.


1. YOU have enquired of me whether the soul is formed of a heavenly
substance; for you are too well instructed to suppose that the soul
is made of blood or fire or any harmony of nerves, as the common
herd of philosophers believe, nor as that patrician sect of them, the
descendants of Plato assert, does that which moves of itself and is
not moved by others appear to you to be the soul, nor indeed have you
approved that fifth kind of element which the keen genius of Aristotle
has introduced, namely a kind of[177] perfection of which the essence
of the soul might be (as it were) framed and compounded.

2. On this subject I advise you to read the book of Esdras, who
despised these trifles of the philosophers, and with a deeper wisdom
which he had gathered from Revelation, pointed out that the soul is of
a nobler substance.

  Sidenote: Rom. viii. 20, 21.

  Sidenote: Acts xvii. 28.

3. The Apostle also, though he has not said it in so many words, has
yet given us to understand, like a good master and spiritual husbandman
calling forth the faculties of his disciples by the hidden seeds of
doctrine, that our souls are of a better creation and a more excellent
nature. For when he says that _the creature was made subject to vanity,
not willingly but by reason of Him Who hath subjected the same in hope,
because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage
of corruption into the glorious liberty of the sons of God_, he shews
that the grace of souls is not small, seeing that by their strength
and excellence mankind rises to the adoption of the sons of God, having
within itself that which is given to it to make it in the likeness
and image of God. For souls are not perceived by truth, nor are they
seen by the bodily eye, wherefore they bear upon them the likeness of
this incorporeal and invisible nature, and excel in their substance
corporeal and sensible qualities. _For the things that are seen are
temporal_, they represent and are united to things that are temporal,
but the things that are not seen are united to the Eternal and Chief
Good, _in Him they live and move and have their being_, and suffer not
themselves, if they are wise, to be separated or divided from Him.

  Sidenote: 2 Cor. v. 4.

  Sidenote: Wisd. ix. 15.

  Sidenote: 2 Cor. v. 7, 8.

4. Every soul therefore, seeing herself shut up in the prison-house
of the body, if it be not debased by her connexion with this earthly
habitation, groans under the burthen of the body to which she is
joined; _for the corruptible body presseth down the soul, and the
earthy tabernacle weigheth down the mind that museth upon many things_,
knowing also that she walks _by faith not by sight_, she is willing
_to be absent from the body to be present with the Lord_.

  Sidenote: Ib. 10.

5. Let us consider then how _the creature hath been made subject to
vanity, not_ indeed _willingly_, but by the Divine ordinance, which
has appointed that our souls should be united to our bodies on account
of their hopes, in order that, hoping for good, they should make
themselves worthy of a heavenly recompense. _For we must all appear
before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive the
things belonging to the body[178]._ Every man’s soul must therefore
consider that she will be rewarded according to deserts of life. And he
says well _the things belonging to the body_, that is to say, the body
which was assigned to her to govern, that if she have governed it well
she may receive the reward for the sake of which she was subjected in
hope, but if ill, she may be punished, forasmuch as she did not trust
in God, nor aspire to that adoption of sons, and to the liberty of true

  Sidenote: 2 Cor. v. 4.

  Sidenote: Ps. cxliv. 4.

  Sidenote: Ib. xxxix. 6.

6. So then the Apostle has taught that man is a creature subject to
vanity. For what is so truly the man as his soul? of its companions he
says, _For we that are in this tabernacle do groan being burthened_.
David also says, _Man is like a thing of nought_, and, _Every man
living is altogether vanity_. Wherefore the life of man in this world
is vanity, to which vanity the soul is subject. And when a holy man
doeth the things of the body, he doeth them not willingly but _by
reason of Him Who hath subjected the same in hope_, he does them for
obedience sake. From this example of the soul then let us proceed to
the other creatures.

  Sidenote: Ps. civ. 19.

7. Consider the sun the moon and the stars; these heavenly
luminaries, although they shine with an excellent brightness, are yet
but creatures, and rise and set in performance of their daily task,
obeying the ordinance of the eternal Creator, dispensing the radiance
wherewith they are clothed, and giving light by night and by day.
As often as the sun is obscured by clouds, as often as is it hidden
by the interposition of the earth, or when the rays of its light are
intercepted, eclipses occur, and, as the Scripture saith, _The moon
knoweth her going down[179]._ She knows when she shines with a full,
and when with a diminished orb. The stars also are overclouded and
disappear, while going through the service of this earthly ministry,
not willingly indeed but in hope; for they hope for the reward of this
their toil from Him Who subjected them. Wherefore they go through it
for His sake, that is, to do His will.

  Sidenote: Rom. xi. 25, 26.

  Sidenote: S. John xix. 6.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xxvii. 25.

  Sidenote: Rom. viii. 20.

8. Nor is it surprising that they bear it with patience, knowing that
their Lord, the Creator of all things in heaven and in earth, took
upon Him our frail body and our servile state. Should not they then
patiently bear the bondage of their corruption, seeing that the Lord
of all humbled Himself even to death for the whole world, took upon Him
the form of a servant, and was made the sin of the world, nay even a
curse for us? Wherefore the heavenly bodies although they groan in that
they are subject to the vanity of this world, yet follow the example
of His goodness, and console themselves with the expectation of being
_delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of glory_,
when the adoption of the sons of God, that is, the redemption of all
men, shall have arrived. For when _the fulness of the Gentiles shall be
come in_, then _all Israel shall be saved_. For what people will He not
pardon when He even pardons that persecuting people, who said, _Crucify
Him, crucify Him_, and, _His blood be on us and on our children_. But
since even the heavenly creation is subject to vanity, albeit in hope,
will not He Who is truly Mercy itself and the Redeemer of the world,
suffer even the perfidy and insolence into which these men through the
vanity of the world have fallen to obtain pardon?

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xxiv. 35.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. xv. 28.

9. To conclude then, both this great and glorious sun, and this moon
which is not obscured by the shades of night, and these stars which
are the garniture of the heaven, all these now suffer _the bondage of
corruption_, for all creatures are corruptible, and the heavens shall
perish and _the heaven and earth pass away_. But hereafter the sun and
moon and the stars of heaven shall rest in the glory of the sons of God,
when God shall be _all in all_, He Who now in His immensity and mercy
is in thee and in us.

  Sidenote: Rev. iii. 1 &c.

10. And shall we not believe that the Angels themselves, who in the
toils of this world fulfil divers ♦ministries, as we read in the
Revelation of S. John, do not also groan when made the ministers of
vengeance and destruction? Seeing that their life is blessed, would
they not rather pass it in their ancient state of tranquillity than
be interrupted by the infliction of vengeance on our sins? They who
rejoice in the salvation of one sinner must surely groan over the
miseries of so grievous sins.

11. If therefore the creatures and powers of heaven suffer the bondage
of corruption, but still in hope, that hereafter they may rejoice on
our behalf and together with us, let us also alleviate the sufferings
of this present time by the hope and expectation of future glory.
Farewell, my son; love me, for I love you.

                             LETTER XXXV.

  IN this Letter S. Ambrose continues his comment on the passage of
  S. Paul, especially on the ‘groans of creation.’

                        AMBROSE TO HORONTIANUS.

  Sidenote: Rom. viii. 22.

  Sidenote: Ib. 20.

  Sidenote: Ib. 21.

  Sidenote: Ib. 22.

1. MY former Letter was a reply to your inquiry; this is a part of my
answer, supplemental not contradictory to the former. In reviewing the
latter part of the passage I was struck, I confess, with his adding,
_we know that every creature groaneth_, seeing that previously he had
said without any addition, _The creature was made subject to vanity_.
For he said not every creature, but, _the creature was made subject_.
And again he says, _Because the creature itself also shall be delivered
from the bondage of corruption_. But in the third place he adds that
_every creature groaneth together_.

2. Now what does this addition mean? It means haply that every creature
is not _subject to vanity_, and therefore every creature will not be
_delivered from the bondage of corruption_. For why should that be
delivered which is free and secure from the subjection of vanity and
the bondage of that corruption? But they all groan together not in
their own but in our pangs, and haply are in travail together of the
Spirit of Salvation, the Spirit of sweetness, waiting for the adoption
of the sons of God, that in the redemption of the human race they may
attain to a common joy and gladness. So then either because of their
charity they all groan for our labour, or for us as a member of their
body, whose head is Christ. But you may understand this as you please,
either as we have said, or simply that every creature groans and
travails together.

  Sidenote: Rom. viii. 23.

3. And now let us consider what follows. _And not only they, but
ourselves also, which have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we
ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit the
redemption of the body._ We are taught in the previous passage what
the adoption of sons is; therefore, in order to explain its meaning,
to that passage we must recur.

  Sidenote: Ib. 13.

  Sidenote: Ib. 16.

  Sidenote: Gal. iv. 6.

  Sidenote: Rom. viii. 17.

4. _He who through the Spirit_, says S. Paul, _mortifies the deeds of
the body shall live_. Nor is it surprising that he should live, since
he who has the Spirit of God, becomes the son of God. Wherefore he is
the son of God that he may receive not the spirit of bondage, but the
spirit of adoption of sons; to the intent that the Holy _Spirit may
bear witness with our spirit that we are the children of God_. But this
is the testimony of the Holy Spirit, that He it is Who cries in our
hearts, _Abba Father_, as it is written to the Galatians. There is also
the great testimony that we are the sons of God; namely that we are
_heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ_. Now he is joint heir with
Him, who is glorified together with Him, and he is glorified together
with Him who by suffering for Him suffers together with Him.

5. And in order to encourage us to suffer, he adds that all things
which we suffer fall far below and are not worthy to be compared with
the recompense of our labours, the reward of future good, which shall
be revealed in us, when we shall be formed anew after the Image of God,
and shall be worthy to behold His Glory face to face.

  Sidenote: Rom. viii. 21.

6. And to exalt the greatness of this future revelation, he adds that
the creation also waits for this revelation of the sons of God, which
now is made subject to vanity, not willingly, but in hope, because it
hopes for the reward of its ministry from Christ, or else because it
also will be _delivered from the bondage of corruption_, and received
into _the glorious liberty of the sons of God_, that there may be one
liberty of the creation and of the sons of God, when their glory shall
have been revealed. But now, so long as this revelation is delayed, the
whole creation groans together, looking for the glory of our adoption
and redemption, already travailing with that Spirit of salvation, and
willing to be delivered from the servitude of vanity.

7. And to this the Apostle has conjoined the groans of the saints, who
have the first-fruits of the Spirit, for they groan also. Of their own
merits they are indeed secure, but since the redemption of the whole
body of the Church is still future, they suffer together with it. For
seeing that the members of this our body still suffer, shall not the
other members, although higher, sympathize with the suffering members
of one and the same body?

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. xv. 28.

  Sidenote: Ib.

8. And this, I suppose, is why the Apostle has said that the _Son
Himself shall be subject unto Him that put all things under Him_, for
they who still labour are not yet subject, and in these perhaps Christ
still thirsts, in these is still hungry, in these is still naked, in
that they do not fulfil the word of God, nor put on Christ, Who is the
Garment of believers, and the Robe of the faithful. They also in whom
He is sick still need medicine, and therefore are not yet subdued, for
this subjection is of strength not of weakness: again, in those who
are strong and obey the commands of God, the Son of God is subject.
But now His travail is greater in those who do not succour those who
are toiling, than in those who still require aid themselves. And this
is the pious and true meaning of the subjection of the Lord Jesus, Who
will subject Himself, to the intent _that God might be all in all_.

  Sidenote: Rom. viii. 23.

  Sidenote: Exod. xxii. 29.

  Sidenote: Ib. xxxiv. 26.

  Sidenote: Gen. iv. 4.

9. We have received the Apostle’s meaning, let us now consider who
are they that _have the first-fruits of the Spirit_. With this view
let us inquire what is intended under the name of first-fruits or of
beginning, _Thou shalt not delay_, it is said, _to offer the first of
thy ripe fruits, and of thy liquors_; further on, _The first of the
first-fruits of thy lands thou shalt bring into the house of the Lord
thy God_. First-fruits and tenths are different, first-fruits are of
greater merit, an act of pious consecration. And on this account Abel
pleased God, for he delayed not to offer his gift, but offered of
the first-fruits of his flock. Although some suppose that there is a
difference between first-fruits[180] and first-born[181], in that on
gathering in the crops, the beginning, so to speak, of all kinds in the
threshing floor are offered, while the first reaping of the harvest is
offered to the Lord; but of this we will speak in another place. But
by the offering of the first-fruits, the whole harvest appears to be
sanctified, but the first-fruits themselves are the most holy.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. xii. 28.

  Sidenote: S. Luke ii. 28.

  Sidenote: S. John i. 47.

  Sidenote: S. Luke xxiii. 53.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. iii. 9.

10. In like manner the saints are the first-fruits of the Lord, and the
chief are the Apostles, _for God hath set in the Church first Apostles_,
who have prophesied many things and preached the Lord Jesus, for they
first received Him. Simeon too received Him, and the prophet Zacharias,
John his son, Nathanael, _in whom there was no guile_, who rested under
the fig tree, Joseph also who was called just, who buried Him. These
are the first-fruits of our faith, nevertheless the nature of other
seeds is the same as that of the first-fruits, although in some there
is less grace, for _God is able of these stones to raise up children to

  Sidenote: Col. i. 18.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. xv. 23. Vulg.

  Sidenote: Col. i. 15.

  Sidenote: Heb. i. 3.

11. You have an example in the Lord Jesus Himself. In the resurrection
of the dead He is called _the first-born from the dead_. The Apostle
also has called Him the first-fruits; _In Christ shall all be made
alive, but every man in his own order, Christ the first-fruits,
afterward they that are Christ’s, who have believed in His coming_.
His body is as truly a body as our own, nevertheless He is called
the first-born from the dead, because He rose first; and He is called
the first-fruits because He is holier than all the other fruits, and
they by union with Him are hallowed also. He also as _the Image of
the invisible God_ is the Head of those found after that Image; in
Him according to His Divinity there is nothing corporeal, nothing
temporary; for _He is the brightness of His Father’s glory, and the
express Image of His Person_. But in our desire to explain the meaning
of first-fruits we have greatly extended the length of our letter.

  Sidenote: S. John xiv. 12.

  Sidenote: 2 Cor. xi. 29.

12. Now the Apostles are our first-fruits, chosen from all the
first-fruits of that time; to them it is said, _And greater things
than these shall ye do_, for the Grace of God hath poured itself into
them. These, I say, groaned, waiting for the redemption of the whole
body, and they still groan, because many are still toiling, who are
yet tossing on the sea. Just as, if a man is reaching the higher shore,
but the waves still dash up to his middle, he groans and is in travail
until he be wholly out of danger. Verily he groans, who still says to
us, _Who is weak, and I am not weak?_

  Sidenote: Rom. viii. 23.

  Sidenote: Gal. iv. 6.

  Sidenote: Rom. viii. 24.

  Sidenote: S. Luke xviii. 42.

13. We need not then to be perplexed by the words, _We, which have
the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan within ourselves, waiting
for the adoption, to wit the redemption of our body_, for the sense
is plain, forasmuch as they, having the first-fruits of the Spirit,
groan, waiting for the adoption of sons. This adoption of sons is the
redemption of the whole body, when he who is to be the son of God by
adoption shall see face to face that Divine and Eternal Good; for there
is the adoption of sons in the Church of God, when the Spirit cries,
_Abba, Father_, as it is written to the Galatians. But this will be
perfected when all shall rise again in incorruption power and glory who
are counted worthy to see the Face of God, for then the human race will
judge itself to be truly redeemed. And so the Apostle boasts, saying,
_For we are saved by hope_. For hope saves, as also faith, whereof it
is said, _Thy faith hath saved thee_.

  Sidenote: Phil. i. 24.

  Sidenote: Rom. viii. 24.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. ii. 9.

14. Therefore the creature which _is made subject to vanity not
willingly but in hope_, is saved by hope; just as Paul too, knowing
that _to die was gain_ to him, that he might be freed from the body and
be with Christ, remained in the flesh for their sakes whom he wished to
win to Christ. Now what is hope but the expectation of things future?
Wherefore he says, _But the hope that is seen is not hope_. For it is
not what is seen but what is unseen that is eternal, _for what a man
seeth, why doth he yet hope for?_ The things that we see we seem to
possess, how then can we hope for that which we already possess? Thus
none of those things which we hope for can we see; _eye hath not seen,
nor ear heard, the things that God hath prepared for them that love

  Sidenote: Ps. xl. 1.

  Sidenote: Lament. iii. 25.

15. Wherefore, if that which is seen cannot be hoped for, it is not
well to read as some do, ‘for[182] because any one sees a thing he also
hopes for it;’ unless it may be understood thus, ‘for that which any
one sees, why does he also hope for or expect it?’ For most true it
is that we hope for that which we see not, and therefore, although it
seem to be absent from us, we still look for it in patience; _I waited
patiently for the Lord, and He inclined unto me_. And we wait patiently,
because _the Lord is good unto them that wait for Him_. And it seems to
agree with this, that through patience He has given it back to us. We
wait for the things which we hope for, but see not. For he does much
who hopes and looks for those things which are not seen, and endures
because he directs his mind to that which is.

  Sidenote: Rom. viii. 24.

  Sidenote: S. John i. 26.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. ii. 9.

16. Now it is well said that _hope that is seen is not hope_, referring
to the power and honour and riches of this world. You may see a man
distinguished by his retinue and equipages, but he has not hope in his
equipages which are seen. Nor is hope in the firmament of heaven, but
in the Lord of heaven. The Chaldæan has not hope in the stars which he
watches; nor the rich man in his possessions or the avaricious man in
usury; but he hath hope who places his hope in Him Whom he sees not,
that is, in the Lord Jesus, Who stands in the midst of us, yet is not
seen. Finally, _eye hath not seen, nor ear heard the things which God
hath prepared for them that love Him_.

                             LETTER XXXVI.

  S. AMBROSE continues, in reply to a question of Horontianus, his
  discussion of the passage of S. Paul, and explains what are his
  ‘groanings unutterable.’

                        AMBROSE TO HORONTIANUS.

1. OUR letters are so linked together that we seem to be holding actual
conversation with one another, so well do you with your question and I
with my explanations supply subject matter for our correspondence.

  Sidenote: Rom. viii. 26.

  Sidenote: Ps. xxvii. 9.

2. You have intimated your doubt of what spirit it is said that he
_maketh intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered_. Let
us then refer to what has gone before, that the passage may make plain
what we are seeking. _Likewise_, it is said, _the Spirit helpeth our
infirmities_. Does it not seem to you that this is the Holy Spirit, for
He is our Helper, as He to Whom it is said, _Thou hast been my succour,
leave me not neither forsake me, O God of my salvation_?

  Sidenote: S. Luke xi. 1.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. xiv. 15.

  Sidenote: Ps. cxliii. 10.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. xii. 7.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. vi. 33.

3. For what other Spirit could teach Paul how to pray? The Spirit of
Christ, like Christ Himself, teaches His disciples to pray, for who
could teach us, after Christ, but His Spirit, Whom He sent to teach
us, and to direct our prayers, _for we pray with the Spirit and we pray
with the understanding also_. That the understanding may pray well,
the Spirit goes before and _leads it forth into the right way_, so
as to prevent carnal things, or what either falls below or exceeds
its strength, from secretly stealing over it. _For the manifestation
of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal._ It is written
also, Seek great things, and small things shall be added unto you; seek
heavenly things, and earthly things shall be added unto you.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. xii. 11.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xxvi. 41.

4. Wherefore He wishes us to seek greater things, not to linger upon
earth. And He knows what to bestow upon us, _dividing unto every man
severally as He will_. Sometimes, knowing our capacity, which we are
ignorant of, He says to us, _Ye cannot receive it now_. I ask for
myself the sufferings of martyrdom, _the_ Holy _Spirit is willing_,
but sees the weakness of my flesh, and lest, while I seek for greater
things I should lose what is less, says to me, ‘Thou canst not bear
this.’ What opportunities have I not had and yet when near the goal
I have been held back[183]. The good ♦physician knows what food is
suitable to each disease, and to each season, for the benefit of health.
Sometimes food seasonably taken restores health; but if a man eat food
unseasonably or of an improper kind, it is dangerous to him.

  Sidenote: Jer. iv. 19.

  Sidenote: Ps. xxxviii. 9.

  Sidenote: 1 Chron. xxi. 17.

5. Therefore since we know not what to pray for, nor how to pray, the
Holy Spirit prays for us; for He is the Spirit of Jesus our Advocate,
and He prays with groans unutterable, for Christ also mourns for us.
And God the Father says, _My bowels, My bowels, I am pained at the very
heart_. We often read too of Him as being indignant and grieved. He
groans to take away our sins, and to teach us to do penance. For there
are pious groans, and of prevailing power with God, whereof the Prophet
speaks, _And my groaning is not hid from Thee_. For he did not hide
himself, like Adam, but said, Behold I am the shepherd, _but these
sheep, what have they done? it is I that have sinned, let Thine hand
be on me_.

  Sidenote: 2 Cor. xii. 4.

  Sidenote: Rom. viii. 27.

  Sidenote: Ib.

6. Hence then cometh the groaning of the Spirit of God, and those
groans of the Prophet[184], truly unutterable because they are divine.
So those words which Paul heard in heaven are _unspeakable, which it
is not lawful for a man to utter_, but what is hidden from man is known
to God. Now He Who is the Searcher of hearts knows all things, but the
things which He searches are those which the Spirit hath cleansed. God
therefore knoweth what the Spirit prays for, and what is the wisdom of
the Spirit Which intercedes for the saints, as it is written, _For the
Spirit maketh intercession for us_. For those for whom Christ suffered,
and whom He cleansed by His Blood, for them the Spirit also intercedes.

Farewell: love me as a Son, for I too love you.

                            LETTER XXXVII.
                               A.D. 387.

  SIMPLICIAN, to whom this and the following Letters, and several
  later ones, are addressed, seems, from what little we know of
  him, to have been a very learned and yet simple-minded man.
  He was older than S. Ambrose, who speaks in this Letter of his
  ‘fatherly love’ towards himself, and was probably his adviser
  in the early days of his episcopate, and possibly, as the
  Benedictine Editors, (note on Letter lxv,) suggest, his ‘father
  in the faith,’ as having prepared him for his ordination,
  or even taught him as a catechumen at Rome in earlier days.
  Paulinus tells us that when S. Ambrose was on his death-bed he
  overheard some of his Clergy discussing the probabilities as
  to his successor, and when they mentioned Simplician’s name,
  he said “as if he were taking part in the convention, ‘Trahitur
  autem sapientia de occultis.’” Certainly Simplician was
  unanimously chosen his successor.

  In this Letter he dwells in detail upon the theme that goodness
  is true freedom and sin slavery, which he illustrates at great
  length and with much rarity of argument. It is one of the most
  interesting of his expository Letters.


1. WHEN we were lately conversing together, in the intimacy of an
old-standing affection, you let me see that you were much pleased by
my taking a passage from the writings of the Apostle Paul to preach
upon to the people. You said further that this was the case, because
the depth of his counsels is difficult to grasp, while the loftiness
of his sentiment rouses the audience, and stimulates the preacher;
and also because his discourses are so fully, for the most part, the
interpreters of his meaning, that the expounder of them finds nothing
to add of his own, and, if he would say ought, fills the part of a
critic rather than of a preacher.

2. However since I recognize herein the feelings of long friendship,
and what is still more precious, the tenderness of your paternal regard,
(for in length of attachment many may participate, but in paternal
love they cannot;) since moreover you consider that I have already done
what you ask satisfactorily, I will comply with what you desire, and
that the more, as I am admonished and stimulated by my own example, an
example not difficult for me to follow, since I shall imitate no great
one, but myself only, thus returning to my own humble customs.

3. As to the plan pursued in my discourse, seeing that the image and
character of the blessed life is delineated therein, I think I have so
arranged the argument of it that it will not be disapproved by others,
certainly not by yourself who are so partial to me, although it is more
difficult to satisfy your judgment than theirs, only your affection
softens its severity and renders it more indulgent to me.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. vii. 23.

4. Now this Letter, written as it is in your absence, has for its
subject the sentence of the Apostle Paul, who calls us from slavery
into liberty, saying, _Ye are bought with a price, be not ye the
servants of men_, shewing that our liberty lies in the knowledge of
wisdom. This opinion has been bandied to and fro by philosophers in
energetic discussions, while they assert that every wise man is free
and every fool a slave.

  Sidenote: Ecclus. xxvii. 11.

  Sidenote: Eph. iv. 14.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xiii. 43.

5. But this was said long before by the son of David, _The fool
changeth as the moon_. The wise man on the other hand is not dispirited
by fear, nor changed by power, nor exalted by prosperity, nor cast
down by sadness; for where wisdom is, there also is strength of mind,
constancy, and fortitude. Now the wise man remains the same in mind,
neither depressed nor exalted by the vicissitudes of things, he is
not _tossed to and fro as a child, and carried about with every wind
of doctrine_, but continues perfect in Christ, grounded in charity,
rooted in faith. Hence he is not conscious of failure, he knows not the
various losses which befal the soul, but _shall shine forth as the Sun
of righteousness Who shines in the kingdom of His Father_.

  Sidenote: Gen. ix. 25.

6. But let us now consider from what source Philosophy more fully
derived this, from what discipline and wisdom of the Patriarchs. Did it
not come first from Noah who, perceiving that his son Ham had foolishly
derided the nakedness of his father, cursed him in these words, _Cursed
be Ham[185], a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren_, and
set his brethren as lords over him, seeing that they had wisely deemed
their fathers old age worthy of honour?

  Sidenote: Gen. xxvii. 29.

7. Did not also that source of all good discipline, Jacob, who on
account of his wisdom was preferred to his elder brother, instil into
the breasts of all the riches of this copious subject? So also the
pious father, whose paternal affection was equally strong towards his
two sons, although his judgment varied, (for while the ties of blood
sway the affections, our judgments are formed according to desert,)
and who therefore dispensed to the one grace, to the other mercy,
to the wise grace, to the foolish mercy, seeing that Esau could not
raise himself to virtue by his own proper strength nor make progress
spontaneously, blessed him in rendering him the subject and servant of
his brother, shewing thereby that folly was so much worse than slavery
that slavery itself is a remedy for it; because a fool cannot govern
himself, and unless he has some director he falls by his own will.

8. His father therefore, loving him and careful for his welfare, made
him the servant of his brother that he might be ruled by his counsels.
And thus wise rulers are given to an indiscreet nation, that by their
vigour they may guide the weakness of the people, ruling them by a show
of power, and by this weight of authority constraining them against
their wills to obey those wiser than themselves, and to submit to the
laws. On the foolish son therefore he laid a yoke as on one untamed,
and to him who had said he would live by his sword he denied even
freedom; that he might not fall away through presumption he set his
brother over him, that being subdued by his authority and governance
he might make progress towards conversion. And since there are two
kinds of service, (for that which proceeds from necessity is weaker,
that from free will stronger, for that good is more transcendent which
proceeds not from necessity but from free will,) he therefore first
laid upon him the yoke of necessity, and afterwards imparted to him the
blessing of voluntary subjection.

  Sidenote: Ps. cv. 18.

9. It is not then nature which makes a person a slave, but folly; not
manumission which sets free, but discipline. Esau was born free, and
was made a servant, Joseph was sold into slavery, and then elected
to power, to rule over those who bought him. He disdained not to be
sedulous and obedient, but he maintained the height of virtue, he
preserved the liberty of innocence, the dignity of integrity. The
Psalmist therefore says well, _Joseph was sold to be a bond-servant;
they humbled his feet in fetters_. _He was sold_, it is said, _to be
a bond-servant_, but they could not make him a bond-servant; _they
humbled his feet_, not his soul.

  Sidenote: Ib. 19.

  Sidenote: Eph. vi. 16.

10. For how was that soul humbled of which it is said: _His soul
pierced the iron_? For while sin pierces the souls of others, (for
_the iron_ means sin, which has a penetrating power,) the soul of holy
Joseph was so far from being vulnerable by sin that it pierced through
sin itself. The blandishments of his mistress’ charms moved him not,
and with reason was he insensible to the flames of lust, seeing that he
was consumed by the brighter fire of Divine grace. It is therefore well
said of him also, _The word of the Lord inflamed him_; for thereby _he
quenched the fiery darts of the Devil_.

  Sidenote: Gen. xli. 48.

  Sidenote: Ib. xlvii. 20.

  Sidenote: Ib. 22.

11. How was he a bond-servant who directed the princes of the people
to store up the corn, that thus they might forestall and provide for
future dearth? Or how was he a bond-servant, who gained the whole land,
and reduced all the Egyptians to bondage? And this, not in order to
impose upon them the condition of an ignoble bondage, but that he might
establish a tribute from all but the lands of the priesthood, which he
preserved free from tribute, that among the Egyptians also respect for
the priesthood might be held inviolable.

  Sidenote: 1 Esdr. iv. 29, 30, 31.

12. His being sold then did not make him a slave; for though of a truth
he was sold to merchants, yet, if you regard price merely, you will
find many who have bought for themselves maidens of an elegant form,
and then, captivated by love, have basely enslaved themselves to them.
_Apame the concubine of King Darius was once seen sitting at his right
hand, taking his diadem off his head, and placing it on her own, and
with the palm of her left hand striking his face, while the King gazed
upon her with open mouth, glad if she would only smile upon him, and
thinking himself miserable and afflicted if she scorned him, laying
aside his authority, and seeking to soothe and persuade her to be
reconciled to him._

  Sidenote: Prov. xvii. 2. ♦LXX.

13. But why should I quote this at so great a length? Do we not often
see parents who have been made slaves by pirates or cruel barbarians
ransomed by their children? Are then the laws of mercy more powerful
than the laws of nature? Is natural affection produced in slavery?
People often buy lions and yet have no mastery over them, nay are
so much their slaves that if they see them becoming enraged and
shaking out their manes on their brawny necks, they run away and hide
themselves. Money then determines nothing, for it often buys masters
over itself, nor do catalogues of auctions, for by them the purchaser
himself is often sold and allotted to another. A contract of sale does
not change a man’s nature, nor deprive wisdom of her liberty. Many free
men, as it is written, serve a wise servant, and _there is a wise slave,
who governs foolish masters_.

  Sidenote: Deut. xv. 6.

14. Whom then do you consider as more truly free? Wisdom alone is
free, she sets the poor over the rich, and makes the servants lend
at usury to their to their own masters; lend, that is, not money but
understanding, lend the talent of that Divine and eternal Treasure
which is never wasted, the mere loan of which is precious: to lend
that mystical money of the heavenly oracles of which the Law says,
_Thou shalt lend unto many nations, but thou shalt not borrow_. This
the Jew lent to the Gentiles, for he received not instruction from them
but imparted it; to him the Lord opened His treasures, that He might
moisten the Gentiles with the dew of His Word, and might become the
Head of the nations, while He Himself had no head over Him.

  Sidenote: Is. lv. 1.

15. He then who is wise is free, bought with the price of the heavenly
oracles, with that gold, that silver of the Divine Word; bought with
the price of blood (for it is no small thing to acknowledge one’s
Redeemer;) bought with the price of Grace: he who heard and understood
the words, _Ho every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he
that hath no money, come ye, buy and drink and eat_.

  Sidenote: Deut. xxi. 11.

  Sidenote: Deut. xxi. 14.

  Sidenote: Job xxviii. 18, 19.

16. He is free who going forth to war, if he have seen a beautiful
woman, and when he spoils his enemies’ goods has found her among them
and _has a desire unto her, takes her to wife_, having first _shaved
her head and pared her nails, and taken off from her the raiment
of her captivity_, taking her no longer as a slave but free, for he
understands that prudence and discipline are not liable to a state of
bondage. And therefore the Law says, _Thou shalt not sell her at all
for money_, for truly she is above all price. And Job says, _Take[186]
wisdom into thine ♦inmost parts. The topaz of Ethiopia shall not equal
it_, for it is more precious than gold and silver.

17. Freedom therefore is not his alone who has never had the auctioneer
for his master, nor seen him raising his finger, but he is more truly
free, who is free within himself, who is free by the laws of nature,
knowing that this law has a moral not merely an arbitrary sanction, and
that the measure of its obligations is in accordance not with the will
of man but with the discipline of nature. Does such a person therefore
seem to you free merely? Does he not rather appear to you in the light
of a censor and director of morals? Hence the Scripture says truly that
_the poor shall be set over the rich, and private men over those who
administer the state_[187].

  Sidenote: 1 Tim. i. 9.

  Sidenote: Prov. v. 15.

18. Think you that he is free who buys votes with money, who courts
the applause of the people more than the approbation of the wise? Is
he free who is swayed by the popular breath, who dreads the hisses of
the populace? That is not liberty which he who is manumitted receives,
which he obtains as a gift from the blow of the lictor’s palm. For
it is not munificence but virtue that I hold to constitute liberty;
liberty, which is not bestowed by the suffrages of others, but is
won and possessed by a man’s own greatness of mind. For a wise man is
always free, always honoured, always one who presides over the laws
_For the law is not made for the righteous but for the unrighteous_,
for the just man is a law unto himself, having no need to fetch for
himself from a distance the form of virtue, seeing that he bears it
within his heart, having _the works of the law written on the tablets
of his heart_, to whom it is said, _Drink waters out of thine own
cistern, and running waters out of thine own well_. For what is so near
to us as the Word of God? This word is in our hearts, and in our mouth;
we see it not, and yet possess it.

19. The wise man therefore is free, for he who does that which he
wills is free. But it is not every will that is good, but it is the
part of a wise man to will all things which are good, for he hates what
is evil, having chosen that which is good. If therefore he has chosen
what is good, he whose choice is free and who has chosen what he will
do is free, for he does what he wills to do: the wise man therefore
is free. All that the wise man does he does well. But he that does
all things well does all things rightly, and he that does all things
rightly does them all without offence or reproach, without causing
disturbance or loss to himself. Whoever then has this power of doing
all things without offence or reproach, without loss or disturbance to
himself, does nothing foolishly but does all things wisely. For he who
acts wisely has nothing to fear, for fear is in sin. But where no fear
is, there is liberty, and where liberty is, there is the power of doing
what one wishes: the wise man therefore alone is free.

20. He who can neither be compelled nor forbidden is no slave; now
it belongs to the wise man to be neither compelled nor forbidden; the
wise man, therefore, is not a slave. Now he is forbidden who does not
execute what he desires, but what does the wise man desire but the
things which belong to virtue and discipline, without which he cannot
exist? For they subsist in him, and cannot be separated from him. But
if they are separated from him he is no longer wise, seeing that he
is without the use and discipline of virtue, of which he would deprive
himself if he were not the voluntary interpreter of virtue. But if he
be constrained, it is manifest that he acts unwillingly. Now in all
actions there are either corrections proceeding from virtue, or falls
proceeding from malice, or things between the two and indifferent.
The wise man follows virtue not compulsorily but voluntarily, for all
things that are pleasing he does, as flying from malice, and admits
not so much as a dream of it. So far is he from being moved by things
indifferent, that no forces have the power to move him hither and
thither as they do the herd of men, but his mind hangs as in a balance
in equal scales, so that it neither inclines to pleasure, nor in any
respect directs its desires however slightly to things which ought to
be avoided, but remains unmoved in its affections. Whence it appears
that the wise man does nothing unwillingly or by compulsion, because
were he a slave he would be so compelled; the wise man therefore is

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. ix. 1.

  Sidenote: Gal. ii. 4.

21. The Apostle likewise gives this definition, saying, _Am I not an
Apostle, am I not free?_ Truly he was so free that when certain persons
had _come in privily to spy out his liberty_, he _gave place_, as he
himself says, _by subjection, no not for an hour, that the truth of
the Gospel might be preached_. He therefore who yielded not preached
voluntarily. Where free will is, there is the reward of free will;
where obligation is, there is the service of obligation. Free will
therefore is better than obligation; to will is the part of the wise
man, to obey and to serve is the part of the fool.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. ix. 17.

  Sidenote: Gal. v. 13.

22. This is also the Apostle’s definition, who says, _For if I do this
thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will a dispensation
is committed to me_. On the wise man therefore a reward is conferred,
but the wise man acts willingly, according to the Apostle therefore
the wise man is free. Wherefore he also exclaims, _Ye have been called
unto liberty, only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh_. He
separates the Christian from the Law, that he may not seem to yield to
the Law against his will; he calls him to the Gospel, which the willing
both preach and practise. The Jew is under the Law, the Christian
is by the Gospel; in the Law is bondage, in the Gospel, where is the
knowledge of wisdom, is liberty. Every one therefore who receives
Christ is wise, and he who is wise is free, every Christian therefore
is both wise and free.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. ix. 19.

  Sidenote: S. John xv. 15.

  Sidenote: Gal. v. 13.

  Sidenote: Ps. lxxxi. 6. LXX.

  Sidenote: Phil. ii. 6.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. ix. 24, 27.

23. But the Apostle has taught me something even beyond freedom itself,
namely that to serve is real freedom, _Though I be free from all_, he
says, _yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the
more_. What is that which surpasses liberty but to have the Spirit of
grace, to have charity? Liberty renders us free to men, but charity
renders us beloved by God. Wherefore Christ also says, _But I have
called you friends_. Good indeed is charity; whereof it is said,
_By love of the Spirit[188] serve one another_. Christ also became a
servant that He might make all free. _His hands served in the baskets_:
He Who _thought it not robbery to be equal with God, took upon Him the
form of a servant_, and was made all things to all men, that He might
bring salvation to all. Following this example, Paul was both, as it
were, under the Law, and lived without the Law, for the benefit of
those whom he desired to gain: to the weak he voluntarily became weak
that he might strengthen them; _he ran so as to obtain, he kept under
his body that he might be victorious over heavenly powers in Christ_.

24. To the wise man therefore even bondage is freedom; whence we may
gather that even to be in power is bondage to the fool, and what is
worse, while he rules over a few, he serves more and severer masters.
For he serves his own passions, his own lusts, their tyranny he can
escape neither by night nor day, for he carries these masters within
his own breast, and suffers within himself an intolerable bondage.
For there is a double bondage, one of the body, another of the soul;
now the lords of the body are men, but the lords of the soul are evil
dispositions and passions, from which liberty of the mind alone frees
the wise man and enables him to depart from his bondage.

  Sidenote: Job xiii. 19–21.

25. Let us seek therefore that truly wise man, that truly free man, who
although he live under the dominion of many, says freely, _Who is he
that will plead with me? from Whose sight I shall not be able to hide
myself, only do Thou withdraw Thy hand far from me, and let not Thy
dread make me afraid_.

  Sidenote: Ps. li. 6.

26. And King David, who followed him, said, _Against Thee only have
I sinned_. For being supported by the royal dignity, and being, so to
speak, master of the laws, he was not subject to them but was liable to
God alone, Who is the Lord of hosts.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. iv. 3, 4.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. ii. 15.

  Sidenote: Job xxvii. 2.

  Sidenote: Ib. xxv. 5.

27. Hear another free man; _But with me it is a very small thing that
I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not
mine own self_, for I know nothing _against_ myself, ... _but He that
judgeth me is the Lord_. The freedom of the spiritual man is a true
freedom, because _he judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged
of no man_, because he knows himself to be subject to nothing which
has any participation in the creature, but to God alone, Who only is
without sin, of Whom Job also says, _God liveth Who hath taken away my
judgment_, for the just man can only be judged by Him _in Whose sight
the heavens are not clean, nor the light of the stars pure and clean_.

28. Will any one bring forward those verses of Sophocles which say
‘Jupiter, and no mortal man is ruler over me?’ How much more ancient is
Job, how much older is David? Let them acknowledge then that they have
borrowed from us the more excellent of their sayings.

  Sidenote: Ps. xlv. 8.

29. Who then is wise but he who has arrived at the very mysteries of
the Godhead, and has known the hidden things of wisdom to be manifested
to him. He then alone is wise who has taken God as his guide, to
conduct him to the secret resting-place of truth, and although but a
mortal man has become by grace the heir and successor of the eternal
God, and partaker, as it were, of His sweetness, as it is written,
_Wherefore God, even thy God hath anointed thee with the oil of
gladness above thy fellows_.

  Sidenote: 2 Cor. vii. 5.

  Sidenote: Rom. viii. 37.

30. Now if any man will examine more closely these matters, he will
perceive what great assistance the wise man finds and what great
obstacles the foolish, in the very same things; that to the one freedom
is an aid, to the other bondage is an impediment. For the wise man
rises as a conqueror, having vanquished and triumphed over lust, fear,
sloth, sadness and other vices. This he does until he casts them out
from the possession of his mind, driving and excluding them from all
its bounds and limits, for as a cautious general he knows how to guard
against the incursions of robbers, and those hostile stratagems which
the wicked enemies of our soul are frequently attempting with their
fiery darts; for we have both wars in peace and peace in war. Whence
also he says, _Without were fightings, within were fears_. But _in all
these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us_. He
says this because he was terrified neither by straits nor persecutions,
nor hunger, nor danger, nor death.

  Sidenote: Gen. iv. 14.

31. But he who fears these things, who dreads death, how is he not
a slave? Truly he is a slave, and that in a miserable bondage; for
nothing so subjects the mind to all kind of bondage as the fear of
death. For how can the abject and vile and ignoble sense raise itself
up, when it is deeply sunk in the pit of corruption, through the lusts
of this life. Behold, how much he is a slave: _I shall be hid_, he says,
_and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth, and it shall
come to pass that every one that findeth me shall slay me_. Therefore
as a slave he received a sign, but even thus he could not escape death.
Thus the sinner is a slave to fear, to cupidity, to avarice, to lust,
to malice, to anger, nay, he is a greater slave than if he were set
under tyrants.

32. But they are free who live by the laws. Now true law is right
reason, true law not sculptured on tablets, nor engraved in brass, but
impressed on the mind, and fixed in the senses; for the wise man is not
under the law, but is a law unto himself, bearing the work of the Law
in his heart, inscribed and formed therein by a kind of pen natural to
himself. Are we then so blind as not to see the manifest characters of
things, and the images of virtues? And how unworthy is it that whole
nations should obey human laws, that they may become thereby partakers
of liberty: but that wise men should neglect and abandon the true
law of nature formed according to the image of God, and true reason,
the sign-bearer of liberty; since there is so much liberty therein,
that when children we are unconscious of any bondage to vice, being
removed from anger, free from avarice, ignorant of lust. How miserable
therefore, that we who are born in liberty should die in bondage!

  Sidenote: Exod. xvii. 12.

  Sidenote: Eccles. iv. 5

  Sidenote: Susanna 43.

  Sidenote: Judges xi. 36.

33. But this arises from the levity of our mind and the infirmity of
our character; because we are occupied by idle cares, and superfluous
actions: but the heart of the wise man, his works and deeds, ought to
be stedfast and immoveable. Moses taught us this, when his hands became
heavy, so that Joshua the son of Nun could scarcely hold them up. And
therefore the people were victorious when works not of a perfunctory
kind, but full of gravity and virtue were being carried on, not the
works of a mind unsteady, and staggering to and fro in its affections,
but of one firmly rooted and established. The wise man therefore
stretches out his hands, but the fool draws them together, as it is
written, _The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own
flesh_, meditating on carnal more than spiritual things. But not so did
that daughter of Juda, who stretched forth her hands and cried to the
Lord _Thou knowest that they have borne false witness against me_. She
thought it better not to sin and to incur the calumnies of her accusers,
than to commit sin under the veil of impunity. And by the contempt
of death she preserved her innocence. Not so, either, the daughter
of Jepthah, who by her own consent confirmed and even encouraged her
father’s vow concerning her own immolation.

34. For I will not produce the books of philosophers on the contempt
of death, or the gymnosophists of the Indians, of whom the answer
of Calanus[189] to Alexander, when he commanded him to follow him,
is especially commended. ‘To what praise’ said he ‘do you consider
me entitled, that you require me to travel to Greece, if I can be
compelled to do that to which my will consents not?’ A reply truly full
of dignity, and yet his mind was more full of liberty. He wrote this
letter also.

                         CALANUS TO ALEXANDER.

  35. “Your friends persuade you to lay hands and even constraint
  on the Indian philosophers, not even in their dreams beholding
  our works. Our bodies you may remove from place to place, our
  souls you cannot compel to do what they do not will, no more
  than wood or stone to utter sounds. A great fire burns pain into
  living bodies and begets corruption; on this fire we are, for
  we are burning alive. There is neither king nor prince who can
  compel us to do what we have not determined to do. Nor are we
  like the philosophers of Greece, who have conceived words rather
  than realities, in order to give celebrity to their opinions;
  in our case realities are associated with words and words with
  realities; our acts are swift and our discourses short, we enjoy
  a delightful freedom in the exercise of virtue.”

36 and 37. Excellent words, but still words; excellent constancy, but
that of a man; excellent letter, but that of a philosopher. But amongst
us, even maidens through desire of death have mounted even up to heaven
by the lofty steps of virtue. Why should I mention Thecla, Agnes,
or Pelagia, who sprouting forth as noble tendrils[190] have hastened
to death as if to immortality? The virgin exulted among lions, and
dauntlessly beheld the roaring beasts. And to compare our history with
that of the Indian philosophers, what Calanus boasted in words holy
Laurence proved by his acts, for he was burnt alive, and surviving
the flames said, ‘Turn me and eat me.’ Nor did the youths of the race
of Abraham[191] or the sons of the Maccabees strive less boldly; the
former sung while in the midst of the flames, and the latter, during
their punishment, asked not to be spared, but reproached their
persecutor in order to enrage him more. The wise man therefore is free.

38. But what can be more sublime than holy Pelagia, who was surrounded
by persecutors, but before she came into their presence said; ‘I die
willingly, no man shall touch me, no one with wanton look shall defile
my chastity, I will carry away with me my modesty, my honour untainted;
these ruffians shall reap no profit from their insolence. Pelagia
will follow Christ, no man shall deprive her of her liberty, no man
shall see her free faith made captive, her illustrious chastity, her
inheritance of wisdom. What is enslaved shall remain here, not amenable
to any duty.’ Great therefore is the freedom of that pious virgin, who
encircled by her persecutors gave way not the least in the midst of
these great dangers to her integrity and her life.

  Sidenote: Prov. xxix. 22. stirreth up strife. E.V.

  Sidenote: S. John viii. 34.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. vi. 12, 13.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. x. 29.

39. But he is not free over whom anger reigns, for he is subject to
the yoke of sin; for _an angry man diggeth out sin_, and, _Whosoever
committeth sin, is the servant of sin_. Neither is he free who is
enslaved to avarice, for he cannot possess his vessel. Neither is he
free who seeing his desires and pleasures, fluctuates in his devious
course. He is not free who is bowed down by ambition, for he obeys the
rule of another. But he is free who is able to say, _All things are
lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient, all things are lawful
for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. Meats for the
belly, and the belly for meats._ He is free who says, _For why is my
liberty judged of another man’s conscience?_

  Sidenote: Prov. xxvi. 8.

  Sidenote: Ib. 9.

  Sidenote: Rom. vii. 23.

40. Liberty therefore belongs to the wise man not to the fool; for _he
who binds a stone in a sling is like him who giveth honour to a fool_,
for he wounds himself, and while brandishing his dart chiefly endangers
his own body. Certainly as he is stung by the sling, and by the falling
of the stone the evil is increased, so the fall of a fool when he is
set at liberty is more rapid. Wherefore the power of a fool is rather
to be retrenched than any new liberty added, for slavery is suitable
for him. And therefore it is added, _As a thorn goeth up into the
hand of a drunkard, so is a parable in the mouth of fools_. For as
he is wounded by his cups, so is the fool by his deeds. The one by
drinking involves himself in sin, the other by acting subjects himself
to censure, and by his deeds is drawn into bondage. Paul saw himself
_brought into captivity by the law of sin_, and therefore, in order to
be freed, he fled to the grace of liberty.

  Sidenote: Ps. xxxii. 10.

  Sidenote: Prov. xiii. 24.

  Sidenote: Ps. xxxviii. 4, 5.

41. Fools then are not free, for it is said to them, _Be ye not like
to horse and mule, which have no understanding, whose mouths must be
held with bit and bridle lest they fall upon thee. Great plagues remain
for the ungodly_; for they have need of these, in order that their
folly may be restrained. It is good discipline which requires this,
not severity. Further, _he that spareth his rod hateth his son_: for a
man’s own sins scourge him still more severely. For heavy is the weight
of crime, heavy the scourges of sin; they are heavy as a sore burthen,
they inflict wounds upon the soul, and make the ulcers of the mind to

  Sidenote: Prov. xxiv. 30.

42. Wherefore let us lay aside this grievous burthen of slavery, let
us renounce sensuality, and the evil delights which bind us with the
bonds, as it were, of lusts, and fetter us with chains. For these
delights profit not the fool, and whoever has given himself to them
from his boyhood will abide in bondage; living he will be as dead. Let
sensuality then be cut down, let evil delights be pruned away, and let
him who has been wanton bid farewell to his former courses. For the
vine which has been cut down bears fruit, that which has been partly
pruned puts forth leaves, that which has been neglected grows too
luxuriantly. Therefore it is written, _Like a field is the foolish man,
and like a vineyard the man void of understanding_; if you leave him
alone, he will become desolate. Let us then tend this body of ours, let
us chasten it, let us reduce it to subjection, let us not neglect it.

  Sidenote: Rom. vi. 13.

  Sidenote: Ib.

  Sidenote: Ps. xiv. 6.

43. For our members are _instruments of righteousness_, they are also
_instruments of sin_. If they are raised upwards, they are instruments
of righteousness, that sin should not reign in them: if our body has
died to sin, transgression will not reign therein, and our members will
be free from sin. Let us not therefore obey its lusts, nor _yield our
members instruments of unrighteousness unto sin_. If you have looked
upon a woman to lust after her, your members are the instruments of
sin. If you have spoken and solicited her, your tongue and your mouth
are instruments of sin. If you have removed the landmarks which your
fathers set up, your members are instruments of sin. If you have hasted
_with swift feet to shed the blood_ of the innocent, your members are
instruments of sin.

  Sidenote: Prov. xiv. 7.

  Sidenote: Job xxix. 15.

44. On the other hand, if you have seen a poor man, and taken him
into your house, your members are instruments of righteousness. If you
have rescued one who was suffering wrong, or one who was being led to
execution; if you have cancelled the bond of the debtor, your members
are instruments of righteousness. If you have confessed Christ (for
_the lips of knowledge are the instruments of understanding_,) your
lips are the members of righteousness. He who can say, _I was eyes to
the blind, and feet was I to the lame, I was a father to the poor_, his
members are members of righteousness.

  Sidenote: Job xxxi. 33.

  Sidenote: Prov. xviii. 17.

  Sidenote: Ps. xxxii. 6.

45. Being therefore set free from sin, and redeemed, as it were, at the
price of the Blood of Christ, let us not be made subject to the bondage
of men or of passion. Let us not blush to confess our sins. Behold how
free he was who could say, _I feared not the multitude of the people;
that I should not confess my sin in the sight of all_. For he that
confesses his sin is released from servitude, and _the just accuses
himself in the beginning of his speech_. Not the free but the just man
also; but justice is in liberty and liberty in confession, for as soon
as a man shall confess he is absolved. Lastly, _I said I will confess
my sins unto the Lord, and so Thou forgavest the wickedness of my sin_.
The delay of absolution depends on confessing, the remission of sins
follows closely on confession. He therefore is wise who confesses; he
is free whose sin is remitted, for he contracts now no debt of guilt.
Farewell: love me as indeed you do, for I also love you.

                            LETTER XXXVIII.
                               A.D. 387.

  IN this letter S. Ambrose continues the subject, maintaining
  that the truly wise man is not only free but rich also,
  illustrating his statements with instances from the Old


  Sidenote: 1 S. Pet. iii. 3, 4.

1. WHEN we lately pointed out, taking our theme from the epistle of
the Apostle Paul, that every wise man is free, we seemed to have fallen
into philosophical discussion. But afterwards, in reading the epistle
of the Apostle Peter, I perceived that every wise man is also rich:
and this he says without distinction of sex, for he writes that all
a woman’s ornaments consist in a virtuous life, not in costly jewels,
_Whose adorning_, he says, _is not that outward adorning of plaiting
the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel, but the
hidden man of the heart_.

2. Here then are two things, both that there is a man within the man,
and that he is rich who seeks not for himself the enjoyment of any
riches. And he has well said, _the man of the heart_, in that the whole
man of wisdom is hidden, as is wisdom itself, which is not seen but
understood. No one before Peter used such an expression as, _the man
of the heart_; for the outward man consists of many members, but the
inward man of the heart is entirely full of wisdom, full of grace, full
of beauty.

  Sidenote: 1 S. Pet. iii. 4.

3. _In that_, he says, _which is not corruptible, even the ornament of
a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price_.
And he is truly rich, who can appear rich in the sight of God, in whose
sight the earth is small, the world itself is narrow, but God considers
him only to be rich who is rich for eternity, who lays up the fruit
not of riches, but of virtues. And who is rich before God but that meek
and quiet spirit which is never corrupted? Does not he appear to you to
be rich, who possesses peace of mind and the tranquillity of rest? who
desires nothing, is not tossed by the storms of lust, despises not old
things, seeks not new, so as by his constant desire to become poor in
the midst of riches?

  Sidenote: Phil. iv. 7.

  Sidenote: Prov. xxviii. 10.

4. That peace is truly rich, which _passeth all understanding_. Peace
is rich, modesty is rich, faith is rich, for _to the faithful the whole
world is a possession_. Simplicity is rich, for there are also the
riches of simplicity; for she scrutinizes nothing, has no mean, no
suspicious, no deceitful thoughts, but pours herself forth with pure

  Sidenote: Job v. 17–24.

  Sidenote: Gen. xxvii. 37.

  Sidenote: Job v. 26.

5. Goodness too is rich, and if a man preserve it he is fed by the
riches of the heavenly inheritance. To quote also the more ancient
examples of Scripture, _Happy_, it is said, _is the man whom God
correcteth_. Therefore _despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty
... in famine He shall redeem thee from death, and in war from the
power of the sword. Thou shalt be hid from the scourge of the tongue;
... the beasts of the field shall be at peace with thee, and thou shalt
know that thy tabernacle shall be in peace._ For the vices of this
flesh being subdued, and those passions which are wont to war against
the soul, your tabernacle shall be undisturbed, your house without
offence, your seed shall not fail, your posterity shall be as the smell
of a fruitful field, your burial as the harvest. For while others are
looking for theirs to fail, the heap of your corn will be carried ripe
into the heavenly garners.

  Sidenote: Ps. xxxvii. 26.

6. Fit it is that the righteous ever lendeth, while the wicked man
is in want. He lendeth justice, he lendeth the commandments of God
to the poor and needy; but the fool does not possess even that which
he believes himself to possess. Do you suppose that he can be said
to possess, who brooding over his treasure night and day, is troubled
by covetous and wretched anxiety? Such a one truly wants; although to
others he appears rich, to himself he is poor, because he who is still
grasping after more and desiring more uses not that which he possesses.
For where there are no bounds to desire, what profit can there be in
riches? No man is rich who cannot carry away with him that which he
has, for that which is left behind, is not our own but another’s.

  Sidenote: Gen. v. 24.

  Sidenote: Wisd. iv. 11.

  Sidenote: 2 Kings ii. 11.

  Sidenote: 1 Kings xvii. 9.

  Sidenote: 2 Kings i. 14.

  Sidenote: Ib. ii. 8.

7. Enoch was rich who carried away with him that which he had, and laid
up all the riches of his goodness in the heavenly treasure-house; he
was _taken away lest that wickedness should alter his understanding_.
Elias was rich, who riding in a chariot of fire carried the treasures
of his virtues up to the heavenly mansions. Not small were the riches
he left to his heir, and yet he himself did not lose them. Who would
have called him poor even then, when being himself in need of the
sustenance of daily food, he was sent to the widow that he might be
nourished by her, when at his voice the heaven was shut and opened,
when at his word the barrel of meal and the cruse of oil failed not for
three years, but overflowed; when it was replenished not diminished by
use? Who would call him poor at whose word there came fire down from
heaven, whom the river impassible by others could not retard, retiring
back to its source that the prophet might pass over dry-shod?

  Sidenote: Job xx. 15.

  Sidenote: Prov. xii. 12.

  Sidenote: Ps. xcii. 11.

8. Ancient history tells us of two neighbours, king Ahab and the poor
Naboth; which of these do we believe to be the richer, which the
poorer? The one, endowed with the royal support of riches, insatiable
and not to be replenished with wealth, coveted the little vineyard of
the poor man; the other, despising in his mind the golden fortunes of
kings, and imperial treasures, was content with his own vines. Does not
he appear richer and more kingly, who was sufficient to himself, and
controlled his own desires, coveting nothing that belonged to another?
Does not he, on the other hand, appear most needy, in whose eyes his
own gold was accounted vile, and another man’s vine precious. But learn
for what reason he was most needy: because _riches unjustly gotten are
vomited up again_, but _the root of the righteous yieldeth fruit, and
flourishes like a palm-tree_.

  Sidenote: Ps. xxxvii. 35, 36.

  Sidenote: Ps. xxxiv. 10. LXX, Vulg.

9. Is not he more needy than the poor man, who passeth away like a
shadow? To-day the ungodly is in great power, to-morrow he is not, and
his place can no more be found. But what is it to be rich, unless it
be to abound? But who abounds whose mind is contracted, and therefore
straightened, and what abundance can there be in straits? He therefore
is not rich who does not abound. Wherefore David says well, _The rich
lack and suffer hunger_; for although they possessed the treasures
of the Divine Scriptures, they still lacked in that they did not
understand, and hungered in that they tasted not the food of spiritual

  Sidenote: S. Matt. v. 3.

  Sidenote: Rom. xi. 33.

  Sidenote: Ps. cxix. 14.

  Sidenote: Deut. xxxiii. 23.

  Sidenote: Ib. 23.

10. Nothing can therefore be richer than the temper of the wise man,
nothing poorer than that of the fool. For since the kingdom of God
belongs to the poor, what can be richer? And therefore the Apostle
says well, _O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge
of God_! Well also David, who _had as great delight in the way of
the heavenly testimonies as in all manner of riches_. And Moses says
expressly, _Naphtali, satisfied with favour_. Now Naphtali means when
translated, ‘abundance’ or ‘increase.’ So that to be satisfied and
to abound go together, but where there is the hunger of desire and
insatiable lust, there truly is poverty. But since scarcely any desire
of money or of this world can be satisfied, it is added, _full with

  Sidenote: 1 S. Pet. iii. 3.

11. It is in accordance with these principles that the Apostle Peter
has declared that the ornament of women consists not in gold and silver
and apparel, but in the secret and hidden man of the heart. Wherefore
let no woman put off the dress of piety, the ornament of grace, the
inheritance of eternal life.

Farewell: love me, for I love you.

                             LETTER XXXIX.
                               A.D. 387.

  S. AMBROSE in this Letter seeks to rouse Faustinus from
  excessive grief for his sister’s death, first on the ground of
  duty towards the children left to his care and protection, and
  then on the higher ground of submission to the Divine will, and
  realization of Christian hopes.


1. I WAS well aware that you would grieve with bitter grief for the
death of your sister: still you should not go into banishment, but
rather give yourself back to us, for although mourners are little
inclined to receive consolation, it is sometimes necessary for them.
But you have fled to the recesses of the mountains, and made your
dwelling in the caves of wild beasts, laying aside all customary human
converse and, what is worse, the use of your own reason.

2. Is it in accordance with your esteem for your sister, that human
nature, which ought to be much regarded by you for producing a woman
so excellent, should on her account be of less value in your eyes? In
quitting this life it doubtless was a consolation to her to believe
that she left you behind her as a parent to your nephews, a guardian of
their tender years, a succour to their destitution; but you so utterly
withhold yourself both from your nephews and from us, that we do not
reap any benefit from what she thus found a ground of consolation.
These dear pledges invite you not to grieve, but to comfort them, that
in seeing you they may believe their mother to be still alive. In you
then let them recognize her; in you let them enjoy her presence, in you
think that she still survives to them.

3. But you grieve that she has been lately cut off in the flower of
her age. This however is the common fate not only of men, but of states
and countries themselves. Coming from Bononia[192] you left behind you
Claterna, Bononia itself, Matina, Rhegium; Brixillum was on your right,
in front of you Placentia, by its very name still recalling its ancient
lustre, on the left you saw with pity the wastes of the Apennines,
you surveyed the fortresses of these once flourishing tribes, and
remembered them with sorrowful affection. Do not then the carcases of
so many half-ruined cities, and states stretched on their bier beneath
your eyes, do not these remind you that the decease of one woman, holy
and excellent as she was, is much less deplorable especially as these
are for ever laid prostrate and destroyed, but she though removed from
us for a while is passing a more blessed life elsewhere?

4. Wherefore I deem that you ought not so much to deplore her, as
to offer for her your prayers; make her not sorrowful by your tears,
rather commend her soul to God by oblations.

  Sidenote: 2 Cor. v. 16.

  Sidenote: Gal. ii. 20.

5. Perhaps however you will declare yourself to be secure of her merits
and faith, you cannot endure the feeling of regret at seeing her no
longer after the flesh, which is to you a better grief. And does not
the Apostolic saying move you that _henceforth we know no man after
the flesh; yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now
henceforth know we Him no more_. For our flesh cannot be perpetual and
lasting, it must needs die that it may rise again, it must be dissolved
that it may rest, and sin come to an end. We too have known many
according to the flesh, but now we know them no more. _We have known
the Lord Jesus_, says the Apostle, _after the flesh, yet now henceforth
know we Him no more_. For now He has put off the coil of the body, and
is not seen in fashion as a Man, but has died for all and all are dead
in Him, to the intent that being renewed by Him and quickened in the
Spirit they may no longer live to themselves but to Christ. Wherefore
the same Apostle also says elsewhere, _I live, yet not I, but Christ
liveth in me_.

  Sidenote: Acts ix. 1. &c.

  Sidenote: 2 Cor. v. 17.

  Sidenote: Gen. vi. 3.

  Sidenote: 2 Cor. v. 17.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xiii. 52.

  Sidenote: Cant. vii. 13.

6. And well indeed was it that he who had before known Christ after the
flesh, who had before persecuted and oppressed with bitter hatred the
disciples of the Man, and the attendants on His bodily presence, but
who now recognized His invisible workings, discerning not His bodily
presence but His power,――well indeed was it that he became the teacher
of the Gentiles, and began to instruct and prepare the worshippers of
His Divinity to become preachers of the Gospel. Wherefore he added,
_if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature_, that is, he that is
perfect in Christ is a new creature, for all flesh is imperfect. And
the Lord saith, _My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that
he also is flesh_. No carnal man then is in Christ, but _if any man be
in Christ he is a new creature_, formed by newness not of nature but of
grace. These _old things_ which are according to the flesh _have past
away, all things are made new_. And what are they but the things which
_the scribe instructed unto the kingdom of heaven_ knows, _like unto
that householder, who brings forth out of his treasure things new and
old_; neither old things without new, nor new things without old? Thus
too the Church saith, _things new and old have I laid up for Thee_. For
old things, that is, the hidden mysteries of the Law are passed away,
all things are made new in Christ.

  Sidenote: Gal. v. 6.

  Sidenote: Ps. ciii. 5.

  Sidenote: 2 Cor. v. 19, 20.

  Sidenote: S. John i. 29.

  Sidenote: 2 Cor. v. 21.

7. This is the new creature of which the Apostle writing to the
Galatians saith, _For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any
thing nor uncircumcision, but a new creature_, already our flesh now
renewed flourishes, and having before borne the thorns of inveterate
sin hath now found the fruit of grace. Why then need we grieve, if we
can now say to the soul, _thy youth is renewed like the eagles_? And
why should we bewail the dead, now that by our Lord Jesus _the world
has been reconciled to the Father_? Since then we hold the benefits
which Christ hath given, we are to you as well as to all ambassadors in
Christ’s stead, that you may know His Gift to be irrevocable, that you
may believe what you always have believed, and not bring your opinion
into discredit by too much sorrow. For the Lord Jesus was made sin that
He might _take away the sin of the world_, and we all might be _made
the righteousness of God in Him_; now no longer subject to the penalty
of sin, but sure of the reward of righteousness.

Farewell; love me, for I love you.

                              LETTER XL.
                               A.D. 388.

  IN the year 388 A.D. the synagogue of the Jews at Callinicum in
  Mesopotamia was burnt by the Christians, at the instance, it was
  asserted, of the Bishop. Some monks also in the same district,
  having been insulted by some Valentinian heretics, while singing
  Psalms in procession on the Festival of the Maccabees, (Aug.
  1st.) had burnt their conventicle. Theodosius had ordered that
  the Bishop should re-build the synagogue at his own cost, and
  that the monks should be punished, and the whole matter carefully
  sifted, and justice done. This Letter is written by S. Ambrose
  to remonstrate. He urges his plea with the boldest importunity,
  and, as he tells his sister in the following letter, Theodosius
  eventually yielded.


1. NEARLY incessant are the cares which harass me, most excellent
Emperor, but never was I in such trouble as at present; for I see I
must be on my guard against the danger even of a charge of sacrilege.
Wherefore I beseech you patiently to hear my address. For if I am
unworthy to be heard by you, I am unworthy to offer for you, or to have
your vows and prayers intrusted to me. Will you not hear him whom you
wish to be heard in your behalf? Will you not hear him pleading for
himself whom you have heard when pleading for others? Will you not
dread the consequences of your own judgment; and fear to render him
unworthy to be heard in your behalf, by treating him as unworthy of
a hearing from you.

  Sidenote: Ps. cxix. 46.

  Sidenote: Ezek. iii. 17.

  Sidenote: Ezek. iii. 20, 21.

2. But it is neither the part of an Emperor to deny liberty of speech,
nor of a Bishop not to utter what he thinks. There is no quality more
amiable and popular in an Emperor than to cherish freedom even in those
who owe him military allegiance. For there is this difference between
good and bad rulers, that the good love freedom, the bad slavery.
And there is nothing in a Bishop so offensive in God’s sight, or so
base before men, as not freely to declare his opinions. For it is
written, _I spake of Thy testimonies also even before kings, and was
not ashamed_, and in another place, _Son of man, I have made thee
a watchman unto the house of Israel; with the intent_, it proceeds,
_that if the righteous man doth turn from his righteousness and commit
iniquity, because thou hast not given him warning_[193] that is, hast
not told him what to beware of, _his righteousness which he hath done
shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand.
Nevertheless, if thou warn the righteous man, that the righteous sin
not, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he is warned;
also thou shalt deliver thy soul._

  Sidenote: 2 Tim. iv. 2.

3. I prefer then, to have fellowship with your Majesty in good rather
than in evil; and therefore the silence of a Bishop ought to be
displeasing to your Clemency, and his freedom pleasing. For you will be
implicated in the danger of my silence, you will share in the benefits
of my outspokenness. I am not then an officious meddler in matters
beyond my province, an intruder in the concerns of others, but I comply
with my duty, I obey the commandment of our God. This I do chiefly from
love and regard to you, and from a wish to preserve your well-being.
But if I am not believed, or am forbidden to act on this motive, then
in truth I speak from fear of offending God. For if my own danger
could deliver you, I would consent to be offered for you, though not
willingly, for I would rather that without danger to myself you should
be accepted and glorified by God. But if I am to suffer under the
charge of silence and dissimulation without effecting your exculpation
I had rather you should deem me too importunate than useless or
mercenary. For it is written, in the words of the holy Apostle Paul,
whose teaching you cannot gainsay, _Be instant in season, out of season:
reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine_.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. x. 19, 20.

4. We then also have One Whom it is even more dangerous to displease;
especially as even Emperors themselves are not offended with any man
for fulfilling his function, but you patiently give ear to every one
speaking concerning his own department, nay you reprove him for not
acting in accordance with his line of duty. Can that then which you
readily accept from your soldiers, seem to you offensive in a Bishop;
seeing that we speak not according to our own wills, but as we are
commanded? For you know that it is written, _when ye shall be brought
before governors and kings take no thought how or what ye shall speak,
for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For
it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father Which speaketh
in you._ Were it in civil causes that I had to speak, my not obtaining
an audience would not give me such apprehension, although even then
justice ought to be observed, but in God’s cause whom will you hear,
if you hear not the Bishop, at whose great peril it is that sin is
committed? Who will dare to tell you the truth, if a Bishop does not?

  Sidenote: Rom. x. 2.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xviii. 15–17.

5. I know that you are pious, merciful, meek and gentle, having at
heart the faith and fear of the Lord; but some failings oftentimes
escape our notice. Some men _have a zeal of God, but not according to
knowledge_, and we ought, I think, to beware lest this steal even over
faithful souls. I know your piety towards God, your lenity towards men;
I am myself indebted to your courtesy for many benefits. Wherefore I
feel greater fear, and deeper solicitude lest even your own judgment
should hereafter condemn me for having failed, through cowardice or
flattery, in saving you from a fall. If I had seen you sin against
myself, I ought not to have kept silence, for it is written, _If thy
brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault; then
rebuke him before two or three witnesses, and if he shall neglect to
hear them, tell it unto the Church_. Shall I then be silent in the
cause of God? Now then let us consider what it is I have to apprehend.

6. The military Count of the East[194] reported that a synagogue had
been burnt, and that this had been done at the instigation of the
Bishop. You decided that the others should be punished, and that the
synagogue should be rebuilt by the Bishop himself. I will not insist
on the propriety of calling for the Bishop’s own statement; for the
clergy are wont to check disturbances and desirous of peace, save when
they are themselves moved by some offence against God or insult to the
Church. But suppose this Bishop to have been too eager in setting fire
to this synagogue, and now to grow timid before the judgment-seat, has
your Majesty no fear, lest he should acquiesce in your sentence, no
apprehension of his becoming apostate?

7. Do you not fear, what will certainly be the case, that he will meet
your officer with a refusal; and so he will be obliged to make him
either an apostate or a martyr, and both of these are adverse to your
interests and savour of persecution, that he should be forced either
to become an apostate or undergo martyrdom. You see then whereunto this
matter tends; if you think the Bishop firm, avoid driving his firmness
to martyrdom; if you think him frail, shun exposing his frailty to a
fall. For a heavy responsibility lies on him who has caused one who is
weak to fall.

8. Under these circumstances I suppose that the Bishop will say that
he himself kindled the fire, gathered the crowd, collected the people;
so as not to lose an opportunity of martyrdom, and in place of the weak
to offer up a bolder victim. O happy falsehood; obtaining for others
acquittal, for himself Grace. This is my request also to your Majesty,
that you would turn your vengeance upon me, and, if you consider this a
crime, impute it to me. Why do you order the absent to be punished? you
have the guilty person before you, you hear his confession, I openly
affirm that I myself set the synagogue on fire, or at least, that I
ordered others to do so; that there might be no place in which Christ
is denied. And if it be objected, why did I not set it on fire in this
very city? It began to be burnt, I reply, by the Divine judgment, my
work was superseded. And to speak the truth, I was the less zealous
because I expected no punishment. Why should I do that which being
unavenged would also be unrewarded? These words are a shock to modesty,
but they also bring back grace; they provide against the commission of
that which may offend Almighty God.

9. But suppose that no one will cite the Bishop to do this; for this
is what I have begged of your Clemency, and though I have not yet read
that the edict is revoked, I will nevertheless assume it to be so.
But what if other more timid persons, from a fear of death offer to
rebuild the synagogue from their own funds, or the Count, finding this
previously ordained, should himself command it to be restored at the
expense of the Christians? Your Majesty will then have an apostate
Count, and you will entrust your victorious banner, your labarum, which
is consecrated by the name of Christ, to one who is the restorer of
the synagogue which knows not Christ. Command the labarum to be carried
into the synagogue, and let us see if they do not resist.

10. Shall then a building be raised for perfidious Jews out of the
spoils of the Church, and shall that patrimony, which by Christ’s mercy
has been assigned to Christians, be transferred to the temples of the
unbelieving? We read that temples were in former days erected from the
spoils of the Cimbri and other enemies of Rome. Shall the Jews inscribe
this title on the front of their synagogue: ‘The temples of impiety
built from the spoils of Christians?’

11. But the maintenance of discipline is perhaps what influences your
Majesty. Is the show of discipline then weightier than the cause of
religion? Police should give place to religion.

12. Has your Majesty never heard that when Julian commanded the temple
at Jerusalem to be restored, they who cleared away the rubbish were
destroyed by fire from heaven? Are you not afraid lest this should now
happen? Surely you ought not to have commanded what Julian commanded.

13. But why are you thus moved? Is it generally because a public
building has been burnt, or because it is a synagogue? If you are moved
by the conflagration of the meanest edifice, (and what else could there
have been in so obscure a town,) does not your Majesty remember how
many prefects’ houses have been burnt at Rome, and yet no man enacted
vengeance for them? Nay, if any Emperor had desired to punish such an
act severely, he would rather have injured the cause of those who had
suffered so great a loss. Which then is the more fitting, that the
partial burning of some houses at Callinicum[195], or the burning of
the city of Rome should be punished, if indeed either of them ought to
have been so. At Constantinople, a while ago, the Bishop’s[196] house
was burnt, and your Majesty’s son interceded with you, that you would
not avenge the wrong done to him, the youthful Emperor, nor the burning
of the Bishop’s palace. Your Majesty should consider, that, if you
should in like manner command this act to be punished, he may again
intercede to prevent it. The former boon however was happily obtained
from the father by the son, for it was only fitting that he should
first remit the injury to himself. A good distribution of favour and
well allotted it is, that the son should be petitioned for his own loss,
and the father for the offence against his son. In this case there is
nothing which you need keep back on your son’s account, beware also
lest you derogate ought from God.

  Sidenote: Jer. vii. 14–17.

14. There is then no adequate reason for any such commotion, that the
people should be so severely punished for the burning of any building;
much less seeing that it is a synagogue that has been burnt, a place
of unbelief, a house of impiety, a receptacle of madness, which God
Himself hath condemned. For thus we read what the Lord our God spake by
the mouth of Jeremiah, _Therefore will I do unto this house, which is
called by My Name, wherein ye trust, and unto the place which I gave to
you, and to your fathers, as I have done to Shiloh. And I will cast you
out of My sight, as I have cast out all your brethren, even the whole
seed of Ephraim. Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift
up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to Me, for I will
not hear thee. Seest thou not what they do in the cities of Judah?_
God forbids him to intercede for those whom you think worthy of being

15. Were I pleading according to the law of nations, I should assuredly
recount how many Churches the Jews burnt in the time of Julian’s reign:
two at Damascus, one of which is but just repaired, and that at the
expense, not of the synagogue, but of the Church, while the other is
still a mass of shapeless ruins. Churches were likewise burnt at Gaza,
Ascalon, Berytus, and nearly every town in that region, and yet no man
asked for vengeance. At Alexandria too the most beautiful Church of
all was burnt down by the Gentiles and Jews. The Church has not been
avenged, shall then the synagogue be?

16. And shall the burning of the temple of the Valentinians likewise be
punished? For what but a temple is the place where Gentiles assemble?
The Gentiles indeed reckon twelve gods, the Valentinians worship thirty
two Æons[197], whom they call gods. Concerning these I am informed that
they have called for punishment upon some monks. For the Valentinians
having endeavoured to stop them as they were going in procession
according to ancient custom, chanting psalms, to celebrate the festival
of the Maccabees, the monks exasperated by this affront, set fire to
one of their rudely constructed temples in some country village.

17. How many have to offer themselves to this choice, remembering
that in Julian’s time he who threw down the altar and disturbed the
sacrifice was condemned by the judge, and suffered martyrdom. And
accordingly the judge who tried him was never considered other than
a persecutor, no man would associate with him, no man deemed him
worthy of a kiss of greeting. Were he not now dead, I should fear your
Majesty’s taking vengeance upon him. Nevertheless he escaped not the
Divine vengeance, but saw his son die before him.

18. But it is reported that the judge was ordered to take cognizance
of the matter, and was informed that he ought not to have reported upon
it, but to have punished it, that the offerings which had been taken
away were to be demanded back. Other particulars I will omit; but when
the Jews burnt our Churches, nothing was restored, nothing demanded,
nothing sought for. But what could the synagogue possess in that
distant place, when everything in it was but of little value, nothing
precious or abundant. In short of what could a fire deprive the
treacherous Jews? These are devices of the Jews who wish to accuse us
falsely, that through their representations an extraordinary military
tribunal may be appointed, and an officer sent, who perhaps will say
what one said here before your accession, ‘How shall Christ help us,
when we fight for the Jews against Christ? when we are sent to take
vengeance on their behalf? They have lost their own armies, and they
wish to destroy ours.’

19. Nay, what are the calumnies into which they will not rush, who by
false witnesses have slandered Christ Himself? who are false even in
matters relating to God? Whom will they not charge with the guilt of
this sedition? whom will they not thirst after, even though they know
them not? They desire to see rank after rank of Christians in chains,
to see the necks of the faithful placed under the yoke, the servants of
God hidden in darkness, smitten with the axe, delivered to the fire, or
sent to the mines, that their pains may be slow and lingering.

20. Will your Majesty give this triumph to the Jews over the Church
of God? this victory over the people of Christ, this joy to the
unbelievers, this felicity to the Synagogue, this grief to the Church?
They will place this solemnity among their feast-days; numbering it
among those wherein they triumphed over the Ammonites, or Canaanites,
or over Pharaoh king of Egypt, or which delivered them from the hands
of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. This festival they will add in
memory of the triumph they have gained over Christ’s people.

21. Although they refuse to be bound by Roman laws, deeming them even
criminal, they now pretend to claim vengeance according to those laws.
Where were those laws, when they burnt the roofs of the consecrated
Basilicas? If Julian avenged not the Church because he was an Apostate,
will your Majesty, being a Christian, avenge the injury done to the

  Sidenote: 2 Sam. vii. 8.

22. And what will Christ hereafter say to you? Do you not remember
what he said to holy David by the prophet Nathan? ‘I have chosen thee
the youngest of thy brethren, and from private life have made thee
Emperor. I have placed thy offspring upon the Imperial throne. I have
put barbarous nations under thy feet, I have given thee peace, I have
delivered thine enemy captive into thy hands. Thou hadst no corn to
support thy army, I opened to thee the enemies’ gates, the enemies’
granaries, by their own hand; they gave thee the very stores which they
had provided for themselves. I confounded the counsels of thy enemy,
so that he laid bare his own plans. The very usurper of thy empire
I so bound, and so fettered his mind, that although he had the means
of flying from you he shut himself in with all his followers, as if
fearing lest any should escape you. His lieutenant[198] and his forces
on the other element, whom I had before dispersed to prevent their
combining to make war on thee, I now called together again to render
thy victory complete. Thy army, an assemblage of many fierce nations,
I caused to keep faith and peace and concord, as if they had been one
nation. And when there was imminent danger lest the perfidious plots
of the barbarians should penetrate the Alps, I gave thee victory within
the very barrier of the Alps, that thy victory might be without loss.
Thus I made thee to triumph over thy enemy, and thou art giving my
enemies a triumph over my people.’

23. Was it not the very reason why Maximus was abandoned, that before
he set out on his expedition, hearing that a synagogue had been burnt
at Rome, he sent an edict thither, acting as if he were the guardian of
public order. Wherefore the Christians said, No good awaits this man.
That king is become a Jew, and we have heard of him as a protector of
order, but Christ, who died for sinners, shortly after put him to the
proof[199]. And if this was said of words only, what will be said of
actual punishment? So he was soon defeated by the Franks and by the
Saxons, in Sicily, at Siscia[200], at Petavio, and in every quarter
of the globe. What has a devout man in common with an unbeliever? The
precedents of his impiety ought to be obliterated together with the
impious man himself. That which injured the vanquished, that at which
he stumbled, the victor ought to condemn, not to imitate.

  Sidenote: S. Luke vii. 43.

  Sidenote: Ib. 47.

24. Now I have recounted these things to you not as though you were
ungrateful; rather I have spoken of them as being rightly bestowed,
that reminded thereby you may love much, as being one on whom much
has been bestowed. To Simon’s answer our Lord thus replied, _Thou hast
rightly judged_; and then, turning straightway to the woman who had
anointed His feet with ointment, and was the type of the Church, He
said to Simon, _Wherefore I say unto thee, her sins, which are many,
are forgiven, for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the
same loveth little_. This is that woman who entered the house of the
Pharisee, and cast out the Jew, but gained Christ. For the Church shut
out the Synagogue, and why is it now attempted, that, with the servant
of Christ, that is, from the breast of faith, and abode of Christ, the
Synagogue should shut out the Church.

25. It is from affection and regard for your Majesty, that I have
introduced these things into my pleading. The beneficence which has led
you, at my request, to liberate many persons from exile, from prison,
from the extreme penalties of death, obliges me to incur the danger
of offending you for the sake of your own good, rather than lose in
one moment that privilege of every Bishop which I have for so long
possessed. For no man can feel greater confidence than he who zealously
loves, no man certainly ought to injure him who is careful for his
well-being. And yet it is not the loss of favour I deprecate, but the
danger to salvation.

26. Yet how important it is that your Majesty should not think of
enquiry or punishment in a matter with regard to which no one up
to this time has ever held enquiry or inflicted punishment! It is a
grievous thing to hazard your faith for the sake of Jews. When Gideon
killed the consecrated calf, the Gentiles[201] said, Let the gods
themselves avenge this affront towards them. Who is to avenge the
Synagogue? Christ Whom they slew, Whom they denied? Or will God the
Father avenge them, seeing that by rejecting the Son they have rejected
the Father also. Who is to avenge the heresy of the Valentinians? how
will your Piety be able to avenge them, seeing that you have commanded
them to be shut out, and forbidden them to meet together? And should
I bring forward to you the example of King Josiah as approved of God,
will you condemn in this case that for which he is praised?

27. But if you do not place sufficient confidence in me, let your
Majesty command the presence of those bishops whom you do approve,
and let the question be discussed, what ought to be done so as not
to injure the Faith. If in financial matters you consult your Courts,
how much more fitting is it that in the cause of religion you should
consult the Bishops of the Lord?

28. Let your Clemency consider what dangerous spies and liers in wait
the Church has against her, if they find ever so small an opening they
will plant a dart therein. I speak after the manner of men; but God is
feared more than men, and is rightly preferred to Emperors themselves.
If any man thinks obedience should be paid to a friend, a parent, or
a neighbour, am I wrong in deeming that God should be obeyed, and that
in preference to all others. Let your Majesty consult for your own
well-being, or suffer me to consult for mine.

29. What shall I hereafter answer, if it shall appear that by an edict
issued from hence Christians have been slain by the sword, or beaten to
death with clubs or thongs loaded with lead? How shall I justify such
an act, how shall I excuse it to those Bishops who having discharged
the office of the priesthood for thirty years, nay for many more, have
now bitterly to bewail, being deprived of their sacred functions and
called to undertake municipal offices. If[202] those who fight for you
are set free after a certain period of service, how much more ought you
to consider those who fight for God! How I repeat, shall I defend this
to the Bishops who complain in behalf of the clergy, and write word
that the Churches are overborne by violent oppression.

30. This however I desired should be made known to your Majesty; about
this you will deign to deliberate and direct according to your will;
but as to that which distresses and rightly distresses myself, exclude
and reject it from your consideration. You do yourself whatsoever you
have commanded to be done; even if he[203] do it not, I would rather
that you should be merciful than that he should refuse to do what he
has been commanded.

31. Here are persons in dealing with whom you ought still to invite and
earn the Clemency of God towards the Roman empire; here are persons for
whom rather than for yourself you have to hope; let their grace, their
well-being, appeal to you in what I now say. I fear your entrusting
your cause to the judgement of others. As yet you are committed to
nothing. Herein I will pledge myself for you to our God, fear not your
oath. That change cannot be displeasing to God which is made for His
honour. You have no need to alter your former letter whether it be yet
dispatched or not, but command another to be written which shall be
replete with faith and piety. It is open to you to change, it is not
open to me to keep back the truth.

32. You have forgiven the people of Antioch[204] their offence against
you, you have recalled the daughters of your enemy[205], you have
committed them to be nurtured by their relative, you have bestowed
money from your treasury on the mother of your enemy. This great piety,
this great faith towards God will be obscured by your present act.
Having thus spared your armed foes, and preserved your enemies, do not,
I beseech you, so eagerly seek for vengeance upon Christians.

  Sidenote: 1 Macc. ii. 7.

33. And now I entreat your Majesty not to disdain to listen to my fears
both for yourself and myself; for it is the saying of an holy man, _Woe
is me, wherefore was I born to see this misery of my people?_ is it
that I should incur the risk of offending God? Assuredly I have done
what is most respectful to you: I have sought that you should listen to
me in the palace, that you might not have to listen to me in the Church.

                              LETTER XLI.
                               A.D. 388.

  IN this Letter to his sister S. Ambrose relates the sequel of
  the affair referred to in the preceding one. That Letter failed
  to produce the effect which he had hoped for, and so he was
  driven to fulfil the threat with which he had ended it, and
  ‘make the Emperor listen to him in the Church.’ He gives his
  sister a full account of the sermon which he preached before the
  Emperor, and how he insisted on a promise that the matter should
  be quashed altogether, before he would celebrate the Eucharist,
  and how the Emperor at last gave way, and so all ended as he had

                      THE BROTHER TO HIS SISTER.

1. YOU have kindly written me word, holy sister, that you are still
anxious about me, because I told you of my own anxiety; this makes
me wonder that you have not received the letter, in which I told you
that tranquillity had been restored to me. Complaints had been made
that a synagogue of the Jews had been burnt by the Christians, at the
instigation of their Bishop, and also a conventicle of the Valentinians;
and while I was at Aquileia a decree was issued that the synagogue
should be rebuilt by the Bishop, and that the monks who had set fire to
this building of the Valentinians should be punished. Wherefore, when
I found that my personal endeavours were of little avail, I wrote and
despatched a letter to the Emperor, and on his going to the Church, I
delivered this discourse.

  Sidenote: Jer. i. 11.

  Sidenote: Num. xvii. 8.

2. In the book of the Prophet it is written, _Take to thyself the rod
of an almond tree_; and with what intent the Lord said this to the
prophet we ought to consider, for it was not written without a purpose,
and we also read in the Pentateuch that the rod of Aaron the priest,
budded after being long laid up. Now the rod seems to signify that
prophetic or sacerdotal authority ought to be unswerving, and to exhort
rather to what is useful than to what is pleasing.

3. And the reason why the prophet is bidden to take the rod of an
almond is this, that the fruit of this tree has a bitter rind and hard
shell, while its inside is juicy, and so in like manner the prophet
should hold out what is hard and bitter, and not shrink from declaring
painful things. So too with the priest: his teaching may seem bitter
for a time to some, and, like Aaron’s rod, may for a long while be laid
up in the ears of dissemblers, yet afterwards, when it is thought to
have withered, it puts forth buds.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. iv. 21.

  Sidenote: 2 Cor. ii. 10.

  Sidenote: 2 Tim. iv. 2.

4. Hence the Apostle says, _What will ye, shall I come unto you with a
rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness_. First he speaks of _a
rod_, and as with _the rod of an almond tree_ had smitten the wanderers,
that he might afterwards comfort them with the spirit of meekness. Just
so did meekness restore the man whom the rod had driven from the Divine
sacraments. To his disciple too he gave the same injunctions, _Reprove,
beseech, rebuke_. Here are two harsh terms and one gentle; but they are
only harsh, that they may themselves be softened. For like as bitter
food or drink becomes sweet to these bodies which are laden with excess
of gall, and on the other hand sweet repasts are bitter to them, so
also when the mind is wounded it languishes under the flattering touch
of pleasure, but is healed again by the bitterness of correction.

  Sidenote: S. Luke vii. 36–38.

  Sidenote: Is. ix. 6.

5. Thus much let it suffice to have gathered from the lesson from the
Prophets, let us next consider what that from the Gospel would teach
us: _And one of the Pharisees desired the Lord Jesus that He would eat
with him; and He went into the Pharisee’s house and sat down to meat.
And behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew
that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house brought an alabaster box
of ointment, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping._ And then the
passage was recited as far as the words, _Thy faith hath saved thee,
go in peace_. How simple, I added, are the words of this Gospel lesson,
how profound its counsels! Wherefore, seeing that it is spoken by the
_great Counsellor_, let us consider its depth.

6. Our Lord Jesus Christ believed that kindness has a greater power of
constraining and inciting men to do what is right than fear; and that
love avails more for correction than terror. And so, when He came on
earth by the Virgin’s womb, He first sent His free grace, forgiving
our sins in baptism to make us more grateful to Him. Then if we will
repay Him with such services as befit grateful men, He has declared by
this example that He will give fresh gifts of grace to every man. Had
He only remitted to us our first debt, He would have seemed cautious
rather than merciful, more heedful of our amendment than munificent in
His rewards. To allure is merely the cunning of a narrow mind, but it
is befitting to God that those whom He has invited by grace He should
lead forward by the increase of that grace. And so He first bestows
on us His gifts in baptism, and afterwards if we serve him faithfully
gives more abundantly. And so the benefits of Christ are both the
incentives and the rewards of virtue.

7. Let no man be alarmed at the word _creditor_. We were indeed under
an unforgiving creditor, who could not be satisfied by anything less
than the death of his debtor; then the Lord Jesus came and found us
burthened with a heavy debt. This debt no man could satisfy by his
natural innocence; I had nothing of my own wherewith to purchase my
freedom, and therefore He bestowed on me a new kind of acquittance; He
made me debtor to Himself, seeing I had no means of discharging my debt.
Now we became debtors not by nature but by our own fault; by our sins
we contracted heavy debts, so that we who were free came under a bond;
for he is a debtor who has received of his creditor’s money. Now sin
is from the devil, this is the money which belongs to the wicked one
as his patrimony; for as virtues are the treasure of Christ, so crimes
are the riches of the devil. He had brought the human race under the
perpetual slavery of an inherited liability by that heavy debt which
our improvident ancestor transmitted by inheritance to his posterity.
But then the Lord Jesus came, He gave His life for the life of all, and
shed His blood for the blood of all.

  Sidenote: Is. xlix. 9.

  Sidenote: Col. ii. 13, 14.

8. Thus we have changed our creditor, not discharged our debt, nay we
may even say we have discharged it, for although it remains, our bond
is cancelled, the Lord Jesus having _said to the prisoners, Go forth;
to them that are in darkness, Shew yourselves_; your sins therefore
are forgiven. Thus He has forgiven all, nor is there any one to whom
He has not shewn mercy. For so it is written, that He has _forgiven
all trespasses; blotting out the hand-writing of the ordinances that
was against us_. Why then do we hold the bonds of others? why would
we exact our claims from others when we have obtained remission of our
own? He Who has shewn mercy to all requires of each of us that what he
remembers to have been remitted to himself he should himself remit to

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xviii. 23. et seq.

  Sidenote: Ib. 35.

9. Beware lest you begin to incur heavier blame as a creditor than you
did as a debtor; as that servant in the Gospel to whom his Lord forgave
all his debt began to exact from his fellow servant what he himself had
not paid; wherefore his Lord was wroth, and exacted from him with the
greatest severity what he had before remitted to him. Let us beware
therefore lest the same evil befal us, lest by not remitting our debts
we also be called on to pay what had been forgiven us, for so it is
written in the words of the Lord Jesus, _So likewise shall My heavenly
Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one
his brother their trespasses _. Let us then forgive small things to
whom great have been forgiven, and understand that the more we forgive
the more acceptable we shall be to God, for we are so much the more
acceptable to God the more we have been forgiven.

  Sidenote: S. Luke vii. 42.

  Sidenote: Ib. 43.

  Sidenote: Gen. iv. 7.

10. Further, when the Pharisee was asked by our Lord, _Which of them
loved him most_, he answered, _I suppose that he to whom he forgave
most_. Whereupon the Lord said, _Thou hast rightly judged_. The
Pharisees judgment is praised, but his affection is blamed. Of others
he judges correctly, but what he believes of others, he does not
believe in his own case. Thus you hear the Jew praising the discipline
of the Church, praising its true graces, honouring its priests; but
when you exhort him to believe he refuses to do so, and thus follows
not himself what he praises in us. His eulogy then is not complete,
though Christ has said to him, _Thou hast rightly judged_, for Cain
also offered rightly, but did not divide rightly, wherefore God said
unto him, _If thou offer rightly, but divide not rightly, thou hast
sinned; be still_. And so this man offered rightly, because he judges
that Christ, having forgiven Christians many sins, ought to be more
earnestly loved by them; but he has not divided rightly, because
he believes that He Who remitted the sins of men could possibly be
ignorant of them.

  Sidenote: S. Luke vii. 44.

  Sidenote: Gen. xlix. 12.

11. And therefore He says to Simon, _Seest thou this woman? I entered
into thine house, thou gavest Me no water for My feet, but she hath
washed My feet with tears._ We are all one body of Christ, the Head is
God, and we are the members: some perhaps as the Prophets, may be the
eyes; others the teeth, as the Apostles, who have filled our hearts
with the food of the Evangelical preaching, and of whom it is written,
_His eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk_. They
are His hands who perform good works: His belly are they who bestow the
strength of nourishment on the poor: Some too are His feet also, and
would that I might be counted worthy to be even His heel. He then who
pardons the very lowest their sins, pours water on the feet of Christ,
and while he frees only the mean, yet washes the feet of Christ Himself.

12. He also pours water on the feet of Christ who cleanses his
conscience from the pollution of sin; for Christ walks in the breast
of each of us. Beware then lest your conscience be defiled, or you thus
begin to stain the feet of Christ. Beware lest He encounter the thorn
of wickedness within you, whereby His heel as He walks in you may be
wounded. The reason why the Pharisee did not pour water on the feet of
Christ was because his soul was not clean from the stain of wickedness.
How could he cleanse his conscience, who had not received that water
which Christ gives? But the Church has that water, and the Church
has tears, the waters of Baptism and the tears of penitence. For
faith, which mourns for former sins, is also wont to avoid fresh ones,
wherefore Simon the Pharisee as he had no water so neither had he tears.
For how could he have them, who did no penance? but as he believed
not in Christ so neither had he tears. Had he had them, he would have
washed his eyes that he might see Christ, Whom as yet, when he first
sat down, he saw not. For had he seen Him, he would not have doubted
of His power.

13. Nor had the Pharisee hair, in that he knew not the Nazarite;
but the Church had hair, and she sought for the Nazarite. Hairs are
considered a superfluous part of the body, but if they are anointed
they send forth a good smell, and are an ornament to the head, but if
not anointed with oil they grow heavy. So likewise riches are a burthen,
if you know not how to use them, if you sprinkle them not with the
odours of Christ. But if you feed the poor, if you wash and cleanse
their filth, their wounds, you have truly wiped the feet of Christ.

  Sidenote: S. Luke vii. 45.

  Sidenote: S. John xiv. 27.

  Sidenote: Cant. i. 2.

  Sidenote: Ps. li. 17.

  Sidenote: Ib. cxvi. 10.

  Sidenote: Ib. lxxi. 8.

14. _Thou gavest Me no kiss, but this woman, since the time I came in,
hath not ceased to kiss My feet._ A kiss is the sign of love. But how
could the Jew possess this, who knew not peace, who received not peace
from Christ when He said, _Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto
you_? This kiss belongs then not to the Synagogue but to the Church,
to her who looked for Him, who loved Him, who said, _Let Him kiss
me with the kisses of His mouth_. For the ardour of that lingering
desire, which had grown with waiting for the Lord’s coming, she sought
slowly to quench by His kiss, and to satisfy her thirst by this gift.
Wherefore the holy Prophet says, _Thou shalt open my lips, and my mouth
shall shew Thy praise_. He then who praises the Lord Jesus kisses Him;
and he who praises surely believes in Him. Thus David Himself says, _I
believed, and therefore have I spoken_; and before, _Let my mouth be
filled with Thy praise, and let me sing of Thy glory_.

  Sidenote: Ib. cxix. 131.

  Sidenote: Rom. x. 10.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xxiv. 15.

15. Concerning the gift of special grace the same Scripture also
teaches thee that he who receives the Spirit kisses Christ, for the
holy Prophet says, _I opened my mouth, and drew in the spirit_[206].
He then kisses Christ, who confesses Him; _For with the heart man
believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made
unto salvation_. He kisses the feet of Christ, who, reading the Gospel,
recognizes the acts of the Lord Jesus, and admires them with pious
affection; thus religiously kissing, as it were, the Lord’s steps as He
walks. We kiss Christ then with the kiss of Communion; _Whoso readeth
let him understand_.

  Sidenote: S. Luke xxii. 48.

16. But how can the Jew have this kiss? For as he believed not in His
Advent, so neither did he believe in His Passion, for how can that
man believe that He suffered, who believes not that He came? Hence the
Pharisee had no kiss save haply that of the traitor Judas. But neither
had Judas this kiss, and therefore when he would have shewn to the Jews
that kiss which was the concerted sign of his betrayal, the Lord says
to him: _Judas, betrayest |thou| the Son of man with a kiss?_ that
is, ‘Thou offerest a kiss, though thou hast not the love that the kiss
should express, thou offerest a kiss who art ignorant of the mystical
meaning[207] of the kiss.’ What is required is not the kiss of the lips,
but of the heart and mind.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xv. 8.

17. But you will say that he kissed the Lord. True it is he kissed Him
with his lips, and this kiss the Jewish people has, wherefore it is
said, _This people honoureth Me with their lips, but their heart is far
from Me_. Wherefore he has not the kiss who has not faith and charity;
for by a kiss is conveyed the force of love. Where love is not, nor
faith, nor charity, how can there be any sweetness in kisses?

  Sidenote: Cant. i. 1.

  Sidenote: S. Luke ii. 51.

♦18. Now the Church ceases not to kiss the feet of Christ, and
therefore in the Song of songs she asks not for one but many kisses;
like holy Mary she is attentive to all His discourses, she receives all
His words, when the Gospel is read, or the Prophets; she _keeps all His
sayings in her heart_. The Church, alone, then, as being the spouse,
has kisses, for a kiss is, as it were, the pledge of marriage and the
privilege of wedlock. How can the Jew have kisses who believes not in
the Spouse, who knows not that He is already come?

  Sidenote: Exod. xxxiv. 9.

  Sidenote: S. Luke x. 31, 32.

  Sidenote: Is. i. 6.

19. Nor is it kisses alone that he lacks, but oil also, wherewith to
anoint the feet of Christ, for if he had had oil he would before now
have bowed down his neck. For Moses says, _It is a stiff-necked people_;
and the Lord says that the priest and levite passed by on the other
side, nor did either of these pour oil and wine into the wounds of him
who had been wounded by robbers; had they possessed this oil they would
have poured it into their own wounds. But Isaiah says, _They cannot
apply ointment nor oil nor bandage_.

  Sidenote: Deut. xxxiii. 24.

20. But the Church has oil wherewith she dresses the wounds of her
children, that the hardness of the wound may not sink inwards; she has
oil, which she has received secretly. With this oil Asher has washed
his feet, as it is written, _A blessed son is Asher; and he shall
be acceptable to his brethren, dip his foot in oil_. With this oil
therefore the Church anoints the necks of her children, that they may
receive the yoke of Christ; with this oil she has anointed the martyrs
to purify them from the dust of this world; with this oil she has
anointed confessors, that so they might not yield to labour, or sink
down through weariness, or be overwhelmed by the waves of this world;
it is for the purpose of refreshing them with spiritual oil that she
has thus anointed them.

  Sidenote: Gen. viii. 11.

  Sidenote: S. John i. 32.

21. The Synagogue possesses not this oil, for she hath not the olive,
she did not recognize that dove which brought back the olive branch
after the deluge. This same dove afterwards descended, when Christ was
being baptized, and abode upon Him, as John testifies in the Gospel,
saying, _I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it
abode upon Him_. But how could he see the dove, who saw Him not upon
whom the Spirit descended as a dove?

22. So then the Church both washes the feet of Christ, and wipes them
with her hair, and anoints them with oil, and pours ointment upon them,
in that she not only tends the wounded and comforts the weary, but also
sprinkles over them the sweet odours of grace. Nor is it upon the rich
and powerful only that she sheds this grace, but on men of low birth
also, she weighs all in an equal balance, she receives all in the same
bosom, and cherishes them in the same lap.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xxv. 40.

23. Christ died once, and was buried once, nevertheless He daily
desires that ointment should be poured upon His feet. Now what are
these feet of Christ whereon we pour ointment? The feet of Christ are
they of whom He saith Himself, _Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one
of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me_. These feet
that woman in the Gospel tends[208], and washes with her tears, when
the lowest have their sins remitted, their faults washed away, their
pardon granted. These feet he kisses who loves even the lowest of the
holy congregation. These feet he anoints with ointment, who imparts
even to the weaker brethren the graces of His meekness. In these
the martyrs, in these the Apostles, in these the Lord Jesus Himself
declares that He is honoured.

  Sidenote: Micah vi. 3, 4.

  Sidenote: Ib. 5. and
            Num. xxiii. 2.

  Sidenote: Exod. xiv. 29.

  Sidenote: Ib. xvi. 4.

  Sidenote: Num. xiii. 24.

  Sidenote: Ib. xxi. 24.

  Sidenote: Joshua viii. 23.

  Sidenote: Ib. 29.

  Sidenote: Josh. x. 26.

  Sidenote: Micah vi. 8.

24. Thou seest what instruction the Lord imparts, how by His example
He stimulates thee to devotion; for He instructs by His censure. And
He thus accuses the Jews, _O My people, what have I done unto thee,
and wherein have I wearied thee? testify against Me. For I brought
thee up out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed thee out of the house
of servants_; adding, _and I sent before thee Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.
Remember what Balak_ devised against thee, he, that is, who sought the
aid of enchantments, but I suffered him not to hurt thee. Truly thou
wert oppressed while sojourning in foreign lands, thou wert laden with
heavy burthens: I sent Moses Aaron and Miriam before thy face, and he
who had spoiled the strangers was himself despoiled. Thou, who hadst
lost thine own goods gainedst others, thou wert delivered from the
enemies that surrounded thee, and in the midst of the waters thou
sawest in safety the death of thine enemies, for the same wave which
had separated and carried thee forward flowed back again and drowned
the Egyptians. When thou wert in want of food while journeying through
the wilderness, did I not _rain bread from heaven_ for thee, and
scatter food around thee, whereon thou wentest? Did I not subdue all
thy enemies and bring thee into the region of the cluster of grapes?
Did I not deliver up to thee Sihon (which means ‘proud’) king of the
Amorites (that is, chief of them that provoked thee); did I not also
deliver to thee alive the king of Ai, whom, subject to the sentence of
the ancient curse, thou nailedst to the wood and hangedst upon a tree?
What shall I say of the slaughter of the hosts of the five kings, who
strove to exclude thee from the promised land? _And what doth the Lord
require of thee, o man_, for all these things, _but to do justly and to
love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?_

  Sidenote: 2 Sam. xii. 7.

25. And to king David himself, that meek and holy man, what was His
expostulation by the prophet Nathan? I chose thee, He says, the
youngest among thy brethren; I filled thee with the spirit of meekness;
by the hand of Samuel, in whom was My Spirit and My Name, I anointed
thee king. And from an exile I made thee a conqueror, taking out of the
way that former king whom an evil spirit instigated to persecute the
priests of the Lord. Upon thy throne I set one of thy seed not so much
as an heir as a colleague. I made even strangers subject to thee, that
they who resisted might serve thee, and wilt thou deliver My servants
into the hands of My enemies, wilt thou take away that which was
My servant’s, whereby both thou wilt be branded with sin, and My
adversaries will have whereof to glory?

  Sidenote: Deut. ix. 4.

  Sidenote: S. John xii. 5.

  Sidenote: S. Luke xv. 10.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. xii. 21.

26. Seeing therefore, O Emperor, (for I will now not only discourse of
you but address myself to you) how severe the Lord’s censures are wont
to be, you must take care, in proportion as you become more illustrious,
to submit so much the more humbly to your Maker. For it is written:
When the Lord thy God shall have brought thee into a foreign land, and
thou shalt eat the fruits of others, say not, ‘By my own strength and
righteousness I obtained these things,’ but, ‘The Lord God gave them to
me, Christ in His mercy conferred them on me,’ and therefore by loving
His body, that is, the Church, pour water on His feet and kiss His feet;
thus shalt thou not only absolve those who have been taken in sin, but
in giving to them peace you will bring them into concord and restore
to them rest. Pour ointment on His feet, that the whole house wherein
Christ sits at meat may be filled with the odour of thy ointment, and
let all who sit at meat with Him rejoice in thy fragrance; that is
to say, pay such regard even to the lowest, that in their absolution
the Angels may rejoice, as they do over one sinner that repenteth,
the Apostles may be glad, the Prophets may exult. For _the eye cannot
say unto the hand, I have no need of thee, nor the head to the feet, I
have no need of you_. Since therefore each member is necessary, do thou
protect the whole body of the Lord Jesus, that He also of His divine
mercy may protect thy kingdom.

27. On my coming down he says to me, ‘You have been preaching at me
to-day.’ I replied that in my discourse I had his benefit in view. He
then said, ‘It is true, I did make too harsh a decree concerning the
reparation of the synagogue by the Bishop, but this has been rectified.
As for the monks, they commit many crimes.’ Then Timasius, one of the
Generals-in-chief[209], began to be very vehement against the monks. I
replied to him, ‘With the Emperor I deal as is fitting, because I know
that he fears God, but with you, who speak so rudely, I shall deal

28. After standing for some time, I said to the Emperor, ‘Enable me to
offer for you with a safe conscience, set my mind at rest.’ The Emperor
sat still, and nodded, but did not promise in plain words; then, seeing
that I still remained standing, he said that he would amend the order.
I said at once that he must quash the whole enquiry, for fear the
Count[210] should make it an opportunity for inflicting wrong on the
Christians. He promised that it should be done. I said to him, ‘I act
on your promise,’ and repeated the words again. ‘Do so’ said he. Then
I went to the altar; but I would not have gone, if he had not given me
his distinct promise. And indeed so great was the grace attending the
oblation, that I myself was sensible that this favour he had granted
was very acceptable to our God, and that the divine Presence had not
been withheld. Then all was done as I wished.

                               A.D. 389.

  THE Letter of Siricius was addressed to the Church of Milan to
  inform them of the sentence of excommunication passed against
  Jovinian and his followers. Jovinian had been a monk, but
  had abandoned the ascetic life and rushed into extremes of
  self-indulgence: there is a good description of him in Tillemont,
  (Vie de S. Ambr. 63, 64,) who calls him ‘cet Epicure des
  Chrétiens.’ The false doctrines with which he ‘barked at the
  true doctrines of the Church’ are stated in this Letter and
  in the reply of the Synod of the Church of Milan which follows.
  Jovinian was answered by S. Jerome, who writes against him with
  much vehemence.


  Sidenote: 1 Cor. xv. 32.

  1. I WOULD fain always, beloved brethren, send you tidings of
  joys, sincere as you are in love and peace, so that by means
  of the mutual interchange of letters we might be pleased by the
  tidings of your welfare[211]. Our ancient Adversary however[212]
  does not suffer us to be free from his attacks, he who is a
  liar from the beginning, the enemy of truth, envious of man, in
  order to deceive whom he first deceived himself, the adversary
  of chastity, the teacher of sensuality, who is fed by cruelty,
  punished by abstinence, who hates fasts, asserting, as his
  followers also give out, that they are superfluous, having no
  hope of things to come, obnoxious to the censure of the Apostle,
  _Let us eat and drink for to-morrow we die_.

  2. O miserable boldness, O craft of a desperate mind! Already
  was this unknown language of heresy spreading through the Church
  like a cancer, seeking to fill the breast, and plunge the whole
  man in destruction: and unless the Lord of Sabaoth had broken
  through the snare which they had laid, the public exhibition
  of so much evil and hypocrisy would have led to ruin the hearts
  of many simple ones, for the human mind is easily drawn aside
  towards evil, choosing rather to fly through open space, than to
  travel with pain along the narrow way.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. vii. 15, 16.

  3. Wherefore it was very necessary, most dearly beloved, to
  commend what has been done here to your notice and consideration,
  lest through the ignorance of any priest, the Church might
  be infected by the contagion of these most wicked men who are
  breaking in upon it under a religious pretext, as it is written
  and the Lord has said, _Many come to you in sheeps’ clothing,
  but inwardly they are ravening wolves; ye shall know them by
  their fruits_.

  Sidenote: Ps. xi. 2.

  These are they who under a mean garb boast themselves as
  Christians, that walking under the semblance of piety they
  may enter the house of prayer and utter the words of wily
  disputation, _that they may privily shoot at them which are
  true of heart_, and, seducing them from Catholic truth, may draw
  them over, after the example of Satan, to the madness of their
  own doctrines, beguiling the simplicity of the flock.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xxii. 12.

  4. And indeed from the times of the Apostles up to now we have
  heard and known by experience of many malignant heresies, but
  the sacred truth of the Church has never been assailed by the
  barking of such dogs as those who have now suddenly broken
  in upon us, with the doctrines of unbelief fully sprouted,
  enemies of the faith; who by the fruit of their works have
  betrayed whose disciples they are. For while other heretics
  misunderstanding single points have proposed to bear away and
  abstract from the Divine system of teaching, these men, _not
  having on a wedding garment_, wound the Catholics, perverting,
  as I have said, the continuity of the New and Old Testament, and
  interpreting it in a diabolical spirit, have by their alluring
  and false arguments already begun to ruin some Christians, and
  to make them associates of their madness, not keeping within
  themselves the poison of their iniquity: but some of their
  chosen ones have betrayed their blasphemies by writing rash
  discourse, which the rage of a desperate mind has led them
  openly to publish, favouring, as it does, the cause of the

  5. But of their madness I suddenly received intelligence by
  means of a shocking writing which certain faithful Christians,
  men of high rank, and signal piety, caused to be conveyed to
  me, unworthy as I am, in order that the opposition of these
  men to the Divine Law might be detected by the discernment of
  the Clergy and repressed by a spiritual sentence. Assuredly
  we receive without scorn the vows of those marriages which we
  assist at with the veil[213], but virgins, for whose existence
  marriage is necessary, as being devoted to God, we honour more

  Sidenote: Gal. i. 8.

  6. Having therefore held an assembly of my clergy it became
  clear that their sentiments were contrary to our doctrine, that
  is, to the Christian law. Therefore, following the Apostolic
  precept, we, seeing that they were _preaching another Gospel
  than that which we received_, have excommunicated them. Know
  therefore that it was the unanimous sentence of us all, as
  well of the presbyters and deacons as of the other clergy, that
  Jovinian, Auxentius, Genialis, Germinator, Felix, Prontinus[214],
  Martianus, Januarius, and Ingeniosus, who were discovered to
  be the promoters of the new heresy and blasphemy, should be
  condemned by the Divine sentence and our judgment, and remain
  in perpetual exclusion from the Church.

  7. Nothing doubting that your Holiness will observe the
  aforesaid decree, I have sent you this Epistle by my brethren
  and fellow-priests, Crescens, Leopardus and Alexander, that
  they, with a fervent spirit, may perform a religious and faithful

                             LETTER XLII.
                               A.D. 389.

  IN this, their reply to Siricius, drawn up in all probability by
  S. Ambrose himself, the Council of Milan thank him for his care,
  and announce that they have followed his example and condemned
  Jovinian and his followers in the same way. They dwell upon his
  errors, particularly on his disparagement of virginity, on his
  denial of the virginity of our Lord’s Mother, on his contempt
  of widowhood, and of fasting, and condemn him as a follower of
  Manes. They argue in especial detail against his argument with
  regard to the Virgin Mary, which differs from that of Helvidius
  and other assailants of the ἀεὶ πάρθενος.


♦1. IN your Holiness’ Letter we recognized the vigilance of a good
shepherd, for you faithfully guard the door which has been entrusted
to you, and with pious solicitude watch over the fold of Christ, being
worthy to be heard and followed by the sheep of the Lord. Knowing
therefore the lambs of Christ, you will easily discover the wolves,
and meet them as a wary shepherd, so as to keep them from scattering
the Lord’s flock by their unbelieving life and dismal barking.

2. We praise you for this, our Lord and brother dearly beloved,
and join in cordial commendations of it. Nor are we surprised that
the Lord’s flock was terrified at the rage of wolves in whom they
recognized not the voice of Christ. For it is a savage barking to shew
no reverence to virginity, observe no rule of chastity, to seek to
place every thing on a level, to abolish the different degrees of merit,
and to introduce a certain meagreness in heavenly rewards, as if Christ
had only one palm to bestow, and there was no copious diversity in His

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xix. 5.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. vii. 38.

  Sidenote: Ib. 34.

3. They pretend that they are giving honour to marriage. But what
praise can rightly be given to marriage if no distinction is paid to
virginity? We do not deny that marriage was hallowed by Christ, for the
Divine words say, _And they twain shall be one flesh_, and one spirit,
but our birth precedes our calling, and the mystery of the Divine
operation is much more excellent than the remedy of human frailty. A
good wife is deservedly praised, but a pious virgin is more properly
preferred, for the Apostle says, _He that giveth his virgin in marriage
doeth well, but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better; for
the one careth for the things of the Lord, the other for the things
of the world_. The one is bound by the chains of marriage, the other
is free from chains; the one is under the Law, the other under Grace.
Marriage is good, for thereby the means of continuing the human race
has been devised, but virginity is better, for thereby the heritage of
the heavenly kingdom is regained, and the mode of attaining to heavenly
rewards discovered. By a woman care entered the world; by a virgin
salvation was brought to pass. Lastly, Christ chose virginity as His
own special gift, and displayed the grace of chastity, thus making an
exhibition of that in His own person which in His Mother He had made
the object of His choice.

  Sidenote: Isa. xliii. 19.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. i. 23.

4. How great is the madness of their dismal barkings, that the same
persons should say that Christ could not be born of a virgin, and yet
assert that women, after having given birth to human pledges, remain
virgins? Does Christ grant to others what, as they assert, He could not
grant to Himself? But He, although He took on Him our flesh, although
He was made man that He might redeem man, and recal him from death,
still, as being God, came upon earth in an extraordinary way, that as
He had said, _Behold I make all things new_, so also He might be born
of an immaculate virgin, and be believed to be, as it is written, _God
with us_. But from their perverse ways they are induced to say ‘She was
a virgin when she conceived, but not a virgin when she brought forth.’
Could she then conceive as a virgin, and yet not be able to bring forth
as a virgin, when conception always precedes, and birth follows?

  Sidenote: S. Luke i. 37.

  Sidenote: Ib. 34.

  Sidenote: Ib. 38.

5. But if they will not believe the doctrines of the Clergy, let them
believe the oracles of Christ, let them believe the admonitions of
Angels who say, _For with God nothing shall be impossible_. Let them
give credit to the Creed of the Apostles, which the Roman Church has
always kept and preserved undefiled. Mary heard the voice of the Angel,
and she who before had said _How shall this be?_ not asking from want
of faith in the mode of generation, afterwards replied, _Behold the
handmaid of the Lord, be it unto me according to thy word_. This is
the virgin who conceived, this the virgin who brought forth a Son. For
thus it is written, _Behold a Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son_;
declaring not only that she should conceive as a virgin, but also that
she bring forth as a virgin.

  Sidenote: Ezek. xliv. 1, 2.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. iii. 15.

  Sidenote: Ezek. xliv. 2.

6. But what is that _gate of the sanctuary_, that _outward gate which
looketh towards the East, which remains shut, and no man_, it is said,
_shall enter in by it but the Lord, the God of Israel_. Is not Mary
this gate, by whom the Saviour entered into the world? This is the
gate of righteousness, as He Himself said, _Suffer us to fulfil all
righteousness_. Blessed Mary is the gate, whereof it is written that
_the Lord hath entered in by it, therefore it shall be shut_ after
birth; for as a virgin she both conceived and brought forth.

  Sidenote: Ps. cxiv. 3.

  Sidenote: Exod. xvii. 6.

  Sidenote: Ib. xiv. 22.

  Sidenote: Numb. xx. 11.

  Sidenote: 2 Kings vi. 6.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xiv. 26.

  Sidenote: Is. xix. 20, 21.

  Sidenote: Exod. xv. 20.

7. But why should it be incredible that Mary, contrary to the usage
of natural birth, should bring forth and yet remain a virgin; when
contrary to the usage of nature, the sea saw and fled, and the floods
of Jordan retired to their source. It should not exceed our belief
that a virgin should bring forth, when we read that a rock poured forth
water, and the waves of the sea were gathered up like a wall. Nor need
it, again, exceed our belief that a man should be born of a virgin,
when a running stream gushed forth from the rock, when iron swam upon
the waters, and a man walked upon them. If therefore the waves carried
a man, could not a virgin bring forth a man? But what man? Him of Whom
we read, _The Lord shall send them a Man Who shall deliver them; and
the Lord shall be known to Egypt_. Wherefore in the old Testament a
Hebrew virgin led the people through the sea, in the New Testament
a royal virgin was elected to be a heavenly abode for our salvation.

  Sidenote: S. Luke ii. 36, 37.

8. But what more? let us also subjoin the praises of widowhood, since
in the Gospel next after that most illustrious birth from a virgin,
comes the widow Anna; she who _had lived with an husband seven years
from her virginity; and she was a widow of about fourscore and four
years, which departed not from the temple, but served with fastings
and prayers night and day_.

9. And fitting it is that these men should despise widowhood, which
is wont to keep fasts, for they regret that they should have been
mortified by these for any time, and avenge the wrong they inflicted
on themselves, and by daily banquets and habits of luxury seek to ward
off the pain of abstinence. They do nothing more rightly than in thus
condemning themselves out of their own mouth.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. ix. 27.

  Sidenote: 2 Cor. vi. 5.

  Sidenote: Col. ii. 20. sqq.

10. But they even fear lest their former fasting should be reckoned
against them. Let them choose whichever they like: if they ever fasted,
let them repent of their good work, if never, let them confess their
own intemperance and luxury. And so they assert that Paul was a teacher
of excess. But who can be a teacher of temperance if he was a teacher
of excess, _who chastised his body and brought it into subjection_,
and recorded his performance of the service he owed to Christ by many
fastings; and this not for the purpose of praising himself and his
doings, but that he might teach us, what example to follow. Did he
then teach excess who said, _Why, as though living in the world, are
ye subject to ordinances? Touch not, taste not, handle not, which all
are to perish with the using_; who also says, _Not in indulgence of the
body, not in any honour to the satisfying and love of the flesh, not in
the lusts of error; but in the Spirit by Whom we are renewed_.

  Sidenote: Ps. lxix. 10.

  Sidenote: Gen. iii. 7.

  Sidenote: Jonah iii. 5.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xvii. 21.

11. If what the Apostle has said is not enough, let them hear the
Prophet saying, _I chastened myself with fasting_. He therefore who
fasts not is uncovered and naked and exposed to wounds. And if Adam had
clothed himself with fasting he would not have been found to be naked.
Nineveh delivered itself from death by fasting. And the Lord Himself
says, _This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting_.

12. But why need we say more to our master and teacher? seeing that
these persons have now paid the worthy price of their perfidy, who have
on this account come even hither, that no place might remain where they
were not condemned; who have proved themselves to be truly Manichees,
by not believing that He came forth from a virgin. What madness is this,
almost equal to that of the modern Jews? If He is not believed so to
have come, neither is He believed to have taken upon Him our flesh,
therefore He was seen only in figure, He was crucified only in figure.
But He was crucified for us in truth, He is in truth our Redeemer.

13. He is a Manichee who denies the truth, who denies that Christ came
in the flesh; and therefore the remission of sins is not their’s; but
it is the impiety of the Manichees which both the most merciful Emperor
has abhorred[215], and all who saw them have fled from as a plague.
Witnesses thereof are our brethren and fellow-presbyters, Crescens,
Leopardus, and Alexander, fervent in the Holy Spirit, by whose means
they have been exposed to common execration, and driven as fugitives
from the city of Milan.

14. Wherefore you are to know that Jovinian, Auxentius, Germinator,
Felix, Plotinus, Genialis, Martianus, Januarius and Ingeniosus,
whom your Holiness has condemned, have also, in accordance with your
judgment, been condemned by ourselves.

May our Almighty God keep you in safety and prosperity, Lord and
brother most beloved.

Here follows the subscription.

I Eventius[216], Bishop, salute your Holiness in the Lord, and have
subscribed this Epistle.

MAXIMUS, Bishop.

FELIX, Bishop.




By command of my lord Geminianus Bishop, and in his presence, I Aper,
Presbyter, have subscribed.

Eustasius, Bishop, and all the Orders have subscribed.

                             LETTER XLIII.

  THIS Letter is a reply to a question from Horontianus, why
  man, the highest work of God’s creation, was made the last.
  S. Ambrose brings forward various analogies to shew that the last
  is first, and each with an enthusiastic and poetical description
  of man’s greatness and of his dominion over the other works of

                        AMBROSE TO HORONTIANUS.

  Sidenote: Gen. i. 16.

1. YOU have intimated to me your surprise at finding in my Treatise
on the Six days of Creation, that, while you found both the Sacred
Narrative and the tenor of my discourse assigning greater gifts to man
than to any other creature in the earth, still that the land and the
waters brought forth all flying and creeping things and things in the
waters before him for whose sake they were all created: and you ask me
the reason of this, which Moses was silent about, and I did not venture
to touch upon.

2. And perhaps that spokesman of the Divine Oracles purposely kept
silence, lest he should seem to render himself the judge and counsellor
of the Divine ordinances; for to give utterance to that with which he
was inspired by the Spirit of God is one thing, to interpret the will
of God is another. I am of opinion however that we, not as speaking
in God’s Name, but as gathering up scattered principles of reason from
human usage, may be able, from the way in which God has disposed other
things for man’s use, to come to the conclusion that it was fitting for
man to be the last work of creation.

  Sidenote: S. Luke xiv. 16.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xxii. 12.

3. For he who sets out a banquet, like that rich man in the Gospel,
(for we must compare Divine things with each other the better to
draw our conclusion,) prepares every thing first, kills his oxen and
fatlings, and then bids his friends to supper. The more trivial things
therefore are prepared in the first place, and then he who is worthy of
honour is invited. Hence the Lord also first provided for the food of
man all other animals, and then invited to the feast man himself, as
His friend: and truly His friend, seeing that he was partaker of the
Divine Charity and heir of His Glory. To man himself it is that He says:
_Friend, how camest thou in hither?_ So then all things that precede
are to minister to the need of the friend, and it is the friend who is
invited last.

  Sidenote: Rev. ii. 10.

  Sidenote: 2 Tim. iv. 7.

  Sidenote: Ib. ii. 5.

4. Take another instance. What is the world but a sort of arena of
continual strife? Wherefore also in the Apocalypse the Lord says, _To
him that overcometh will I give a crown of life_; and Paul says, _I
have fought a good fight_; and in another place, _No man is crowned
except he strive lawfully_. He who institutes this combat is Almighty
God. Now he who in this world offers a combat, does he not first
provide all things which are necessary thereto, and prepare the
chaplets of victory before he summons the athletics to contend for the
prize; and all this that the conqueror may not suffer delay, but retire
from the contest crowned with his reward? Now the rewards of man are
the fruits of the earth and the lights of heaven; the former for the
use of this present life, the latter for the hope of life eternal.

  Sidenote: Rom. viii. 20.

  Sidenote: Dan. xii. 3.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. ix. 26.

5. As a wrestler therefore he enters the lists last of all; he raises
his eyes to heaven, he sees that even the heavenly _creation was
made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath
subjected the same in hope_. He sees that _the whole creation groaneth
in pain together, waiting for redemption_. He sees that labour awaits
us all. He raises his eyes, he sees the circlets of lights, he surveys
the orbs of the moon and stars: _For the just, who overcome, shall
be as the stars in heaven_. And he chastises his body, that it may
not be his enemy in the combat, he anoints it with the oil of mercy,
he exercises it with daily trials of virtue, he smears himself with
dust, he _runs_ to the goal of the course but _not as uncertainly_, he
aims his blows, he darts forth his arms, but not into empty space, he
strikes the adversary whom he sees not, for he has respect to Him alone
to Whom all enemies give way, even those who are invisible, in Whose
Name the powers of the air were turned aside. It is he therefore who
poises the blow, but it is Christ Who strikes, it is he who lifts up
his heel, but Christ Who directs it to the ground. Lastly, although
Paul saw not those whom he struck, he was not _as one that beateth the
air_, because by the preaching of Christ he wounded those evil spirits
which assaulted him. Rightly therefore did man, for whom a race was
prepared, enter the course last, that he might be preceded by heaven
which was to be, as it were, his reward.

  Sidenote: Eph. vi. 12.

  Sidenote: Gen. ix. 21.

  Sidenote: 2 Cor. xi. 26.

  Sidenote: Acts xvi. 22.

6. But we wrestle not only _against spiritualities of wickedness in
high places_, but also _against flesh and blood_. We wrestle with
satiety, with the very fruits of the earth, with wine, by which even
a righteous man was made drunk, and the whole people of the Jews
overthrown; we wrestle with wild animals, with the fowls of the air;
for our flesh, if pampered by these, cannot be brought to subjection;
we wrestle _with perils of the way, with perils of waters_, as Paul
says; we wrestle with rods of the wood, those rods with which the
Apostles were beaten. You see how severe are our combats. Thus the
earth is man’s trial-ground, heaven is his crown; and fitting therefore
it was that as a friend, what was to minister to his wants should
precede him, as a combatant, his reward.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. xv. 49.
            Gen. i. 27.

7. Take another illustration. In all things the beginning and the
ending are most excellent. If you look upon a house, it is the
foundation and the roof which are more considerable than the other
parts, if you look upon a field it is the sowing and the harvest,
the planting and the vintage. How sweet are the grafts of trees, how
pleasant are the fruits! In the same manner also was the heaven created
first, and man last, as a kind of heavenly creature upon earth. For
although in body he is compared with the beasts, in mind he is numbered
among the inhabitants of heaven; for _as we have borne the image of
the earthy; we shall also bear the image of the heavenly_. How should
he not be heavenly, who is made after the image and likeness of God?

  Sidenote: Is. lxvi. 1.

  Sidenote: S. John xiv. 23.

8. Rightly therefore in the creation of the world the heaven is both
first and last, wherein is that which is beyond heaven, even the God of
heaven. And of man is rather to be understood the text, _Heaven is my
throne_, for God does not sit above the element, but in the heart of
man. Wherefore the Lord also says, _We will come unto Him, and make our
abode with Him_. Heaven therefore is the first work in the creation of
the world, and man the last.

  Sidenote: Ps. cii. 25.

  Sidenote: Ib. cxix. 73.

  Sidenote: Ps. xix. 1.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. v. 16.

  Sidenote: Ib. xvi. 18.

  Sidenote: Deut. xxxii. 13.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. x. 4.

9. Heaven is of the world, man above the world; for the former is a
portion of the world, the latter is an inhabitant of Paradise, and the
possession of Christ. Heaven is thought to be undecaying, yet it passes
away; man is deemed to be incorruptible, yet he puts on incorruption;
the fashion of the first perishes, the latter rises again as being
immortal; yet the hands of the Lord, according to the authority of
Scripture, formed them both. For as we read of the heavens, _And the
heavens are the work of Thy hands_; so also man says, _Thy hands have
made me and fashioned me_; and again, _The heavens declare the glory
of God_. And as the heaven is resplendent with stars, so are men bright
with the light of good works, for their works shine before their Father
Which is in heaven. The former is the firmament of heaven which is on
high, and the latter firmament is not unlike to it, whereof it is said,
_Upon this rock will I build My Church_; the one is the firmament of
the elements, the other of virtues, and the last is more excellent;
_they sucked honey out of the firm rock_, for _the Rock_ is the flesh
_of Christ_, which redeemed the heaven and the whole world.

  Sidenote: 2 S. Pet. i. 4.

  Sidenote: Acts xvii. 27, 28.

10. Why should I add further, carrying you, as it were, through the
whole course, that God made man _partaker of the Divine nature_, as we
read in the Epistle of Peter? Whence one says not improperly, _We also
are His offspring_, for He made us akin to Himself, and we are of a
rational nature, that we might seek for that Godhead _Which is not far
from each one of us, in Whom we live and move and have our being_.

  Sidenote: Gen. i. 28.

11. Having therefore conferred on man that which is the greatest of
graces, He granted to him as to that creature who was dearest and very
nearest to Him, all the things which are in this world, that he might
want for nothing which is necessary either for life or for a good life,
some of which things were to be supplied by the abundance of earthly
plenty to minister pleasure, others again by the knowledge of heavenly
secrets, to arouse man’s mind by the love and desire of that discipline
which should enable us to reach the summit of the Divine mysteries.
Both these therefore are most excellent gifts, both to have all the
riches of the world subject to him, all flying and creeping things and
fishes, and, as being lord of the elements, the use of the sea, and
without toil or want, after the model and likeness of his adorable
Creator, to abound in all things, living in the greatest plenty, and
also to open paths for himself, and make progress, so as to ascend to
the royal abode of heaven.

12. You will easily discover that the traveller along this arduous
path is the man, who has been so fashioned in purpose of heart and
will, as to be, as far as possible, estranged from his body, as not to
enter into any fellowship with vice, nor suffer himself to be smoothed
down by the words of flatterers: one who does not, when riding on the
chariot of prosperity, despise the humble, shun sorrow, discard and
disparage the praises of the holy, nor, by desire of glory or of wealth,
grasped at too prematurely, exhaust all the ardour of hope; one whose
mind is not bowed down by sadness nor broken by injury, which is not
♦harassed by suspicion, nor excited by lust, whom the passions of
the body do not overcome, whom no desire of vanities or charms of
pleasure disquiet and disturb. Add to all this the virtues of chastity,
soberness and temperance; let him be able easily to curb the irregular
sallies of light passion, set bounds to his pleasures and desires,
clear up ambiguity by an equitable judgment, by tranquillity of mind
settle what is doubtful, and with all the strifes of the mind and body
reconciled, so to speak, preserve in a just balance the concord of the
exterior and interior man unimpaired, stilling them as they lie within
his own breast, while, should he be called to it, no evil counsellor
is able to turn him away from the crown of suffering, such a man surely
will be adopted not only as a friend but a son by the Father, that he
may obtain the riches of His glory and inheritance.

  Sidenote: Rom. x. 4.

  Sidenote: Ps. lxxiii. 21.

  Sidenote: Ps. lxxxix. 9.

13. Rightly therefore did he come last, being, as it were, the end of
nature, formed to righteousness, and the arbiter of right among other
creatures. And, if we may employ the illustration, as among men _Christ
is the end of the Law for righteousness to every one that believeth_,
so are we as beasts in the sight of the Lord, for thus says the Prophet,
_I became as a beast before Thee_. Yet what comparison is there between
the two, when He has redeemed those who were ready to perish, and we
put them to death, He calls slaves to liberty and we inflict bondage
on the free? _But who is like God?_

14. Man however came forth the last of all created things, in form
comely, in mind lofty, to be admired by all creatures, having in him,
after the image of the eternal God, an invisible intelligence[217]
clothed in human form. This is that intelligence or power of the
soul which claims to itself, as the ruling principle, authority over
the soul and body. This it is that all other living creatures dread
although they see it not, just as we fear God Whom we see not, and fear
Him only the more because we see Him not.

  Sidenote: Gen. i. 26.

  Sidenote: Jer. xxiii. 24.

  Sidenote: S. John i. 18.

  Sidenote: Jer. xx. 9.

  Sidenote: Ps. xvii. 2.

15. For, if we may presume to speak of ourselves _after His image and
likeness_, as Scripture says, in the same way as He is established in
the fulness of His Majesty, and sees all things, heaven, air, earth
and sea, embracing the universe and penetrating each part, so that
nothing escapes Him, and there is nothing which does not consist in
Him and depend on Him, and which is not full of Him, as He Himself
says, _I fill heaven and earth, saith the Lord_, so likewise the mind
of man sees all things and is not seen, but maintains its own essence
invisible. By means of discipline forethought and perception she
apprehends hidden things, dives into the secret of the deep, and those
lurking-places which are spread throughout all lands, scrutinizing the
nature of both elements, after the likeness of the great God Whom she
imitates and follows, Whose image in minute portions is represented in
each individual. She raises herself likewise into the air, and rising
above the cloudy region, soars, in zeal for knowledge and thirst for
wisdom, to the height of heaven, and resting there awhile, rapt in
wonder at the heavenly constellations and charmed with their brightness,
looks down upon the things of earth. Then she approaches also to
Hesperus and Arcturus and those other stars which although Planets
err not, and sees that they keep their course without stumbling, that
course along which, in order the better to visit all regions, they
seem to circuit and to wander. And thus with greater ardour she raises
herself to the very bosom of the Father, wherein is the Only-Begotten
Son of God Who declares the secrets of God, which in the time to come
are to be revealed face to face. But even now He discloses them partly
and in a figure to those whom He deems worthy, and at the same time
sheds forth from the Spirit and from His own countenance floods of
resplendent light, so that he who is illuminated thereby may say, _But
it was as a fire blazing in my bones and I am melted on all sides, and
cannot stay_. And David says, _Let my sentence come forth from Thy

16. By this vigour of mind, therefore, to return to the point from
whence I have digressed, whereby she subjects to herself things
external, comprehends in her view things distant and separate from
each other, and subdues the more powerful animals, she has inspired
the rest with such reverence for herself, that they emulously obey her
as their king, and pay ready attention to her voice. Nay, although they
are irrational they still acknowledge reason, and fix within themselves
that discipline which nature has not given them. Furthermore wild
beasts, seeing man’s gentleness, grow gentle under his rule. Often have
they closed their jaws, recalled by the sound of the human voice. We
see hares caught without injury by the harmless fangs of dogs, and even
lions, if they hear man’s voice, letting their prey escape: leopards
also and bears urged on and recalled by the sound of his voice: the
horses stimulated by the applause of man, and slackening their speed
at his silence: nay, often, untouched by the lash they outstrip others
that are scourged on, so much more powerfully does the scourge of the
tongue incite them.

17. But what shall I say of the creatures’ services to man? In order to
please him the ram nourishes his fleece, and is plunged in the stream
to enhance its beauty; sheep also crop the best herbage to distend with
sweeter juice of milk their teeming udders; and, that they may offer to
man their gifts, suffer the pangs of travail; bulls groan all day under
the plough pressed down in the furrows; camels, besides the service
of bearing burthens, suffer themselves to be shorn like rams, so that
each animal contributes to man, as to a king, its service, and pays its
annual tribute. The horse, exulting in such a rider, prances proudly,
and curving his neck when his master mounts, gives his back to afford
him a seat. And if you are still at a loss why man was made last, let
the same animal teach us that this is to be deemed an honour not a
slight. For he bears one who came after him, not despising but fearing
him, and bearing him with pain to himself from place to place. In
a moment of time man reaches far distant places and traverses long
distances, transported sometimes on single horses, sometimes in
triumphal chariots[218].

  Sidenote: 2 Kings ii. 11.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. viii. 24;
            S. Mark iv. 38.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. xv. 45, 46.

  Sidenote: Ib. 47.

18. And since I have mentioned triumphal chariots it is needful that I
should add thereto the chariot of Elijah which carried him through the
air, and those of elephants, whereon man sits as conqueror, and governs
although he be last and they precede him. And thus the steersman of a
ship sits in the stern, and yet guides the whole ship. Whence I deem
it not without a purpose that we are told in the Gospel that the Lord
Jesus was asleep in the stern of the ship; and that when awakened He
commanded the wind and the sea, and laid the storm, shewing thereby
that He came last because He came as the Pilot. Wherefore the Apostle
says, _The first man Adam was made a living soul, the last Adam was
made a quickening Spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual,
but that which is natural, and afterwards that which is spiritual_; and
then he adds, _The first man is of the earth, earthy, the second man is
from heaven, heavenly_.

  Sidenote: Rom. viii. 17.

19. Rightly therefore is man the last, being as it were the
consummation of the whole work, the cause of the world, for whose sake
all things were made; the habitant, as it were, of all the elements,
he lives among beasts, swims with fishes, soars above birds, converses
with Angels, dwells upon the earth, and has his warfare in heaven,
ploughs the sea, feeds upon air, tills the soil, is a voyager over the
deep, a fisher in the floods, a fowler in the air, in heaven an heir
even joint-heir with Christ. These things he does by his diligence.

  Sidenote: Exod. xiv. 29.

  Sidenote: S. John xxi. 7.

  Sidenote: Bel and the Dragon 36.

20. Hear also things above man’s natural power. Moses walked along the
bottom of the sea, the Apostles upon the surface, Habbacuc flew without
wings, Elijah conquered upon earth, and triumphed in heaven.

Farewell, my son; love me for I also love you.

                             LETTER XLIV.
                               A.D. 389.

  S. AMBROSE here first dwells on the distinction between God and
  the Universe which is His work. He then speaks of the six days
  of Creation, and of the mystical meaning of the numbers seven
  and eight, applying various passages of Scripture in which they
  occur, and bringing forward analogies from nature.

                        AMBROSE TO HORONTIANUS.

  Sidenote: 2 Cor. iv. 18.

1. YOU have done well to mark the prophet’s distinction between the
Creator and His works, or rather, God’s own distinction; for Moses
wrote not of himself, but by inspiration and revelation, particularly
in what relates to the formation of the world. For the One being
impassible, the other liable to suffering, he has referred that which
was impassible to God the Creator, but the passible part, without life
or motion of its own, but receiving life and motion and form from its
Creator, he has assigned to the world; and as this world, after its
creation, ought not to be left without a ruler, or unprotected by any
father, he therefore plainly describes the invisible God as the Ruler
and Governor of this visible world. _For the things which are seen are
temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal._

  Sidenote: Ps. cxlviii. 5.

  Sidenote: Ps. civ. 24.

2. He therefore states the creation of the world to have taken place
in six days, not that God required time to form it in, for He can do in
a moment what He wills, for _He spake the word, and they were created_,
but because things which are made, need some certain order, and order
requires both time and number. And especially for the purpose of giving
us a model for our works has He observed a certain number of days and
certain seasons; for we also require time wherein to do aught perfectly,
so as not to be precipitate in our counsels and works; nor to neglect
their proper order. For when we read that God, as Scripture tells us,
has _made all things in wisdom_, and by a certain counsel disposition
and order, it is agreeable to reason that He should first have made the
heavens which are the most beautiful; it is fitting also that we should
first raise our eyes thither and conceive that it behoves us to aim at
♦arriving thither, and that we should consider that it is to be
preferred to all earthly habitations.

  Sidenote: Gen. ii. 2.

  Sidenote: Is. xi. 2.

3. Wherefore in six days He created the world, on the seventh day
He rested from His works. The number seven is good, and we treat it
not according to the manner of Pythagoras and other philosophers, but
according to the form and divisions of spiritual grace, for the prophet
Isaiah has set forth the seven principal virtues of the Holy Spirit.
This sacred seven, like the venerable Trinity of the Father Son and
Holy Ghost, knows neither time nor order, and is the origin of number,
not bound by any of its laws. Wherefore as the heaven the earth and the
sea were formed in honour of the eternal Trinity, and also the sun moon
and stars, so in like manner we observe that it is according to this
sevenfold circle of spiritual virtues, and this swiftly revolving orbit
of Divine operation, that a certain sevenfold ministry of planets,
whereby this world is illuminated, has been created. And their service
is said to agree with the number of these stars, which are fixed, or,
as they are called in Greek, ἀπλανεῖς[219]. The North has likewise
received its Latin name (Septemtrio) from being irradiated by seven
stars, upon the brightness of which as their guide pilots are said
specially to fix their gaze.

4. And this peculiar property has come down from heaven to earth; for
not to speak of the sevenfold fashion of the head, in the two eyes,
the two ears and nostrils, and the mouth whereby we enjoy the taste of
great sweetness, how wonderful is it that in the seventh month most men
are conceived, and he that is afterwards born receives at that time the
commencement of his vital course. But in the eighth month we perceive
that by a natural law the season of bringing forth is suspended, and if
some fatal compulsion has opened the barriers of the womb, the danger
both of the mother and her offspring is nigh at hand.

5. But he who is born on the seventh day, although he be born well, is
born to labour, but he who on the eighth day, obtains the mysteries of
regeneration, is consecrated by grace, and called to the inheritance of
the celestial kingdom. Great in the virtues of the Spirit is the grace
of the holy number seven, but the same grace answers to the number
seven, and consecrates the number eight. In the first we have the name,
but in the latter the fruit, and therefore the grace of the Spirit,
conferred on the eighth day, restored to Paradise those whom their own
fault had banished.

  Sidenote: Eccles. xi. 2.

  Sidenote: Ps. cxviii. 24.

  Sidenote: Mal. iv. 2.

6. The Old Testament too knew this number eight which in Latin we call
the Octave, for the preacher says, _give a portion to seven and also to
eight_. The number seven belongs to the Old Testament, the number eight
to the New, for then Christ rose, and the day of new salvation shone
upon all. This is the day whereof the Prophet says, _This is the day
which the Lord hath made, let us rejoice and be glad in it_: for on
that day the brightness of full and perfect circumcision was infused
into the hearts of men. On this account the Old Testament also gave a
part to eight in the solemnity of circumcision. But this still lay in
darkness: then came _the Sun of righteousness_, and by the consummation
of His passion revealed His rays of light; these He unfolded to all,
and opened the brightness of eternal life.

  Sidenote: Hosea iii. 2.

7. These then are that seven and eight whereof Hosea says that by that
number he purchased to himself, and acquired the fulness of faith, for
thus it is written, _So I bought her to me for fifteen pieces of silver,
and for an homer of barley, and an half homer of barley, and a measure
of wine_[220]. But in the former verses God had commanded him to hire
to himself an harlot, and it is manifest that he did so, in that he
has mentioned the price of her hiring. Now the fifteen pieces of silver
are made up of the numbers seven and eight, wherefore they represent
these numbers. And by the price of the two Testaments, that is, of
perfect faith, the prophecy hath received the consummation of its faith
and the Church her fulness. For by the first Testament the people of
Israel were gained, by the second the heathen and Gentiles. And so by
a perfect faith the harlot is hired, seeking herself a consort either
among the Gentiles, or from the adulterous people of the Jews, who had
deserted their Lord, the Author of their virgin faith, and spread their
congregations over the breadth of the whole world.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. v. 17.

  Sidenote: Micah v. 5.

8. With regard to the words, _an homer of barley, and half an homer
of barley_, in the homer we have a full measure, in the half homer the
measure is but partly full; fulness in the Gospel, half-fulness in the
Law, as we read in our Lord’s own words, _I am not come to destroy the
law, but to fulfil the law_. And in another place the Lord says by the
prophet Micah, _Then shall there be peace in the land of Israel, when
the Assyrian shall come into his land; and there arose against him
seven shepherds, and eight bites[221] of men_. For the faithful people
will then enjoy perfect peace and be freed from all temptations and
vanities, when peace and grace shall have shut out the vanity of this
world from our hearts, the peace, that is, of the Old, the grace of the
New Testament.

  Sidenote: Rom. x. 10.

  Sidenote: Isa. xxv. 8.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. xv. 54, 55.

9. The _seven shepherds_ are the precepts of the law, whereby the flock
not yet endued with reason are led through the wilderness by the rod
of Moses, and governed. The _eight bites of man_ are the commandments
of the Gospel, and the words of the Lord’s mouth. _For with the heart
man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made
unto salvation._ Those _bites_ are good whereby we have tasted the gift
of eternal life, and in the Body of Christ have received the remission
of sins. In the Old Testament the bite of death is bitter, wherefore
it is said, _Prevailing death has devoured_[222]. In the New Testament
sweet is the taste of life, which has swallowed up death, wherefore the
Apostle says, _Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy
sting, O grave, where is thy victory?_

  Sidenote: Heb. iv. 4.

  Sidenote: Ib. 3.

  Sidenote: Ps. xcv. 8.

  Sidenote: Heb. xiii. 8.

  Sidenote: S. Luke xxiii. 43.

10. Moreover, to use the testimony of the Apostles, when God made man,
_He rested from all His works on the seventh day_. But when the Jews
wilfully disobeyed the commands of their God, the Lord said, _If they
shall enter into My rest_. And therefore the Lord appointed another
day, whereof He says, _To-day if ye will hear My voice_. For in general
Scripture speaks of two days, yesterday and to-day, of which it is said,
_Jesus Christ the same, yesterday to-day and for ever_. On the first
day the promise is made, on the second it is fulfilled. But since on
the former day neither Moses nor Joshua brought the people into their
rest, Christ, to Whom the Father said, _This day have I begotten Thee_,
has brought them in to-day, for by His Resurrection Jesus has obtained
peace for His people. The Lord Jesus is our rest; Who says, _To-day
shalt thou be with Me in Paradise_. For rest is in heaven, not on earth.

  Sidenote: Rev. xxii. 16.

11. Why then need I watch the rising and setting of the stars, at
whose rising the fallows should be ploughed up and pierced by the hard
plough-shares, and at whose setting the fruitful crop should be cut
down by the sickle? One star suffices for me in the place of all others,
_the bright and morning Star_, at Whose rising was sown the seed not of
corn but of martyrs; when Rachel wept for her children, and offered in
the stead of Christ her children washed in her own tears. The setting
of this Star raised from the tomb not the senseless relics of the
funeral pile, but the triumphant bands of the re-animated dead.

12. Let then this number seven be observed by us, seeing that the
life of man passes through seven stages to old age, as Hippocrates the
teacher of medicine has explained in his writings. The first age is
infancy, the second boyhood, the third youth, the fourth adult age, the
fifth manhood, the sixth fulness of years, the seventh old age. Thus we
have the infant, the boy, the youth, the young man, the man, the elder,
the aged.

13. Solon however made ten periods of life, each of seven years;
so that the first period, or infancy, should extend to the growth
of the teeth, to chew its food, and utter articulate words so as to
seem intelligible; boyhood again extends to the time of puberty and
of carnal temptation; youth to the growth of the beard; adult age
lasts until virtue has attained its perfection; the fifth is the
age of manhood, fitted, during its whole course, for marriage; the
sixth belongs also to manhood, in that it is adapted to the combat of
prudence, and is strenuous in action; the seventh and eighth period
also exhibit man ripe in years, ♦vigorous in faculties, and his
discourse endowed with a grace of utterance not unpleasing; the ninth
period has still some strength remaining, and ♦in speech and wisdom are
of a chastened kind; the tenth period fills up the measure, and he who
has strength to reach it, will after a full period of years knock late
at the gate of death.

  Sidenote: Eph. iv. 18.

14. Thus Hippocrates and Solon recognized either seven ages, or
periods of age consisting of seven years. In this then let the number
seven prevail; but the octave introduces one uninterrupted period
during which we grow up into a perfect man, in the knowledge of God,
in the fulness of faith, wherein the measure of a legitimate period of
life is completed.

15. In our inward parts also the virtue of the seventh number is
manifested; for it is said that we have within us seven organs,
the stomach, heart, lungs, spleen, liver, and the two kidneys, and
outwardly seven also, the head, the hinder parts, the belly, two hands
and two feet.

  Sidenote: Phil. i. 21.

  Sidenote: Gal. ii. 20.

  Sidenote: 1 S. John ii. 18.

  Sidenote: 2 Cor. v. 15.

16. Very excellent are these members, but subject to pain. Who then can
doubt that the office of the Octave, which has renewed the whole man,
so as not to be susceptible of pain, is more exalted? Wherefore the
seventh age of the world being completed, the grace of the Octave has
shone upon us, that grace which has made man to be no longer of this
world, but above the world. But now we live not according to our own
life but to that of Christ. For to us _to live is Christ, and to die is
gain, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith
of the Son of God_. So says the Apostle, whence we gather that the day
of the world is come to a close. Again, at the last hour the Lord Jesus
came, and died for us, _and we are all dead in Him, that we may live
to God_. It is not then our former selves that now live, _but Christ
liveth in us_.

  Sidenote: Jer. xxxi. 31, 32;
            Heb. viii. 8, 9.

  Sidenote: Ib. 9.

17. The number seven is passed away, the octave is arrived. Yesterday
is gone, to-day is come, that promised day wherein we are admonished
to hear and follow the word of God. That day of the Old Testament
is passed away, that new day is come, wherein the New Testament is
perfected, whereof it is said, _Behold, the days come, saith the Lord,
when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the
house of Judah; not according to the covenant that I made with their
fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the
land of Egypt_. He adds too the reason why the Testament was changed,
_Because they continued not in My covenant, and I regarded them not,
saith the Lord_.

  Sidenote: Heb. iv. 14.

  Sidenote: Ib. vii. 16.

  Sidenote: Ib. 17.
            Ps. cx. 4.

18. The priests of the Law, the tribunals of the Law have passed away;
let us draw nigh to _our new High Priest, to the throne of grace_, to
the guest of our souls, to the Priest, _Who is not made after the law
of the carnal commandment, but_ elected _after the power of an endless
life_[223]. For _He took not this honour to himself_, but was chosen by
the Father, as the Father Himself saith, _Thou art a Priest for ever,
after the order of Melchisedech_. Other priests offered for themselves
and for their people; this Man, not having sin, that He should offer
for Himself, offered Himself for the whole world, and by His own blood
entered into the Sanctuary.

  Sidenote: Heb. x. 7.

19. He then is the new Priest and the new Victim, not of the law but
above the law, the universal Mediator, the Light of the world, Who said,
_Lo I come_, and came. To Him then let us draw near in the fulness of
faith, adoring and beseeching and hoping in Him, Whom with our eyes
we see not, but Whom we embrace with our hearts, to Whom be glory and
honour for ever. Farewell, my son; love me, for I love you.

                              LETTER XLV.
                               A.D. 385.

  S. AMBROSE replies to the inquiry of Sabinus whether he had
  written concerning Paradise, and what was his opinion concerning
  it. Having first touched on the historical description of the
  place, he proceeds to the mystical explanation of it. And having
  shewn that Paradise is situate in the principal region of the
  soul, he teaches what is signified by the several parts thereof,
  and what men should imitate in the serpent. Lastly, having
  declared the greatness of human weakness and what great love
  God has shewn us from the beginning, he exhorts men to fly the
  pleasures of the senses.

                          AMBROSE TO SABINUS.

1. HAVING read my work on the six days of creation, you have thought
good to enquire whether I have added ought concerning Paradise, and to
express your strong desire to know what opinion I hold concerning it.
I have, in truth, written on this subject, though not yet a veteran

2. The opinions about it I have found to be many and various. Josephus,
as an historian, tells us it is a place filled with trees and thick
shrubs, and that it is watered by a river which divides itself into
four streams. Its waters being thus gathered into one, this region
does not entirely empty and deprive itself of its feeders, but up to
this day bursts out into fountains and sends forth its winding streams,
nourishing by them her offspring as from the full breasts of a pious

3. Others expound it differently, but all agree that in Paradise is
the deep rooted Tree of life, and the Tree of Knowledge whereby good
and evil are discerned, the other trees also, full of vigor, and life,
endued both with breath and reason. Wherefore we conclude that the
real Paradise is no earthly one which can be seen; that it is placed
in no spot of ground, but in the highest part of our own nature, which
receives animation and life from the powers of the soul, and from the
communication of the Spirit of God.

  Sidenote: 2 Cor. xi. 2.

  Sidenote: Cant. iv. 12.

4. Moreover, Solomon by inspiration of the Spirit has plainly shown
that Paradise is in man himself. And seeing that he declares the
mysteries either of the soul and the Word, or of Christ and the Church,
he says of the virgin soul, or of the Church which he wished _to
present as a chaste virgin to Christ, A garden enclosed is my sister,
my spouse, a spring sealed up, a fountain closed_.

5. ‘Paradisus’ is the Greek, ‘hortus’ the Latin name. And in the
Latin text we read that Susannah was in a paradise. Adam too was in a
paradise. Let it not trouble you then that some Latin manuscripts have
the word ‘hortus,’ others ‘paradisus.’

6. Where the chaste wife is, there also is the virgin; the chosen
virgin has indeed her barriers and enclosures, but both are in a garden,
that thus by the shade of virtue they may be shielded from the heats of
the body and concupiscence of the flesh.

7. Hence also Paradise is in our highest part, thick set with the
growth of many opinions, and wherein chiefly God hath placed the Tree
of life, that is, the root of piety, for this is the true substance of
our life, that we should offer due service to our Lord and God.

8. He has likewise planted within us a seed-plot of the knowledge of
good and evil; for man alone of all creatures of the earth possesses
the knowledge of good and evil. Divers other plants are also there,
whose fruits are virtues.

  Sidenote: Gen. iii. 2, 3.

9. Now since God knew that man’s affections, once endued with knowledge,
would more readily incline towards craft than towards perfect prudence,
(for how could the qualities of His work be concealed from His
discerning eye, Who had set up certain boundaries in our soul?) He
desired to cast out craft from Paradise, and as the provident Author of
our salvation, to place therein the desire of life and the discipline
of piety. Wherefore He commanded man to eat of every tree which is in
Paradise, but that of the tree of knowledge of good and evil he should
not eat.

10. But since all creatures are subject to passions, lust, with the
stealth of a serpent, has crept over man’s affections: well therefore
has holy Moses represented lust under the similitude of a serpent;
for it creeps upon its belly like a serpent, not walking on foot, nor
raised up on legs, gliding along by the sinuous contortions, as it were,
of its whole body. Its food, as that of the serpent, is earthly, for it
knows not heavenly food, but feeds on carnal things, and changes itself
into various kinds of desire, and bends to and fro in tortuous wreaths.
It has poison in its fangs, whereby the belly of every luxurious man is
ripped up, the glutton is slain, the licker up of dishes perishes. How
many have been burst by wine, weakened by drunkenness, distended by

11. Now I understand why the Lord God breathed on the face of man;
for there is the seat and there are the incitements to lust, the eyes,
the ears, the nose and the mouth; it was to fortify our senses against
lust. Now it was this lust, which, as a serpent, inspired us with craft,
for it is not lust but labour and constant meditation, which, by God’s
grace, gives perfect wisdom.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. xi. 3.

  Sidenote: Eccles. vii. 11.

12. Now since the posterity of Adam are involved in the snares of the
serpent, let us imitate herein the fraud of the serpent, and not run
our head into danger, but be careful of its security beyond that of our
other members, for _the head of every man is Christ_. Let this remain
safe, that the poison of the serpent may not harm us. For _Wisdom
is good with an inheritance_, that is, with faith, for there is an
inheritance to them that believe in God.

13. But if that first man, who, dwelling in Paradise, conversed with
God, could fall so easily, though made of that virgin clay which had
lately been formed and created by the word of God, nor as yet clotted
with gore and the murder of kindred, nor polluted by iniquity and shame;
nor condemned in our flesh to the curse of a guilty posterity; how much
more easily afterwards did the smooth-worn path of sin lead the human
race to a greater fall, when, one after another, generations more and
more depraved succeeded others less wicked?

14. For if the magnet has such natural power as to attract iron to it,
and transfuse itself into the character of iron, so that often when
persons, wishing to try the experiment, apply iron rings to the same
stone, it retains all equally firmly: whereas, if to that ring to which
the stone adheres you add another, and so on in succession, although
the natural power of the magnet reaches through all in succession, it
binds the first with a firm, the hindermost with a slighter bond: if
such be the case, how much more must the condition and nature of the
human race have fallen from a pure state into one less pure, seeing
that it was always attracted to a generation more wicked than itself?

  Sidenote: Ps. xiv. 3.

  Sidenote: Rom. v. 20.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. viii. 5, 6.

15. For if the power of nature is diminished even by passing through
those substances which are not capable of sin, how much more must its
vigour be abated by minds and bodies polluted by the stain of crime?
Wherefore, seeing that wickedness had increased, that innocence had
decayed, that _there was no one that did good, no, not one_; the Lord
came in order to form anew, nay to augment, the grace of nature; _that
where sin had abounded, grace might much more abound_. It is plain then
both that God is the Creator of man, and that there is one God not many
gods; but that there is one God Who made the world, and one world, not
many worlds, as the philosophers assert.

16. First therefore He created the world, and then its inhabitant,
man, that the whole world might be his country. For if, up to this day,
wherever the wise man goes, he finds himself a citizen, he understands
his own position, he considers himself no where as a stranger or
sojourner, how much more was that first man an inhabitant of the whole
world, and, as the Greeks say, a cosmopolite, he who was the recent
creation of God, conversing continually with Him, the fellow-citizen
of the saints, the seed-plot of virtue, set over all creatures in the
earth sea and air, who considered the whole world to be his dominion;
whom the Lord defended as His own work, and as a loving Father and
Maker never deserted? In fine He so cherished this His creation, as to
redeem him when lost, to receive him when banished, when dead to raise
him to life by the passion of His Only-begotten Son. Wherefore God is
the Author of man, and, as a good Creator, loves His own work, as a
gracious Father, abandons not him, whom, in the character of a rich
householder, He has redeemed at the cost of His own possessions.

17. Let us be on our guard therefore that this man, that is, our
understanding[224] be not enervated by that woman, that is passion,
who was herself deceived and beguiled by the pleasure of our senses;
that she do not circumvent and draw him over to her own maxims and
opinions. Let us fly pleasure as a serpent; it has many allurements,
and especially as regards man. For other animals are captivated by
greediness after food; man, in that the powers of his eyes and ears
are more varied, is exposed to greater dangers.

Farewell; love me, as you indeed do, for I love you.

                             LETTER XLVI.
                               A.D. 389.

  SABINUS, who was Bishop of Placentia, had written to S. Ambrose
  to tell him of an Apollinarian heretic, who appears, after being
  condemned at Placentia, to have gone to Milan. S. Ambrose in
  this reply states how he had answered him from Holy Scripture,
  and refuted his false interpretations, especially of the passage
  in the Epistle to the Philippians and announces that he has
  baffled him, and that he is ‘preparing to flee.’

                          AMBROSE TO SABINUS.

  Sidenote: Phil. ii. 7.

  Sidenote: Eccles. x. 8.

1. THE man of whom you have written to me as a disseminator of
pernicious doctrines is a very light character, and has already
received the reward of his poison. For he has been replied to publicly,
and what he had sown in private he has reaped openly. I had previously
esteemed him vain and envious only, but when this language of his
reached my ears, I immediately answered that he was infected by the
venom of Apollinaris, who will not admit that our Lord Jesus became
a servant for us when He took upon Him our flesh; and this, although
the Apostle declares that _He took on Him the form of a servant_. This
is the bulwark, this is the hedge of our faith; he who destroys this
shall be destroyed himself, as it is written, _Whoso breaketh an hedge,
a serpent shall bite him_.

2. At first I gently asked him, Why do you what is in itself good with
evil intent? For I esteem it a favour if any one who reads my writings
will tell me of any thing which causes him surprise. And this, first,
because even in things which I know I may be deceived. Many things
pass by the ear unheeded, many things sound differently to others,
it is well, if it be possible, to be on one’s guard in all matters.
Next, because it does not become me to be disturbed, seeing that many
questions are mooted concerning the words of the Apostles and those
of the Gospel and our Lord Himself, if things are found in my writings
also, which people consider subjects of dispute. For many indulge
their own humour, like that man who compassed the whole world, that he
might find some one to censure, not one whom he might deem worthy of

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xi. 25.

  Sidenote: Ps. cix. 25, 26.

3. Now this man discovered a nasty means of cavilling at something in
my writings, since in commenting upon the passage in which the Lord
Jesus said, _I thank Thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth_, I stated
that it was intended to show that He is the Father of the Son and the
Lord of the creature. Nevertheless in the Psalm the Son has plainly
called the Father, Lord: _They that looked upon Me shaked their heads:
help Me, O Lord My God_. For speaking in the form of a servant He
called Him Lord Whom He knew to be His Father; though equal in the form
of God, proclaiming Himself to be a servant according to the substance
of His flesh; for slavery is of the flesh, lordship of the Godhead.

  Sidenote: 2 Cor. v. 16.

  Sidenote: 2 Cor. v. 17.

  Sidenote: Phil. ii. 7.

  Sidenote: 2 Cor. v. 21.

  Sidenote: Gal. iii. 13.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. xv. 28.

  Sidenote: Acts iii. 6.

  Sidenote: Ib. 13.

  Sidenote: Rev. v. 12.

  Sidenote: Ps. xxii. 6.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. xv. 55.

4. First then your great sagacity perceives that what is said in the
Gospel has reference to the times of the Gospel, when the Lord Jesus
dwelt among men in human form; but now _we know Christ according to the
flesh no longer_. Be it that He was so seen and known by them of old,
now _old things are passed away, all things are become new_. But all
things are from God, Who has reconciled us by Christ unto Himself; for
we were dead, and therefore One was made a servant for all. Why do I
say, a servant? He was made sin, a reproach, a curse. For the Apostle
has said that _He was made sin for us_, that the Lord Jesus _was made a
curse for us_. He has said, _when all things shall be subdued unto Him,
then shall He also Himself be subject_. Peter also said in the Acts
of the Apostles, _In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and
walk_. Then he said also, that God had _glorified His Servant Jesus_,
and no one brings any charge against him concerning the time. But in
the Apocalypse He is called _a Lamb_ by John, in the Psalm He is called
_a worm and no man_. He was made all these things that He might blunt
the sting of our death, that He might take away our slavery, that He
might abolish our curses, our sins, our reproaches.

  Sidenote: Exod. xvi. 18.

  Sidenote: Is. liii. 4.

  Sidenote: Phil. ii. 7.

  Sidenote: Ib. 11.

  Sidenote: Ps. xxii. 7.

  Sidenote: S. Luke xxiii. 34.

  Sidenote: Isa. xl. 5.

  Sidenote: Ib. liii. 2.

5. These things and others and many more you have written me word
that you answered to one who consulted you; and, seeing that they
are contained in Holy Scripture, how should any one hesitate to utter
what has been thus piously written, tending as they do to the glory
of Christ, not to His disparagement? For if it is said of His gift,
that is, of the manna, that _he that gathered little had no lack[225],
he that gathered much had nothing over_[226], could He Himself suffer
diminution or increase? For in what respect was He diminished by taking
upon Him our bondage, our infirmities? He was humbled, He was in the
form of a servant, but He was also in the glory of God the Father.
He was a worm upon the Cross, but He also forgave the sins of His
persecutors. He was a reproach, but He is also the glory of the Lord,
as it is written, _The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all
flesh shall see it together_. What did He lose Who is wanting in
nothing? _He had_ indeed _no form or comeliness_, but He had the
fulness of the Godhead. He was accounted weak, but He ceased not to be
the Power of God. He was seen in human form, but there shone upon earth
the Divine Majesty and the glory of the Father.

  Sidenote: Phil. ii. 6, 7.

  Sidenote: Ps. xlv. 2.

6. Well therefore has the Apostle repeated the same word, saying of the
Lord Jesus, _Who being in the form of God thought it not robbery to be
equal with God; but made Himself of no reputation and took upon Him the
form of a servant_. What is the meaning of _in the form of God_ but in
the fulness of the Godhead, in the expression of the Divine perfection?
Being therefore in the fulness of the Godhead, He _emptied Himself_ of
it, and received the fulness of human nature and perfection: as nothing
was wanting to Him as God so neither was there any thing wanting to
His completeness as Man, that in either _form_ He might be perfect.
Wherefore David also says, _Thou art fairer than the children of men_.

  Sidenote: Gal. iv. 8.

  Sidenote: Phil. ii. 7.

  Sidenote: Ib.

  Sidenote: Jer. xvii. 9.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. viii. 2, 3.

  Sidenote: S. John xi. 33, 44.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xxvii. 52.

7. The Apollinarian is confuted, he has no refuge to turn to, he is
caught in his own net. For he himself had said, He took upon him the
form of a servant, He was not chosen to be a servant. I ask again
therefore, what is the meaning of _in the form of God_? He replies,
In the nature of God. For there are those, says the Apostle, _which by
nature are no gods_. I enquire, what is the meaning of _took upon Him
the form of a servant_? Doubtless, as I have stated, the perfection
of the nature and condition of man, that He might be in the likeness
of man. And he has said well _the likeness_, not of the flesh, but _of
men_, for He is in the same flesh. But since He alone was without sin,
but all men are in sin, He was seen _in the form of man_. Wherefore
the prophet also says, _He is a man yet who can know him_[227]?
Man according to the flesh, but beyond man according to the Divine
operation. When he touched the leper He was seen as man, but above
man when He cleansed him. When He wept over Lazarus dead, He wept as
man, but He was above men when He commanded the dead to come forth with
bound feet. He was seen as man when He hung upon the cross, but above
man when the graves were opened and He raised the dead.

  Sidenote: Phil. ii. 8.

  Sidenote: 1 Tim. ii. 5.

  Sidenote: S. John i. 14.

8. Nor has the Apollinarian venom any cause for complaining because
it is thus it written, _And being found in fashion[228] as a man_, for
Jesus is not hereby denied to be man, for in another place Paul himself
calls Him, _The Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus_,
but rather His manhood is established. For it is the custom and manner
of Scripture so to express itself, and we read also in the Gospel, _And
we beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only-begotten of the Father_.
In the same way therefore that He is called _as_ the only-begotten, yet
it is not denied that He is truly the only-begotten Son of God, so He
is said to be _as_ man, yet it is not denied that the perfection of
manhood existed in Him.

  Sidenote: Phil. ii. 7.

  Sidenote: Gal. iv. 4.

  Sidenote: Ps. cxix. 91.

  Sidenote: Ib. lxxxix. 20, 26, 27.

  Sidenote: Ib. lxxxvi. 2.

9. While, then, He was in the form of a servant, humbled even unto
death, He yet remained in the glory of God. What injury then was
His state of subjection to Him? We read that He was made a servant,
because we read that He was made of a Virgin and created in the flesh,
for every creature is a servant, as the Prophet says; _For all things
serve Thee_. Wherefore also God the Father says, _I have found David
My servant, with My holy oil have I anointed him. He shall call Me,
Thou art my Father, my God, and my strong salvation; and I will make
him My first-born_; and in another Psalm, _Preserve Thou my soul for
I am holy: save Thy servant_, and afterwards in the same Psalm, _Give
Thy strength unto Thy servant, and help the son of Thy handmaid_. Thus
I have collected the words of the Father and of the Son, that I may
answer not with human arguments but by the Divine oracles.

  Sidenote: Ps. xxxi. 5.

  Sidenote: Ib. 8.

  Sidenote: Ib. 11.

  Sidenote: Ib. 16.

  Sidenote: Isa. xlix. 1–3.

  Sidenote: Ib. xli. 8.

  Sidenote: S. John i. 18.

10. In another passage He says, _Into Thy hands I commend My spirit_,
and, _Thou hast set My feet in a large room_, and, _I became a reproof
among all Mine enemies_. And in the same Psalm, _Shew Thy servant the
light of Thy countenance_. By the mouth of Isaiah too the Son of God
Himself says, _From my mother’s womb the Lord hath called My name, and
He hath made My mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of His hand
hath He hid Me, and made Me a polished shaft; in His quiver hath He hid
Me; and said unto Me, Thou art My servant, O Israel_. For the Son of
God is also called Israel, as in another place, _But thou, Israel, My
Servant Jacob, whom I have chosen_. For He alone hath truly not only
seen but also declared God the Father.

  Sidenote: Isa. xlix. 3, 4, 5.

  Sidenote: Isa. xlix. 6.

  Sidenote: Ib. xlii. 6. xlix. 6.

  Sidenote: Ezek. xxxiv. 23, 24.

  Sidenote: Zech. iii. 8.

  Sidenote: Ib. iii. 3.

11. And it goes on, _In whom I will be glorified. Then I said, I have
laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain: yet
surely my judgment is with the Lord, and my work with my God. And now
saith the Lord that formed me from the womb to be His servant, to bring
Jacob again to Him and Israel._ Who hath gathered the people of God but
Christ? Who is glorified before the Lord? Who is the Power of God? He
to Whom the Father hath said, _It is a light thing that Thou shouldest
be My servant_[229], and He to Whom He says _Behold, I will give Thee
for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles, that Thou
mightest be My Salvation unto the end of the earth_. Of Him He has also
spoken by the mouth of the prophet Ezekiel, saying, _I will set up one
Shepherd over them, and He shall feed them, even My Servant David, He
shall feed them, and He shall be their Shepherd. And I the Lord will
be their God, and My Servant David a Prince among them._ Now king David
was already dead, and therefore the true David, the truly humble, the
truly meek, the true Son of God, strong of hand, is announced by this
name; he also is intended in the book of the prophet Zechariah, where
God the Father says, _Behold I will send my servant, the Orient[230] is
His name_. Did then His being _clothed in filthy garments_ deprive the
Sun of righteousness of the brightness of His Godhead?

12. And why need I say more? Shall we deem servitude to be a state
of greater weakness than that of being made sin, of being a curse,
a reproach, than the infirmities which He bore for our sakes that we
might be saved from them? For He was made all of these that He might
relieve the world from them. But they will not admit that He was made
a servant, a reproach, a curse, because they affirm that the Word and
the flesh are of one substance, and say, Because He redeemed us He is
called a servant, and ought to be called sin. And they do not perceive
this to be the glory of Christ, that in His Incarnation He took upon
Him the state of a servant that He might restore liberty to all; He
bore our sins, that He might take away the sin of the world.

  Sidenote: Gal. iii. 13.

  Sidenote: Is. xlix. 4.

  Sidenote: Phil. ii. 16.

13. He was made a servant, He was made sin and a curse, that thou
mightest cease to be a servant of sin, and that He might absolve thee
from the curse of the Divine judgment. He therefore took upon Him thy
curse, for _Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree_. He was made a
curse upon the cross, that thou mightest be blessed in the kingdom of
God. He was disgraced, He was vilified and set at nought. He said, _I
have laboured in vain_, through Whom Paul was enabled to say, _I have
not laboured in vain_. This He did that He might confer on His servants
the fruit of good works and the glory of the preaching of the Gospel,
whereby the world might be released from the burthen of its toil.

  Sidenote: Jer. xvii. 11.

14. On hearing these things _the partridge[231] was left in the midst
of her days_, she who cried _that she might gather the things which she
did not lay_, and was overcome by the voice of the Lord Jesus. And even
now is she preparing for flight.

Farewell; love me, for I love you.

                             LETTER XLVII.
                               A.D. 390.

  THIS brief letter was sent with a book which Sabinus had asked
  for. It is a friendly invitation to a regular correspondence, as
  bringing friends together in spirit who are severed in body.

                          AMBROSE TO SABINUS.

1. I HAVE transmitted the volume you asked for, written more clearly
and neatly than the one which I had previously sent, in order that by
the facility of its perusal your judgment of it might be unimpeded. For
the original copy was written not for appearance, but for use, for I
do not always employ a scribe, especially at night, at which time I am
unwilling to be a trouble and a burthen to others, and further, because
the words I am then dictating flow on with a kind of impetuosity, and
in a rapid stream.

  Sidenote: Ps. xlv. 2.

2. But as I am desirous to select with precision the words which my
old age employs in its familiar intercourse, and to proceed with a slow
step, I think the use of my own hands in writing befits me better; that
I may seem rather to conceal my words than lustily give vent to them;
and may not have to blush at the presence of him who is writing for me,
but, having no one in the secret of my words, may weigh what I write
with eye as well as with ears. For, in the words of Scripture, the
tongue is swifter than the hand; _My tongue is the pen of a ready

  Sidenote: Gal. vi. 11.

3. And though you may perhaps say that the swiftness is here attributed
to the writer, the meaning will nevertheless not escape you that it is
only the swiftness of a ready writer which can take down the words of
the prophetic tongue. The Apostle Paul also wrote with his own hand, as
he says himself, _I have written unto you with mine own hand_. He did
it to show honour, we do it from bashfulness.

4. But while your judgement of my book is still in suspense, let us
entertain each other by letters; the advantage whereof is that although
severed from each other by distance of space we may be united in
affection; for by this means the absent have the image of each other’s
presence reflected back upon them, and conversation by writing unites
the severed. By this means also we interchange thoughts with our friend,
and transpose our mind into his.

5. Now if, according to your admonition, there is any savour of ancient
writings in our letters, not only do our minds seem to be united by
this progress in true doctrine, but also the form and fashion of a more
intimate converse seems to be set forth, in that the discussion which
is thus entered upon by mutual inquiry and reply appears to place in
presence of each other those friends who in this manner challenge and
engage one another.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. v. 3.

6. And why need I produce the example of our ancestors, who by their
letters have instilled faith into the minds of the people, and have
written to whole nations together, and have shewn themselves to be
present although writing from a distance, according to the words of the
Apostle, that he was _absent in body, but present in spirit_, not only
in writing but also in judging. Again, he condemned them while absent
by epistle, and also absolved them by epistle; for the epistle of Paul
was a certain image of his presence and form of his work.

  Sidenote: 2 Cor. x. 10.

  Sidenote: Ib. 11.

7. For the epistles of the Apostles were not, like those of others,
_weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence weak, and his speech
contemptible_, but his letter was of that kind that such as was the
substance of his work such also was the form of his precept; for
_such_, says he, _as we are in word by letters when absent, such will
we be also in deed when we are present_. He imprinted the image of his
presence on his letters, he declared its fruit and testimony in his

Farewell; love me, as indeed you do, for I love you.

                            LETTER XLVIII.

  S. AMBROSE in this letter begs Sabinus to examine the books
  which he sends to him carefully, and to criticise them freely,
  as a proof of true friendship, and at the same time adding to
  the value of the works.

                          AMBROSE TO SABINUS.

1. YOU have sent me back my volumes, and I shall hold them in greater
esteem owing to your judgment. I have therefore sent you others, not so
much because I was delighted at wishing for your favourable judgment,
as of that truth which I have asked and you have promised to declare
to me; for should any thing strike you I would rather it had the
correction of your judgment before it goes abroad beyond the power of
recal, than that you should praise what is blamed by others. It is on
this account that I have requested to have your opinion of those things
which you asked me to write, for I have not so much desired that what
I publish from time to time should be read by you, as that they should
be submitted to the account which your judgment shall take of them. And
this judgment, as one said of old, will not require[232] a long sitting
and delay. For surely it is easy for you to judge of my writings.

2. Thus far, on your invitation, I have thought it right to proceed; it
is now your part to discern clearly and examine carefully what requires
correction, that you may thus escape being inculpated in those faults
which may have stolen unawares upon myself. For somehow over and above
that want of caution which envelops me as with a mist, every one is
beguiled in what he himself writes, and its faults escape his ear.
And as a man takes pleasure in his children even though deformed, so
also is a writer flattered by his own discourses however ungraceful.
How frequently are words put forth uncautiously or understood less
charitably than one means; or some ambiguity escapes from us; things,
moreover, which are to be subjected to the judgment of others we
ought to weigh not so much by our own as by another’s opinion, and
to separate from it every grain of malevolence.

3. Be so kind therefore as to lend an ear of keen attention, peruse
the whole thoroughly, test my discourses, see whether they contain, not
rhetorical charms and persuasive words, but a sound faith and a sober
confession. Affix a mark on words of doubtful weight and which are
deceitful in the scales, that the adversary may not make out any thing
to tell in his favour. Let him meet with defeat if he enters into the
contest. That book is in a bad condition, which cannot be defended
without a champion; for a book which goes forth without a mediator has
to speak for itself; my book however shall not go forth from me, unless
it receive authority from you. When then you bid it go forth, and give
your word for it, let it be left to its own keeping.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. iv. 20.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xxviii. 19.

  Sidenote: Col. ii. 9.

  Sidenote: Phil. ii. 7, 8.

4. But, since _the kingdom of God is not in word but in power_, if a
word offend you consider the _power_ of its profession. By profession
I mean that decision of faith which we hold, as handed down by our
fathers, against the Sabellians and Arians, that we worship God the
Father and His Only-begotten Son and the Holy Spirit, that this Trinity
is of one Substance Majesty and Divinity; that in this _Name of the
Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost_, we _baptize_, as it is
written; that the Son, co-eternal with the Father, took upon Him our
flesh, born of the Holy Spirit and of the Virgin Mary, equal to the
Father as touching His Godhead, in the form of God, that is, in all
the fulness of the Godhead Which _dwells in Him_, as the Apostle says,
_bodily_; Who, in the person of man, _took upon Him the form of a
servant, and humbled Himself even unto death_.

  Sidenote: Heb. vi. 18.

5. Wherefore as against Photinus this is our sentence, and as against
Apollinaris it is also a proper safeguard; our confession, namely,
that as in the form of God He lacked nothing of the Divine nature and
fulness, so in that human form there was nothing wanting in Him so
as to cause Him to be judged imperfect as Man; for He came in order
to save man altogether. Truly it would not have been fitting that He
Who had accomplished a perfect work in others should suffer it to be
imperfect in Himself; for if aught was wanting to Him as Man, then He
did not redeem the whole man, and if He did not redeem the whole man,
He deceived us, for He said that He had come in order to save the whole
man. But since it is _impossible for God to lie_, He deceived us not;
wherefore, seeing that He came to redeem and save the whole man, He
took upon Him the whole of that which belonged to human perfection.

6. Such, as you will remember, is my belief. Should my words in any
passage raise a doubt, still they will not raise any prejudice as to
my faith, for if the mind continue stedfast, it extends its protection
over ambiguous language, and preserves it from error.

7. This preface then I send you, and will insert it, if you please, in
the books of our letters, and place it among their number; that so it
may be recommended by your name, and by our letters to each other our
mutual love in the Lord, may be increased: that, finally, you may so
read as to give me your judgment, and to communicate to me whatever may
strike you, for true love is proved by constancy. For the present we
have chosen that which old men find more easy, the writing of letters
in ordinary and familiar language: subjoining, should such present
itself, any appropriate passage from the sacred Scriptures. Farewell,
my brother, and love one who is your lover, for I greatly love you.

                             LETTER XLIX.
                               A.D. 390.

  S. AMBROSE says that he never feels less solitary, than when by
  himself writing to a friend. He then dwells on the benefit of
  solitude; especially in that we may then have God present with
  us, and lay open our souls to Him.

                          AMBROSE TO SABINUS.

1. SINCE you also take pleasure in receiving my letters, by means of
which, although separated from each other, we discourse together as
if present, I will for the future more frequently converse with you by
letter when I am alone. For[233] I am never less alone than when I seem
to be so, nor ever less at leisure than in the intervals of labour. For
then I summon at pleasure whom I will, and associate to myself those
whom I love most or find most congenial; no man interrupts or intrudes
upon us. Then it is that I more intimately enjoy you, that I confer
with you in the Scriptures, that we converse together more at length.

  Sidenote: S. Luke i. 35.

  Sidenote: Acts x. 10.

  Sidenote: Gen. iii. 8.

2. Mary was alone when addressed by the Angel, alone when the _Holy
Ghost came upon her, and the power of the Highest overshadowed her_.
She was alone when she effected the salvation of the world, and
conceived the Redemption of the universe. Peter was alone when the
mystery of the sanctification of the Gentiles all over the world was
made known to him. Adam was alone, and he fell not, because his mind
adhered to God. But when the woman was joined to him he lost his power
of abiding by the celestial precepts, and therefore he hid himself when
God walked in Paradise.

3. And even now, while I read the sacred Scriptures, God walks in
Paradise. The book of Genesis, wherein the virtues of the Patriarchs
bud forth, is Paradise; Deuteronomy, wherein grow the precepts of the
Law, is also Paradise, wherein the tree of life brings forth good fruit,
and diffuses over all nations the precepts of eternal hope.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. v. 44.

  Sidenote: Ib. xix. 21.

  Sidenote: S. Luke vi. 29.

  Sidenote: Heb. iv. 13.

4. So when I hear, _Love your enemies_, when I hear, _Sell that thou
hast, and give to the poor_; when I hear, _unto him that smiteth thee
on the one cheek offer also the other_; when I hear these things and do
not perform them, nay, when I barely love him who loves me, when I will
not part with what I have, when I desire to avenge the injuries I have
received, and to recover what has been wrested from me, whereas the
Scripture bids me give up more than I have been asked for or deprived
of, I perceive that I am acting contrary to the commands of God. Thus
opening the eyes of my conscience, I perceive that God is present and
walking with me; I desire to hide, I desire to clothe myself; but I
am naked in His sight unto Whom _all things are naked and opened_!
I am abashed therefore, and desire to conceal the shame of my crimes
as though they were the secret members of my body; but since God sees
all things, since I am manifest to Him, though covered with leaves and
shaded by thickets, I think to conceal myself from Him by the covering
of my body. This is that coat of skins, in which Adam was clothed
when he was cast out of Paradise, neither shielded from the cold, nor
protected from scorn, but exposed to misery as well as guilt.

  Sidenote: Gen. iii. 8.

  Sidenote: Ib. i. 27.

  Sidenote: S. John xvi. 32.

5. From whence it appears that it is when alone that we offer ourselves
to God, that we open to Him our souls, that we put off the cloak of
fraud. Adam was alone when placed in Paradise; alone also when made in
the image of God: but when cast out of Paradise he was not alone. The
Lord Jesus was alone when He redeemed the world; for it was no herald
or messenger, but the Lord Himself alone Who redeemed His people,
although He, in Whom the Father always dwells, can never be alone. Let
us also then be alone, that the Lord may be with us. Farewell: love me,
for I also love you.

                               LETTER L.

  THIS letter contains an interesting discussion of the question
  how an evil man like Balaam could be employed by God to utter
  true prophecies, and deals with other difficulties which arise
  out of Balaam’s history.

                        AMBROSE TO CHROMATIUS.

  Sidenote: Heb. vi. 18.

  Sidenote: Rom. iii. 4.

1. DOES God lie? Truly He lies not, because it is impossible for God
to lie. And further, does this impossibility arise from infirmity? No,
truly, for how can He be Almighty if He cannot do all things? What then
is impossible to Him? Not that which is difficult to His Power, but
what is contrary to His Nature. _It is impossible_, it is said, _for
Him to lie_. This impossibility comes not of infirmity, but of Power
and Majesty, for truth admits not of falsehood, nor God’s Power of the
weakness of error. Wherefore _let God be true and every man a liar_.

2. The truth therefore is always in Him; _He remains faithful_; change
or _deny Himself He cannot_. But if He deny that He is true, He lies,
but to lie belongs not to power but to weakness. Nor can He change, for
His nature admits not infirmity. This impossibility therefore comes of
His fulness, which cannot be diminished or increased, not of infirmity,
which, in that it increases itself, is weak. Whence we gather that this
impossibility on the part of God is indeed most powerful. For what can
be more powerful than to be ignorant of all infirmity?

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. i. 25.

3. There is however another _weakness of God_ which _is stronger than
men_, and a _foolishness of God_ which _is wiser than men_, but this
has reference to the Cross, the former to His Godhead. If then His
weakness is strength, how can that which comes of His power be weak?
Let it therefore be an axiom with us that God lies not.

  Sidenote: Deut. xviii. 10.

4. But there was no diviner of auguries in Israel according to the law
of God. How then was it that Balaam said that he was forbidden by the
oracle of God to go and curse the people of Israel, and yet he went,
and the Angel of the Lord who had forbidden his going, met him, and
stood in the way of the ass that carried him, and nevertheless the
Angel himself bid him go, only he must speak that which should be
put into his mouth? If there was to be no deceiver in Israel, how did
this oracle of God, declaring things for true, come to him who was a
deceiver? If he spoke as the oracle of God, whence did he derive the
grace of the Divine inspiration?

  Sidenote: S. John xi. 50.

5. But you are not to wonder that the Lord should put into the mouth
of a diviner what he should speak, when you read in the Gospel that it
was put into the mouth even of the prince of the Synagogue, one of the
persecutors of Christ, that _it is expedient that one man should die
for the people_? Herein then is no merit of prophecy, but an assertion
of the truth; that by the testimony even of adversaries the truth might
be declared, so that the perfidy of unbelievers might be confuted by
the words even of their own diviners. Just so Abraham[234] the Chaldæan
is called to belief, that the superstition of the Chaldæans might be
put to silence. It is not therefore the merit of him who utters, but
rather the oracle of God Who calls, the grace of God Who reveals.

  Sidenote: Numb. xxii. 12.

  Sidenote: Ib. 19.

6. Now what was the guilt which Balaam incurred, but that he spoke one
thing, and designed another? For God requires a clean vessel, not one
defiled by uncleanness and pollution. Balaam therefore was tried, not
approved, for he was full of deceit and treachery. Again, when he first
enquired whether he should go to that vain people, and was forbidden,
he excused himself: afterwards, when more honourable messages were sent,
he who ought to have refused consent, seduced by ampler promises and
more abundant gifts, was led again to enquire of God, as if many gifts
could influence the mind of God.

  Sidenote: Ib. 25.

7. Answer was made to him as to a covetous man, not as to one who
sought the truth, that so he might rather be deceived than rightly
informed. He set out, an Angel met him in a narrow place, and shewed
himself to the ass, but not to the diviner. To the former he revealed
himself, the latter he crushed; yet, that he might at length be
recognized by him, he opened his eyes also. He saw, but even yet he
did not believe the manifest oracle, and though his very eyes ought
to have convinced him, he answered confusedly and doubtingly.

  Sidenote: Numb. xxii. 35.

  Sidenote: Ib. xxiii. 8.

8. Then the Lord, being angry, said to him by the Angel, _Go with the
men, but only the word that I shall speak unto thee, that shalt thou
speak_. As an empty instrument you shall give utterance to My words.
It is I Who will speak, not you; you will only echo what you hear and
do not understand. You will gain no advantage by going, because you
will return without either a reward of money or progress in grace.
Again, these are his first words, _How shall I curse whom God hath not
cursed?_ in order to shew that the benediction of the Hebrew people
depended not on his will but on the grace of God.

9. _From the top of the rocks_, he says, _I see him_; for I cannot
embrace within my ken this people, which shall dwell alone, marking
out their boundaries, not so much by the occupation of space as by
the abode of virtue, and extending them into eternal ages by the
distinctive peculiarity of their manners. For which of the bordering
nations shall be numbered with this one, which is raised above their
fellowship by its exalted righteousness? Who shall understand the
nature of its generation? Their bodies we indeed perceive to have been
compounded and fashioned of human seed, but their minds have sprung
from higher and wondrous seed-plots.

  Sidenote: Ib. 10.

10. _Let my soul die with their souls_, die to this bodily life, that
with the souls of the just it may attain to the grace of that eternal
life. Herein even then was revealed the excellence of our heavenly
Sacrament and of holy Baptism, by the operation whereof men die to
original sin and to evil works; that being transformed by newness of
life into fellowship with the just they may rise again to live as do
the just. And what wonder is it that it should be so, when men die to
sin in order to live to God?

  Sidenote: Ib. 11.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. xiii. 1.

  Sidenote: Numb. xxiii. 21.

11. Balak hearing this, was wroth and said, ‘I brought thee to curse
and thou blessest.’ He answered, ‘I am reproved for that of which I am
not conscious; for I speak nothing of my own, but utter sounds like _a
tinkling cymbal_.’ Again, being carried to a second and a third place,
although he wished to curse, he blessed; _He hath not beheld iniquity
in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel; the Lord his God
is with him_. And afterwards he commands seven altars and sacrifices
to be prepared. He ought, indeed, to have departed, but his weak mind
and mutability of purpose led him to believe that he could turn aside
the Will of God: he himself, the while, being in a trance, desired one
thing but spoke another.

  Sidenote: Ib. xxiv. 5, 6.

  Sidenote: v. 19.

  Sidenote: v. 8.

  Sidenote: v. 7.

  Sidenote: v. 9.

  Sidenote: Heb. iv. 12.

12. _How goodly_, said he, _are thy tents_, O host of the Hebrews! _As
the valleys are they spread forth, as gardens by the river’s side and
as cedar trees beside the waters._ A man shall come out of Jacob, and
shall subdue many nations, and his kingdom shall be exalted on high:
in the earth also he shall extend his dominion in Egypt. _Blessed is
he that blesseth thee, and cursed is he that curseth thee._ Now to whom
did he point but to the people of Christ? God blesses him into whose
heart the Word of God enters, _even to the dividing asunder of the
soul, and of the joints and marrow_; in him Balaam would have found the
grace of the Lord if he had acted according to the intent and purpose
of his heart. But since an evil mind is confuted by its own counsels,
and the secrets of the soul are betrayed by events, his mind was thus
discovered by the treachery which followed.

13. Therefore also he met with a worthy reward of his malice. For
finding while in his trance that he could not curse, he gives his
advice to the king, saying, ‘Such is the utterance of what God has
commanded, hear now my counsel against the oracles of God. This people
is just, it has the protection of God: since it has not given itself to
divinations and auguries, but to the eternal God above; and therefore
its faith excels that of others. But sometimes even faithful minds fall
through corporeal charms and the blandishments of beauty. Numerous are
your women, and many of them not uncomely; now the male sex is in no
respect more prone to fall than through the frailty with which it is
captivated by female beauty, particularly if their minds are excited
by frequent converse, and thus become inflamed as by a torch; if,
while they drink in the hope of enjoying, their passions are kept in
suspense. Let your women therefore cast their hooks by their converse,
let them offer no obstacles to a first access, but roam abroad and
spread themselves through the camp, exposed to view and affable of
speech. Let them so artfully deal with these men as not to admit them
to carnal intercourse until they shall have proved the strength of
their love by becoming participators in sacrilege. For they may thus be
deprived of the protection of heaven, if they shall themselves depart
by sacrilege from the Lord their God.’

  Sidenote: Rev. ii. 14, 15.

14. Unrighteous therefore, as the counsellor of fornication and
sacrilege, was Balaam; for thus it is plainly written in the Apocalypse
of John the Evangelist, when the Lord Jesus says to the Angel of
the Church of Pergamos; _Thou hast there them that hold the doctrine
of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumbling-block before the
children of Israel, to eat things sacrified unto idols, and to commit
fornication; so hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the
Nicolaitans_. Wherefore it appears that from hence has flowed the
impiety of the Manichees, like that of Manasseh, who mingle and unite
sacrilege with impurity.

  Sidenote: Num. xxv. 11.

15. Neither, then, was God unjust, nor His purpose mutable; for He
detected Balaam’s mind and the secrets of his heart, and He therefore
tried him as a diviner, He did not choose him as a prophet. Surely
he ought to have been converted if it were only by the grace of such
great oracles and the sublimity of his revelations, but his mind, full
of iniquity, brought forth words but did not yield belief, seeking
to frustrate by its counsels that event which it had predicted. And
since he could not defeat the prophecy, he suggested deceitful counsels
whereby the fickle people of the Jews were tempted but not overcome;
for by the righteousness of one priest all the counsel of this wicked
man was overthrown, and that the host of our fathers could be delivered
by one man was much more wonderful than that it could be deceived by
one man.

  Sidenote: Gen. xxiv. 63. to meditate E.V.

16. This little gift I have sent to your Holiness, because you wish
me to compile somewhat from the interpretations of the ancient authors.
But I had undertaken to write letters in a familiar style, savouring
of the tone of thought of our fathers; and should you relish their
flavour I shall be emboldened to send you of the same kind hereafter.
For I prefer conversing garrulously with you like an old man concerning
heavenly things, which is called in Greek ἀδολεσχῆσαι: _Isaac went
forth into the field_, ἀδολεσχῆσαι, seeing in his mind, on the approach
of Rebecca, the mysteries of the Church which was to come: this
conversing with you with the words of an old man, that I may not
seem to have abandoned my art, I prefer, I say, to uttering in a more
vehement style things no longer adapted to our studies or strength.

Farewell: love me, for I also love you.

                              LETTER LI.
                               A.D. 390.

  THIS is the famous Letter addressed by S. Ambrose to Theodosius
  after the massacre at Thessalonica. The details of that
  occurrence are too familiar to need repeating here. In this
  Letter S. Ambrose explains to the Emperor why he had avoided
  meeting him on his return to Milan, and urges him with
  respectful and most affectionate, but firm remonstrance, to
  follow David in penitence as he had followed him in crime, and
  tells him that God Himself had in a vision forbidden him to
  offer the Sacrifice of the Eucharist in his behalf while he
  remained impenitent. The Letter, far from deserving Gibbon’s
  scornful title of ‘a miserable rhapsody on a noble subject,’
  may rather be regarded as a model of dignified remonstrance,
  well befitting an eminent prelate addressing a great earthly


1. VERY pleasant to me is the remembrance of your long friendship,
and I also bear a grateful sense of those benefits which at my frequent
intreaties you have most graciously extended to others. You may be
sure then that it could not be from any ungrateful feeling that on
your arrival, which I was wont to long for so ardently, I shunned your
presence. The motives of my conduct I will now briefly explain.

  Sidenote: S. Luke viii. 17.

2. I found that I alone in all your court was denied the natural right
of hearing, in order to deprive me of the power of speaking too: for
you were frequently displeased at decisions having reached me which
were made in your Consistory. Thus I have been debarred from the common
privilege of men, though the Lord Jesus says, _Nothing is secret which
shall not be made manifest_. Wherefore I did my utmost to obey with
reverence your royal will, and I provided both for you and for myself;
for you, that you should have no cause of disturbance, to which end I
endeavoured that no intelligence should be brought me of the Imperial
decrees; and as to myself, I provided against my not seeming to hear
when present, from fear of others and thus incurring the charge of
connivance, and also against hearing in such manner that while my ears
were open my mouth must be closed, and I must not utter what I heard,
lest I should injure those who had fallen under suspicion of treachery.

  Sidenote: Ezek. iii. 18.

3. What then was I to do? was I not to listen? But I could not close my
ears with the wax of the old tales. Must I disclose what I heard? But
then I had reason to fear that the same result which I apprehended from
your commands would ensue from my own words; that they might become
the cause of bloodshed. Was I then to be silent? But this would be the
most miserable of all, for my conscience would be bound, my liberty
of speech taken away. And what then of the text, _if the priest warn
not the wicked from his wicked way, the wicked man shall die in his
iniquity_, but the priest shall be liable to punishment, because he did
not warn him?

4. Suffer me, gracious Emperor. You have a zeal for the faith, I own
it, you have the fear of God, I confess it; but you have a vehemence
of temper, which if soothed may readily be changed into compassion, but
if inflamed becomes so violent that you can scarcely restrain it. If no
one will allay it, let no one at least inflame it. To yourself I would
willingly trust, for you are wont to exercise self-control, and by your
love of mercy to conquer this violence of your nature.

5. This vehemence of yours I have preferred secretly to commend to
your consideration, rather than run the risk of rousing it publicly
by my acts. And so I have preferred to be lacking somewhat in duty
rather than in humility, and that others should complain of my want
of priestly authority, rather than that you should find any want of
respect in me, who am so devoted to you; and this in order that you may
restrain your emotions, and have full power of choosing what counsel
to follow. I alleged as my reason, bodily sickness, which was in fact
severe, and not to be mitigated but by more gentle treatment; still I
would rather have died than not have waited two or three days for your
arrival. But I could not do so.

6. An act has been committed in the city of Thessalonica, the like of
which is not recorded, the perpetration of which I could not prevent,
which in my frequent petitions before the court I had declared to be
most atrocious, and which by your tardy revocation you have yourself
pronounced to be very heinous: such an act as this I could not
extenuate. Intelligence of it was first brought to a synod held on the
arrival of the Gallican Bishops: all present deplored it, no one viewed
it leniently; your friendship with Ambrose, so far from excusing your
deed, would have even brought a heavier weight of odium on my head,
had there been no one found to declare the necessity of your being
reconciled to God.

  Sidenote: 2 Sam. xii. 13.

  Sidenote: Ib. 7.

  Sidenote: Ps. xcv. 6.

  Sidenote: 2 Sam. xii. 13.

7. Is your Majesty ashamed to do that which the Royal Prophet David
did, the forefather of Christ according to the flesh? It was told him
that a rich man, who had numerous flocks, on the arrival of a guest
took a poor man’s lamb and killed it, and recognizing in this act
his own condemnation, he said, _I have sinned against the Lord_. Let
not your Majesty then be impatient at being told, as David was by the
prophet, _Thou art the man_. For if you listen thereto obediently and
say, _I have sinned against the Lord_, if you will use those words
of the royal Prophet, _O come let us worship and fall down, and kneel
before the Lord our Maker_, to you also it shall be said, Because thou
repentest, _the Lord hath put away thy sin, thou shalt not die_.

  Sidenote: Ib. xxiv. 10.

  Sidenote: 2 Sam. xxiv. 12.

  Sidenote: Ib. 14.

8. Another time, when David had commanded the people to be numbered,
his heart smote him, and he said unto the Lord, _I have sinned greatly
in that I have done, and now, I beseech thee O Lord, take away the
iniquity of thy servant, for I have done very foolishly_. And Nathan
the prophet was sent again to him, to offer him three things, to choose
one of them, which he would; seven years famine in the land, or to
flee three months before his enemies, or three days pestilence in the
land. _And David said, I am in a great strait, let us now fall into the
hand of the Lord, for His mercies are great, and let me not fall into
the hand of man._ His fault lay in wishing to know the number of all
the people which were with him, a knowledge which ought to have been
reserved for God.

  Sidenote: Ib. 17.

9. And Scripture tells us that when the people were dying, on the very
first day and at dinner time, David saw the Angel that smote the people,
he said, _Lo, I have sinned and done wickedly; but these sheep, what
have they done? let Thine hand, I pray Thee, be against me, and against
my father’s house_. So the Lord repented, and commanded the Angel to
spare the people, and that David should offer sacrifice: for there were
then sacrifices for sin, but we have now the sacrifices of penitence.
So by that humility he was made more acceptable to God, for it is not
wonderful that man should sin, but it is indeed blameable if he do not
acknowledge his error, and humble himself before God.

  Sidenote: Job xxxi. 33. (the sense, not the words.)

  Sidenote: 1 Sam. xix. 4.

  Sidenote: Ib. 5.

  Sidenote: 2 Sam. iii. 28.

10. Holy Job, himself also powerful in this world, saith, _I covered
not my sin, but declared it before all the people_. And to the cruel
king Saul Jonathan his son said, _Let not the king sin against his
servant, against David_; and _Wherefore then wilt thou sin against
innocent blood to slay David without a cause?_ For although he was a
king he still would have sinned in slaying the innocent. Again when
David was possessed of the kingdom, and heard that innocent Abner had
been slain by Joab the Captain of his host, he said, _I and my kingdom
are guiltless before the Lord for ever from the blood ♦of Abner the son
of Ner_, and he fasted for sorrow.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xxviii. 20.

11. This I have written, not to confound you, but that these royal
examples may induce you to put away this sin from your kingdom; for
this you will do by humbling your soul before God. You are a man;
temptation has fallen upon you; vanquish it. Sin is not washed away but
by tears and penitence. Neither Angel nor Archangel can do it. The Lord
Himself, Who alone can say _I am with you_; even He grants no remission
of sin save to the penitent.

12. I advise, I entreat, I exhort, I admonish; for I am grieved
that you who were an example of singular piety, who stood so high
for clemency, who would not suffer even single offenders to be put in
jeopardy, should not mourn over the death of so many innocent persons.
Successful as you have been in battle, and great in other respects, yet
mercy was ever the crown of your actions. The devil has envied you your
chief excellence: overcome him, while you still have the means. Add not
sin to sin by acting in a manner which has injured so many.

13. For my part, debtor as I am to your clemency in all other things;
grateful as I must ever be for this clemency, which I have found
superior to that of many Emperors and equalled only by one, though I
have no ground for charging you with contumacy, I have still reason
for apprehension: if you purpose being present, I dare not offer the
Sacrifice. That which may not be done when the blood of one innocent
person has been shed, may it be done where many have been slain? I trow

14. Lastly, I will write with my own hand what I wish should be read
by yourself only. As I hope for deliverance from all tribulation from
the Lord, it has not been from man, nor by man’s agency that this has
been forbidden me, but by His own manifest interposition. For in the
midst of my anxiety, on the very night whereon I was about to set
out, I saw you in a vision coming into the Church, but I was withheld
from offering Sacrifice. Other things I pass over, which I might have
avoided, but I bore them for your sake, I believe. May the Lord cause
all things to turn out peacefully. Our God gives us divers admonitions,
by heavenly signs, by prophetic warnings; and by visions vouchsafed
even to sinners, He would have us understand that we ought to beseech
Him to remove from us commotions, that He would bestow peace on
you, our rulers, that the Church, for whose benefit it is that we
should have pious and Christian Emperors, may be kept in faith and

  Sidenote: Eccles. iii. 1.

  Sidenote: Ps. cxix. 126.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. ix. 13.

  Sidenote: Prov. xviii. 17. Vulg.

15. Doubtless you wish to be approved by God. _To every thing there
is a season_, as it is written; _It is time for Thee Lord_, saith
the prophet, _to lay to Thine hand_, and, It is an acceptable time to
God. You shall make your oblation when you have received permission to
sacrifice, when your offering will be pleasing to God. Would it not be
a delight to me to enjoy your Majesty’s favour, and act in accordance
with your will, if the case permitted it? Prayer by itself is a
sacrifice; it obtains pardon while the oblation would be rejected, for
the former is evidence of humility, the latter of contempt: for God
Himself tells us that He prefers the performance of His commandments
to sacrifice. God proclaims this, Moses announces it to the people,
Paul preaches it to them. Do that which you understand is for the time
better. _I will have mercy_, it is said, _and not sacrifice_. Are not
those therefore rather to be called Christians who condemn their own
sin than those who think to excuse it? _The just accuses himself in the
beginning of his words._ He who, having sinned, accuses himself, not he
who praises himself, is just.

16. I would that previously to this I had trusted rather to myself than
to your accustomed habits. Remembering that you quickly pardon, and
revoke your sentence, as you have often done, you have been anticipated,
and I have not shunned that which I had no need to fear. But thanks to
the Lord, Who chastises His servants, that they may not be lost. This
I share with the prophets, and you shall share it with the saints.

17. Shall not I value the father of Gratian at more than my own eyes?
Your other sacred pledges too claim pardon for you. On those whom I
regarded with impartial affection I conferred by anticipation a name
that is dear to me. You have my love, my affection, my prayers. If you
believe my words, I call on you to act according to them; if, I say,
you believe, acknowledge it, but if not, excuse my conduct in that I
prefer God to my sovereign. May your gracious Majesty, with your holy
offspring, enjoy in happiness and prosperity perpetual peace.

                              LETTER LII.
                               A.D. 392.

  TITIANUS, or Tatianus, for both forms of the name are given,
  was a person in high position under Theodosius, and filled the
  office of Prætorian Prefect. He had incurred, as this Letter
  implies, the enmity of the Emperor’s favourite minister Rufinus,
  who eventually procured his exile. He is here congratulated on
  Rufinus’ removal from the position of ‘Master of the offices,’
  and thereby from exercising an unfavorable influence on some
  private suit in which Tatianus was engaged.

                         AMBROSE TO TITIANUS.

1. YOU have obtained a harmless victory, enjoying the security of
victory without the bitterness of entreaty; for Rufinus from being
Master of the Offices[235], has been made in his consulate a Prætorian
Præfect. By this he has acquired more power for himself, but to you
he can be hurtful no longer, for he is become the Præfect of another
district. I greatly rejoice both with him, as a friend, in having thus
received an increase of honour, and at the same time a relief from
odium, and also with you, as a son. And this, because you are delivered
from him whom you deemed would be too rigid a judge to you, so that if
you shall have arranged your business with your grand-daughter, it will
have arisen from your affection, not from fear.

2. Exert yourself, therefore, to obtain an adjustment, both the hope
and profit of which are now greater: the hope, because the father of
your grand-daughter, who promised himself much from the sentence of
Rufinus, has no longer anything to hope from him; for Rufinus is now
concerned about other things, and neglects the past, or has laid it
aside together with the office which he then held; the father now looks
rather to the merits of his cause, than to a patron of his sentiments;
the fruit too of an adjustment will be sweeter, for the credit of it
must be ascribed to yourself; for you might have scorned it, and have
not done so, regarding the pious claims of kindred, rather than the
angry suggestions of injury.

Farewell: love me as a son, for I love you as a parent.

                             LETTER LIII.
                               A.D. 392.

  S. AMBROSE here writes to Theodosius to express his grief at
  the death of Valentinian II, and mentions the preparations
  made for his burial. S. Ambrose spoke his funeral oration,
  which is extant, and is full of expressions of deep attachment.
  Valentinian had been slain by Arbogastes, who put Eugenius on
  the throne.


1. YOUR Majesty’s letter has broken my silence; for I had persuaded
myself that in sorrow so great I could do nothing better than withdraw
into retirement. But not being able to conceal myself in any retreat,
or abdicate my bishopric, I at least retired within myself by silence.

2. I am filled, I confess, with bitter grief, not only because the
death of Valentinian has been premature, but also because, having been
trained in the faith and moulded by your teaching, he had conceived
such devotion towards our God, and was so tenderly attached to myself,
as to love one whom he had before persecuted, and to esteem as his
father the man whom he had before repulsed as his enemy. I have
mentioned this not for the sake of recalling former wrongs, but as a
proof of his conversion. For the one he learnt from others, the other
was his own, and retained by him when once received from you, so firmly,
as to fortify him against all the arguments of his mother. He professed
that he owed his education to me, he longed for me as for a careful
parent, and when some pretended to have received tidings of my arrival,
he anticipated it with impatience. Moreover, on those very days of
public mourning, although he had within the limits of Gaul holy and
eminent bishops of the Lord, he thought proper nevertheless to write
to me to confer upon him the Sacrament of Baptism. By this request,
in an unreasonable but affectionate way, he gave testimony of his love
towards me.

3. Shall I not then sigh after him with my inmost spirit, shall I not
embrace him in the secret recesses of my heart and soul? Shall I deem
him dead to me? Yes, indeed to me he is assuredly dead. How thankful
was I to the Lord, that he was so changed towards me, so improved, and
had assumed a character so much more mature. How thankful also was I
to your Clemency, in that you had not only restored him to his kingdom,
but also, what is more, had disciplined him in your own faith and piety.
Shall I not weep therefore that he, while fresh in years, and before
he had obtained as he desired the grace of the Sacraments, has met with
a sudden death? It has been a solace to my mind that you have yourself
condescended to testify to my grief. I have your Majesty for judge of
my affections and interpreter of my thoughts.

4. But hereafter we shall have time for sorrow; let us now care for his
sepulture, which your Clemency has commanded to take place in this city.
If he has died without Baptism, I now keep back what I know. We have
here a most beautiful porphyry vessel, and well adapted for the purpose;
for Maximian the colleague of Diocletian was so buried. There are also
very precious tablets of porphyry, to encase the covering in which the
royal remains are inclosed.

5. All this was prepared, but we waited for your Majesty’s order; and
its arrival has comforted your holy daughters, sisters of your son
Valentinian, who greatly afflict themselves, and the more in that for
a long while they received no answer. This has been no small solace
to them, but so long as his remains lie unburied, they do not spare
themselves, for they daily imagine that they are celebrating the
funeral of their brother. And in truth they never are without many
tears and heavy sorrow, and whenever they visit his body they return
almost lifeless. It will be for their good therefore, and for that of
his beloved remains, that the burial should shortly take place, lest
the heat of summer should wholly dissolve them, for its first fervour
is scarcely past.

6. I observe your command and commend it to the Lord; may He love you,
for you love the Lord’s servants.

                              LETTER LIV.
                               A.D. 392.

  THE Eusebius to whom this and the following letters are
  addressed is probably not the Bp. of Bologna who took a leading
  part in the Council of Aquileia, though he appears to be also
  connected with Bologna, (Lett. lv. 2.). S. Ambrose does not
  write to him in the style in which he would address an eminent
  ♦Ecclesiastic. He was probably a layman, on very intimate terms
  with S. Ambrose, as the whole tone of the Letters implies. Both
  are on affairs of private life, both, especially the latter,
  are written in a tone of playful pleasantry and a not irreverent
  adaptation of sacred things, such as has often marked the
  familiar correspondence of a great Bishop.

  Eusebius seems to have had a son Faustinus, and this son a large
  family, of whom another Faustinus an Ambrosius and an Ambrosia
  are here mentioned. It was to this Eusebius, on the occasion
  of Ambrosia’s dedication as a professed Virgin, that S. Ambrose
  wrote the treatise ‘De Institutione Virginis.’ She is the
  ‘sancta soror,’ the ‘holy sister’ of Lett. liv.

                         AMBROSE TO EUSEBIUS.

1. THE Secretary of the Prefecture, who had got into trouble on account
of the works at Portus[236] is now safe in port. He came at the right
moment, for as soon as I received your letters I saw the Prefect, and
interceded for him; and he immediately pardoned him, and ordered the
letter which he had dictated for the sale of his goods to be recalled.
Even if his arrival had been less speedy, no man would more readily
have admitted the embarrassments attending that work of repairing the
port than he who would have made shipwreck therein had he not had you
for his pilot; and from whence he could otherwise only have escaped
with his bare life.

2. The little Faustinus is suffering from a cough, and has come to
his holy sister to be cured, and came willingly, for he found that the
complaint of his stomach is better cared for here. He also considers
me to be a ♦physician and looks to me for his dinner. So he has his
medicine here twice a day, and he had begun to get strong, but while
from their too great love they keep him away, his stomach-cough has
returned, worse than before, and unless he returns to his medicines
he will still suffer from it.

Farewell: love me, for I also love you.

                              LETTER LV.
                               A.D. 392.

                         AMBROSE TO EUSEBIUS.

  Sidenote: Gen. viii. 11.

  Sidenote: Ib. 20.

  Sidenote: Ib. ix. 1.

  Sidenote: Ib. 9.

  Sidenote: Ib. 12.

1. THE two Faustinuses are herewith restored to you, the two little
Ambroses stay with me. You have in the father what is best, in the
younger son what is most agreeable; for you have at once the summit
of virtue, and shew forth the grace of humility. I have what is
intermediate between father and younger son. With you is the head of
the whole family, and the continuous succession of a name handed down;
with me remains that frugal mean which both depends upon the head,
and has a common being with what follows it. You have him who is our
common rest, who when he comes to me in my turn, smooths all the cares
of my soul. You have him who alike by his life and works, and by his
offspring has found favour with our Lord, you have him who in the
storms of this world nourished a spiritual dove, to bring him the fruit
of peace, anointed with the oil of chastity. You have him who built
an altar to the Lord, he whom God blessed together with his sons, and
said unto them, _Be fruitful and multiply_; with whom He established
the covenant of His peace, that it might be unto _him and his sons for
perpetual generations_.

  Sidenote: Ib. 20.

2. You have then one who is an heir of Divine benediction, a partner
in grace, a sharer in righteousness. But take care, I beseech you, that
this our husbandman Noah, the good planter of the fruitful vineyard,
does not become inebriated with the cup of your love and favour, as one
filled with wine, and so indulge too long in rest, and then if haply he
fall asleep the longing for our Shem awake him.

  Sidenote: Ib. 23.

  Sidenote: Gen. ix. 24.

  Sidenote: Ps. xlv. 3.

  Sidenote: Gen. ix. 27.

  Sidenote: Ib. x. 1.

3. There also is Japhet the youngest of the brethren, who with pious
reverence may cover his father’s nakedness, whom his father may see
even in sleep and never dismiss from his remembrance, but keep him ever
in his sight and in his bosom, and when he wakes may know _what his
younger son has done unto him_. In Latin his name signifies ‘health,’
in that grace is spread over his lips and over his life, wherefore God
hath blessed him, because he, going backward, one may say, to Bologna,
covered his father with the pious garment of charity, and shewed honour
to piety; of whom also his father said, _God shall enlarge Japhet,
and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem_. Wherefore also in the
enumeration of this generation he is preferred to his elder brother,
he is substituted for him in the blessing: he is preferred in regard
of honour to his name, he is substituted in regard of the prerogative
of elder birth and the honour due to nature.

  Sidenote: Prov. xxii. 1.

4. Now in Latin Shem signifies a ‘name.’ And truly is this Ambrose of
ours a good name, in whose tents Japhet may be enlarged, _because a
good name is rather to be chosen than great riches_. Let him therefore
also be blessed, let his name be above gold and silver, let the seed of
Abraham be in his portion, let all his blessing rest on his posterity,
and on the whole family of the just man. But no one is cursed, all are
blessed, for blessed is the fruit of Sarah.

  Sidenote: Gen. ix. 26.

  Sidenote: Ib. x. 9.

5. The Ambroses salute you, the beloved Parthenius salute you, so does
Valentinian, disposed to humility, which is in Hebrew ‘Canaan’, being
as it were the servant of his brother, to whom he has also given place
as regards his name. And therefore he is like Nimrod, mighty in his
double name, a great hunter upon the earth, of whom it is said; _Even
as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord_. For being somewhat rude
in intellect, but of great bodily strength, he surpasses in strength
those whose genius he cannot equal; so that he would seem to carry
with him the Comacine[237] rocks, and to resemble them in his outward
appearance, being as he is somewhat like a bull, wrathful at being
set aside, at being deprived of his paternal name, at being subjected,
through an inhabitant of the capital, to one from Bologna, for he knows
not the blandishments of infancy, and sprung without suffering injury
from his nurse’s bosom.

Farewell: love me for I love you.

                              LETTER LVI.
                               A.D. 392.

    A NOTE in p. 71 [Footnote #50] gives a brief outline of
    the schism in the Church of Antioch up to the time of the
    Council of Aquileia, which made some efforts to bring about
    a settlement. Meletius was then succeeded by Flavian, so that
    there still remained two rival Bishops, Flavian and Paulinus.
    Another opportunity for closing the schism came at Paulinus’
    death, at the end of 388 A.D., but so far from allowing the
    wound to be so healed Paulinus on his death-bed consecrated
    Evagrius as his successor in violation of the Canons of Nicæa,
    (Theod. H.E. v. 23) which ‘do not allow a Bishop to appoint
    his successor, but require all the Bishops of the province to
    be summoned to elect, and forbid consecration without at least
    three consecrating Bishops.’ The western Bishops therefore
    continued to press Theodosius to call a Council to deal with
    the matter, which was accordingly assembled at Capua. Flavian,
    though ordered by the Emperor, did not appear, and the
    Council referred the question to the decision of Theophilus
    of Alexandria and the Bishops of Egypt who were not committed
    to either side, and in this letter S. Ambrose replies to
    Theophilus who had written to him that Flavian still refused
    to submit himself to their decision and again appealed to
    the Emperor, and urges him to summon Flavian once more, and
    endeavour to bring the matter to a peaceful issue, advising
    him to consult also Siricius, the Bishop of Rome. He points
    out that both parties rely rather on the weakness of their
    opponent’s case than on the soundness of their own, and
    expresses a hope that an end may be put to the schism, and
    peace restored to the Church. Tillemont, in note 41 on the
    Life of S. Ambrose, discusses the date of the Synod of Capua,
    and fixes it at the end of A.D. 391, chiefly on the ground
    that Theodosius did not return to Constantinople from Milan
    till November of that year, while it must have been held
    before the disturbance in the west occasioned by the revolt of
    Arbogastes and the death of Valentinian, which took place in
    the spring of A.D. 392.

                        AMBROSE TO THEOPHILUS.

1. EVAGRIUS has no good ground for preferring his claim, Flavian has
cause to fear, and therefore avoids the trial. Let our brethren pardon
our just grief, for on account of these men the whole world is agitated,
yet they do not sympathize with our grief. Let them at least patiently
suffer themselves to be censured by those whom they perceive to have
been for so long a time harassed by their obstinacy. For between these
two who would agree upon nothing which appertains to the peace of
Christ, a grievous discord has arisen and spread through the whole

2. To this shipwreck of pious peace the holy Council of Capua had at
length opened an haven of tranquillity; that communion should be given
to all throughout the East who profess the Catholic faith, and that
the cause of these two men should be referred to the judgment of your
Holiness, and to our brethren and fellow-bishops of Egypt, as assessors.
For we deemed your judgment likely to be true, in that, having embraced
the communion of neither party, it would be inclined by no favour
towards either side.

3. But while we were hoping that by these most equitable decrees of
the Council a remedy was now provided, and an end put to discord, your
Holiness writes word that our brother Flavian has again had recourse to
the aid of prayers, and to the support of Imperial Rescripts. And thus
the toil of so many Bishops has been spent to no purpose; we must have
recourse once more to the civil tribunals, to the Imperial Rescripts,
once more must they cross the sea, once more, though weak in body,
exchange their own country for a foreign soil, once more must the
Holy Altars be deserted that we may travel to distant lands, once more
crowds of indigent Bishops, whose poverty was before no burthen to them,
but who now need external aid, must suffer want themselves, or at any
rate use for their journey what else had fed the poor.

4. Meanwhile Flavian, alone exempt, as he fancies, from the laws, does
not come when all others are assembled. The money-lender and debtor
meet each other, these men alone cannot meet: Flavian by his own will
deprives himself of Episcopal fellowship, and will not appear in person
either at the Imperial order, or when cited by his brethren.

5. Nevertheless, even this cause of offence does not induce me to
consider our brother Evagrius entirely in the right, although he seems
to himself the more defensible either because Flavian avoids him, or
because he thinks his opponent to be in no better case than himself,
each of them relying more on the defects of his opponent’s ordination
than on the validity[238] of his own. We however would recall them to a
better course, wishing them to be aided rather by the goodness of their
own cause than by the defects of others.

  Sidenote: Gal. ii. 18.

6. Now since you have stated in your letter that some form may be
devised touching this matter, whereby the discord of our brethren may
be removed; and as the holy Synod has trusted the right of cognizance
to the unanimous judgment of yourself and our other fellow-bishops from
Egypt, it is fitting that you should again summon our brother Flavian,
so that, if he should persist in not choosing to appear, you may then
without prejudice to the decrees of the Council of Nice, and also of
the Synod of Capua, take such measures for the preservation of general
peace as may not destroy what has been built up: _For if I destroy
what I have built, or build again what I destroyed, I make myself a
transgressor_. Let the grace of that peace which has been obtained be
thus preserved by all, and the refusal of either party to appear will
not have the effect of frustrating it.

7. Moreover we are of opinion that it will be well for you to refer to
our holy brother the Bishop of the Roman Church; for we do not doubt
that what you shall determine he also will approve. For the resolution
that is come to will be useful, and our peace and quiet will be secure,
if such a decree is made by your advice as shall not create discord in
our communion. And thus we also, receiving the series of your decrees,
and assured that the Roman Church has given its undoubting approbation
to what has been done, shall with gladness participate in the result of
this trial.

                    LETTER ON THE CASE OF BONOSUS.
                           A.D. 392 or 393.

  THIS letter is certainly not written by S. Ambrose, though
  included among his letters. The writer of it speaks of ‘our
  brother Ambrose.’ Tillemont discusses the authorship in a note,
  (45.) and makes it probable that it was written by Siricius.

  The case of Bonosus had been brought before the Synod of Capua,
  and they had decided that it should be referred to the Bishops
  of Macedonia, under the presidency of ♦Anysius Bishop of
  Thessalonica, as being his nearest neighbours. These Bishops
  seem to have written a letter to consult Siricius, the Bishop of
  Rome, and this is believed to be his reply, in which he declines
  to interfere with their decision, only adding a few remarks
  upon one point. Bonosus was Bishop of Sardica[239] in Illyria,
  and the founder of an obscure sect. They were accused of
  Photinianism, and Bonosus is called a fore-runner of Nestorius,
  but the Helvidian doctrines of which this letter speaks are the
  most clearly ascertained of their errors. The sect survived at
  least till the vith Century.


1. YOU have written to us a Letter concerning Bishop Bonosus in which,
either from love of truth or from modesty, you enquire our opinion.
But since it has been the judgment of the Council of Capua that those
who are neighbours to Bonosus and his accusers should be assigned his
judges, and specially the Macedonian Bishops, who, with the Bishop of
Thessalonica, should judge of his acts and writings, we have to remark
that the function of judging cannot appertain to ourselves. Otherwise,
were the question of the Synod at this day still open, we might well
have decided concerning these things which are included in what you
have written at length. Having taken upon yourselves this judgment, it
is now your part to form your decision on the whole question, to give
no power of retreat or escape either to the accusers or the accused;
for, being chosen by the Synod to conduct the examination, you have
taken upon you its functions.

2. Again, when Bishop Bonosus, after your judgment, sent to our brother
Ambrose to enquire his opinion whether he should break into and enter
upon the church which was closed to him, he received for reply that he
must do nothing rashly, that everything must be carried on modestly,
patiently and in order, that nothing contrary to your decision must
be attempted, that you, to whom the Synod had committed such authority,
would appoint what appeared to you agreeable to justice. The first
point therefore is that judgment should be given by those to whom the
power of judging has been given; for you, as we have said, judge in
place of the entire Synod; as to ourselves it does not befit us to
judge as though by the authority of the Synod.

3. Assuredly we cannot deny that he is justly blamed concerning the
sons of Mary, and that your Holiness deservedly repudiated the opinion
that from the same Virgin womb, of which according to the flesh Christ
was born, other offspring was produced. For the Lord Jesus would not
have chosen to be born of a Virgin, if He had conceived she would be so
wanting in continence as to suffer that birthplace of the Lord’s Body,
that palace of the eternal King, to be polluted by human intercourse.
To propound such an opinion as this, what is it but to fortify the
unbelief of the Jews who say that it was impossible He could be born of
a Virgin, and who, thus confirmed by the authority of Christian Bishops,
will strive with greater earnestness to overthrow the true faith?

  Sidenote: S. John xix. 26, 27.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. i. 18.

4. What else can be the meaning of that text wherein the Lord says to
His Mother of John the Evangelist, _Woman, behold thy son_, and again
to John of Mary, _Behold thy mother_? With what purpose was it that
while the Lord was hanging upon the cross and atoning for the sins
of the world, He declared also the integrity of His Mother? Wherefore
was it said but that unbelief might close its lips and be silent, nor
dare to offer any insult to the Mother of the Lord? He therefore, in
pronouncing upon and asserting His Mother’s chastity, likewise bears
witness that she was only espoused to her husband Joseph; and that she
was ignorant of that carnal commerce which is the accustomed right of
the marriage bed; for, had it been that she was to conceive children
of Joseph, He would not have chosen to separate her from the company
of her husband.

  Sidenote: S. John xix. 27.

5. But if this is not enough, the Evangelist has added his testimony,
saying that the _disciple took her unto his own home_. Did he then
cause a divorce? Did he carry her off from her husband? How can he who
reads this in the Gospel stagger and waver to and fro as one who has
been shipwrecked?

  Sidenote: Ib. 30.

6. This then is the testimony of the Son concerning His Mother’s
chastity, this is the rich heritage of Mary’s immaculate Virginity,
this is the consummation of the entire work. He spake thus, and _gave
up the ghost_, crowning the whole mystery with a good end of filial

7. We have also read and perused the whole of the instructions, as well
what relates to Senecio being joined with our brother and fellow-bishop
Bassus in the government of his Church, as what relates to other
matters, and we now look for the direction of your sentence.

                             LETTER LVII.

  VALENTINIAN II. having been murdered by Arbogastes, one of his
  Generals, the latter, not venturing to claim the empire for
  himself, set up Eugenius, who was really his puppet, as Emperor
  of the West. Theodosius temporised with him, till he should be
  fully prepared to attack him, and it was whilst he was thus for
  a time accepted as Emperor that S. Ambrose addressed this letter
  to him. He excuses himself in it for withdrawing from Milan when
  Eugenius came there, on the plea that he was bound to fear God
  rather than man, and reproves him for granting the restoration
  of their former revenues to the heathen temples, which Gratian
  and Valentinian had before refused, and exposes the futility
  of his plea that he was merely granting favour to his friends,
  reminding him that God sees the heart. He quotes at length the
  conduct of the Jews in the time of Antiochus, as recorded in the
  Book of Maccabees, as a precedent which Christians were bound to
  follow. At the same time he says that he is willing to address
  Eugenius in matters which do not affect his duty to God.


1. I withdrew from Milan from fear of God, to Whom I am wont to refer,
as far as I am able, all my acts, never turning my mind from Him nor
making more account of any man’s favour than of the grace of Christ. By
preferring God to every one else I wrong no man, and trusting in Him, I
dare to tell your Majesties, the Emperors, my poor thoughts. Wherefore
I will not refrain from saying to your most gracious Majesty what I
never refrained from saying before other Emperors. And that I may
preserve the order of events, I will touch one by one the points which
relate to this transaction. The illustrious Symmachus, when prefect of
the city, memorialised[240] the Emperor Valentinian the younger, of
august memory, begging that he would command what had been withdrawn
from the temples to be restored. He performed his part in accordance
with his own wishes and mode of worship. It became me also, as Bishop,
to recognize the duties of my office. I presented two petitions to the
Emperors wherein I declared that a Christian man could not contribute
to the expenses of the sacrifices; that I had not advised the
withdrawal of the payments, but that I did advise that they should not
be now decreed, and lastly, that he would seem to be giving rather than
restoring these expenses to the images; for what he had not withdrawn,
he could not be said to restore, but of his own free-will to give it
for the uses of ♦superstition. Lastly, if he had done so, he either
must not come to the Church, or if he did, he would either not find a
priest, or one who would withstand him. Nor could it be offered as an
excuse that he was only a catechumen, for it is not lawful for
catechumens to contribute to the expense of idols.

♦3. My petitions were read in the Consistory; Count Bauto, a man of the
highest military rank, and Rumoridus, himself too of the same dignity,
and from the first year of his boyhood attached to the Gentile worship,
were present. Valentinian then listened to my suggestion, and did
nothing but what our faith reasonably required. And they submitted to
his officer.

  Sidenote: Ps. cxix. 46.

4. Afterwards I openly addressed myself to the most gracious Emperor
Theodosius, and hesitated not to speak to him face to face. He having
received the intimation of a similar message from the Senate, although
it was not the whole Senate who asked it, at length gave his consent to
my suggestion, and so for some days I did not come near him, nor was he
displeased thereat, for I did not act for my own advantage but for his
profit, and that of my own soul also; _I was not ashamed to speak in
the king’s presence_.

5. Once more an Embassy was sent from the senate to the Emperor
Valentinian, of blessed memory, when he was in Gaul, but was able to
extort nothing from him. At that time I was absent and had not written
anything to him.

6. But when your Majesty assumed the reins of government it was found
that this boon had been granted to men of eminence in the state but in
religion heathens. And perhaps it may be said, your Majesty, that it
is not a restitution to the temples on your part, but a boon to men who
had deserved well of you. But the fear of God ought, you know, to lead
us to act with constancy, as is done in the cause of liberty not only
by priests but by those who serve in your armies or are reckoned among
the provincials. Envoys petitioned you, as Emperor, for restitution to
the temples, but you consented not; others again required it, but you
resisted; yet subsequently you have thought fit to grant it as a boon
to the petitioners themselves.

7. The Imperial power is indeed great, but let your Majesty consider
the greatness of God; He sees all hearts, He scrutinizes the inmost
conscience, He knows all things before they come to pass, He knows
the secrets of your breast. You will not suffer yourselves to be
deceived, and do you hope to hide anything from God? Has not this
suggested itself to your mind? Although they urged their suit with such
perseverance, ought not your Majesty from respect for the most high and
true and living God, to have resisted still more perseveringly, and to
have refused what was derogatory to the Divine law?

8. Who grudges your bestowing upon others whatsoever you chose? We
do not pry closely into your munificence, nor are we jealous of the
advantages of others; but we are the ministers of the Faith. How will
you offer your gifts to Christ? your acts will be estimated by few,
your wishes by all; whatever they have done will be ascribed to you,
whatever they have not done to themselves. You are indeed Emperor, but
you ought all the more to submit yourself to God. Else how shall the
priests of Christ dispense your gifts?

  Sidenote: 2 Macc. iv. 18 sqq.

9. There was a question of this kind in former times, and then
persecution itself yielded to the faith of our fathers, and heathendom
gave way. For _when the game that was used every fifth year was kept at
Tyre_, and the wicked king of Antioch had come hither to see it, _Jason
sent special messengers from Jerusalem, to carry three hundred silver
drachms_, and give them _to the sacrifice of Hercules_. But our fathers
would not give the money to the heathen, but sent trusty persons to
make declaration that such money was not to be devoted to sacrifices to
the gods, _for this was not convenient_, but was to be applied to other
expenses. And it was decreed that, forasmuch as Jason had said that
the silver was sent for the sacrifice of Hercules, that which was sent
ought to be so applied. And yet seeing that they who brought it pleaded
in opposition, in their zeal and devotion, that it should not be
employed for sacrifice but for other exigencies, the money was applied
to build ships. They sent the money, that is, because they were
compelled, but it was not applied to sacrifices, but to other public

10. Again, they who brought the money might have been silent, but they
were led to violate secrecy because they knew whither it was being
carried, and so they sent men who feared God, and who were to do their
endeavour that the money might be applied to the equipment of ships,
and not to the temple. Thus they entrusted the money to men who were to
plead the cause of the Divine law, and He who cleanses the conscience
was made Judge of the matter. If those who were in the power of others
took these precautions, it cannot be doubted what it was your Majesty’s
duty to do. You, whom no man constrained, who were in no man’s power,
ought ♦certainly to have referred for advice to the priest.

11. For my own part, although I was alone in the resistance I then
made, still others both willed and advised it. Being thus bound by
my own words both before God and before all men, I have felt that I
had no other choice or duty but to consult for myself, for I could
not properly trust to you. For a long time I stifled and concealed my
grief, I gave no hint to any one, but now I am no longer at liberty to
dissemble, or to be silent. And this was why, at the beginning of your
reign, I made no reply to your letters, because I foresaw that what you
have done would happen. Afterwards, when you found I did not answer,
and sent to demand a reply, I said, ‘The reason why I do not write is
that I think it will be wrung from him[241].’

  Sidenote: Rom. xiii. 7.

12. But when a just occasion for the exercise of my office arose,
I both wrote and petitioned for those who were anxious on their own
account, with a view of shewing that in the cause of God a due fear
of Him affected me, and that I did not set a higher value on flattery
than on my own soul; but that in the matters wherein petition is proper
to be made to you, I paid just deference to your authority, as indeed
it is written, _honour to whom honour, tribute to whom tribute_. For
seeing that I cordially deferred to a private person, how should I
not defer to the Emperor? But as you desire deference to be shewn to
yourselves, suffer us to defer to Him from Whom you would fain prove
your authority to be derived.

                             LETTER LVIII.
                               A.D. 393.

  IN this letter S. Ambrose informs Sabinus that Paulinus and
  Therasia had resolved to give up all their wealth to the poor,
  and retire to Nola, and complains of the objections raised
  against such self-denial, ending with a mystical interpretation
  of David dancing before the ark.

                      AMBROSE TO SABINUS, BISHOP.

1. CREDIBLE information has reached me that Paulinus, the lustre of
whose birth was inferior to none in the region of Aquitania, has sold
both his own possessions and those of his wife, and entered upon a
course of life which enables him to bestow upon the poor the property
which has been converted into money; while he himself having become
poor instead of rich, as one relieved of a heavy burden, has bid
farewell to his home his country and his kindred, in order to serve
God more diligently; and he is reported to have chosen a retreat in
the city of Nola, to pass the rest of his days in avoiding the turmoil
of life.

2. The lady Therasia too approaches closely to his zeal and virtue,
and objects not to the resolve he has taken. Having transferred her
own property to other owners, she follows her husband, and contented
with his little plat of ground will console herself with the riches of
religion and charity. Offspring they have none, and therefore desire to
leave behind them good deeds.

3. When the great of the world hear this, what will they say? That a
man of his family, his ancestry, his genius, gifted with such eloquence,
should have seceded from the senate, that the succession of a noble
family should become extinct, such things, they will say, are not to
be borne. And though they, when they perform the rites of Isis, shave
their heads and eyebrows, they nevertheless call it an unworthy deed
should a Christian man out of zeal for holy religion change his habit.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. x. 33.
            S. Mark viii. 38.

  Sidenote: Heb. xi. 26.

  Sidenote: 2 Sam. vi. 20.

  Sidenote: Isa. xx. 4.

4. Truly I grieve that, while falsehood is so respected, there should
be such negligence as regards the Truth, that many are ashamed of
seeming too devoted to our holy religion, not considering His words
Who says, _Whosoever shall be ashamed of[242] Me before men, of him
will I also be ashamed[243] before My Father Which is in heaven_. But
Moses was not thus ashamed, for though invited into the royal palace he
_esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of
Egypt_. David was not thus ashamed when he danced before the Ark of the
testimony in the sight of all the people. Isaiah was not thus ashamed,
when he walked naked and bare-foot through the people, proclaiming the
heavenly oracles.

  Sidenote: Ps. xlvii. 1.

  Sidenote: Ezek. vi. 11.

5. Viewed by the outward eye what can be a more unseemly spectacle than
an imitation of the gestures of players, and a wreathing of the limbs
after the manner of women? Lascivious dances are the companions of
luxury and the pastime of wantonness. What did David himself mean by
singing, _O clap your hands together, all ye people_? If we regard the
bodily action we must suppose that he clapped his hands as if mingling
with female dancers, and shouted with unseemly noise. Of Ezekiel too it
is said, _Smite with thine hand, and stamp with thy foot_.

  Sidenote: 2 Sam. vi. 20.

  Sidenote: Ib. 21, 22.

6. But the things which viewed corporeally are unseemly, when viewed in
regard to holy religion become venerable, so that they who blame such
things will involve their own souls in the net of blame. Thus Michal
reproves David for his dancing and says to him, _How glorious was the
king of Israel to day, who uncovered himself to day in the eyes of
his handmaids_! And David answered her, _It was before the Lord, which
chose me before thy father, and before all his house to appoint me
ruler over the people of the Lord, over Israel: therefore will I play
before the Lord, and I will be yet more vile thus, and will be base in
mine own sight, and of the maid-servants which thou hast spoken of, of
them shall I be had in honour_.

7. David therefore did not shrink from female censure, nor was he
ashamed to hear their reproaches for his religious service. For he
played before the Lord as being his servant, and was the more pleasing
to Him in that he so humbled himself before God, as to lay aside his
royal dignity and to offer to God the very lowest ministry, as though
he were a servant. She also who censured such dancing was condemned to
barrenness and had no children by the king, that she might not bring
forth a proud offspring; and so, as it turned out, she obtained no
continuance of descendants or of good deeds.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xi. 17.

  Sidenote: Eccles. iv. 5.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. v. 16.

  Sidenote: Ps. cx. 1.

8. If any one is still doubtful, let him hear the testimony of the
Gospel, for the Son of God said, _We have piped unto you, and ye have
not danced_. Therefore were the Jews abandoned, because they danced
not, nor clapped their hands, and the Gentiles were called in, who gave
to God spiritual applause. _The fool foldeth his hands together and
devoureth his own flesh_, that is, he entangles himself in corporeal
matters, and devours his own flesh, like prevailing death[244], and so
he shall not find eternal life. But the wise man, who so holds up his
works that they may shine before his Father Which is in heaven, has not
consumed his flesh but has raised it to the grace of the resurrection.
This is that glorious dance of the wise man which David danced, and
thus by the loftiness of his spiritual dancing he ascended even to the
throne of Christ, that he might see and hear _the Lord saying to his
Lord, Sit Thou on My right hand_!

  Sidenote: Isa. xx. 4.

9. Now if you are of opinion that this interpretation of the dancing
has not been made unreasonably, do not spare yourself the trouble of
reading a little further, in order that we may consider together the
case of Isaiah, how, as is well known to you, he was uncovered, not in
mockery but gloriously, in the sight of the assembled people, as one
who reported with his own mouth the oracles of God.

10. But perhaps it may be said, Was it not then disgraceful for a man
to walk wholly uncovered through the people, seeing that he must be met
both by men and women? Must not the sight itself have shocked the eyes
of all, especially of women? Do not we ourselves generally shrink from
looking upon naked men? And are not men’s persons concealed by garments
that they may not offend the eyes of beholders by an unseemly spectacle?

  Sidenote: Isa. xx. 3.

11. In this I also acquiesce; but consider what it was this act
represented, and what was set forth under this outward show; it was,
that the young men and maidens of the Jews should be led away prisoners,
and walk naked, _like as My servant Isaiah_, it is said, _hath walked
naked and barefoot_. This might also have been impressed in words,
but God chose to render it more expressive by example, that the sight
itself might thus strike greater terror, and what they shrunk from in
the person of the prophet, that they might dread for themselves. In
which of the two then does the baseness most shock us; in the person of
the prophet, or in the sins of those unbelievers which deserved to fall
into this great misery of captivity?

  Sidenote: Ps. lxxxv. 8.

  Sidenote: Gen. ii. 25.

  Sidenote: Ib. iii. 7.

  Sidenote: Ib. xxxix. 12.

12. But what if there was nothing worthy of reproach in the prophet’s
body? He indeed alluded not to corporeal but to spiritual things; for
in his ecstasy of mind he says, not _I will hearken what_ I shall say,
but, _what the Lord God shall say in me_. Nor does he consider whether
he is naked or clothed. Again, Adam before his sin was naked, but
knew not he was naked, because he was endued with virtue; after he
had committed sin he saw that he was naked, and covered himself. Noah
was uncovered, but he blushed not, because he was full of gladness
and spiritual joy, while he who derided him for being naked, himself
remained subject to the disgrace of perpetual baseness. Joseph too,
that he might not be basely uncovered, left his garment, and fled away
naked; now which of the two was base in this instance, she who kept
another’s garment, or he who put off his own?

  Sidenote: Acts vii. 56.

  Sidenote: Isa. xx. 2.

13. But that it may be more fully evident that the prophets regard
not themselves nor what lies at their feet, but heavenly things, when
Stephen was stoned he saw _the heavens opened, and Jesus standing on
the right hand of God_; and therefore he felt not the blows of the
stones, he regarded not his bodily wounds, but his eyes were fastened
on Christ, he clung closely to him. So also Isaiah looked not on his
own nakedness, but offered himself to be the organ of the Divine voice,
that he might utter what God spake within him.

  Sidenote: Gen. xviii. 12.

  Sidenote: Ib. xv. 6.

  Sidenote: Ib. xx. 3.

14. But be it supposed that he saw himself, could he not do that which
he was commanded? Could he believe that to be base which God enjoined?
Sarah, because she laughed, was convicted of unbelief; Abraham was
praised, because he doubted not the word of God; yea, he received a
very great reward, because he believed that at God’s command, even
parricide might be piously committed.

15. What cause for shame then had the prophet here, when one thing
was enacted, but that of which it was a figure was quite different?
The Jews, being deserted by God for their wickedness, began to be
vanquished by their enemies, and were fain to betake themselves to the
Egyptians, to be a protection to them against the Assyrians, whereas
had they consulted for good, they ought rather to have returned to
the faith. The Lord, being angry, shews that their hope was vain in
thinking that the offence against Him could be removed by a greater sin,
for that very people in whom the Jews were trusting, were themselves to
be vanquished. This was the meaning as regards the actual history.

  Sidenote: Exod. xxxii. 6.

16. But this history itself is a figure, signifying that he trusts in
the Egyptians who is given up to impurity, and enslaved to wantonness.
For no man abandons himself to excess but he who departs from the
precepts of the true God. But as soon as a man waxes wanton, he begins
to fall off from the true faith. And then he commits two grievous
crimes, lassitude as regards the flesh, and sacrilege as regards the
mind. He then who follows not the Lord his God ingulfs himself in
impurity and lust, those pestilential passions of the body. But he who
has engulfed and plunged himself in such wallowing places, falls also
into the snare of unbelief; for _the people sat down to eat and to
drink_, and required that gods should be made for them. Hereby the Lord
teaches us that he who gives up his soul to these two kinds of vices,
is stript of the garment, not of a woollen vest, but of living virtue;
that clothing which is not temporal but eternal.

Farewell, love me, for I also love you.

                              LETTER LIX.
                               A.D. 393.

  S. AMBROSE here writes to Severus, Bishop of Naples, to tell him
  of one James, a presbyter of Persia, who was seeking a retreat
  from the world in Campania. This leads him to dwell on the
  contrast of the many troubles with which he is surrounded at

                      AMBROSE TO SEVERUS, BISHOP.

1. JAMES, our brother and fellow-presbyter, has come from the depths of
Persia, and chosen the coast of Campania and your pleasant abodes for
his resting-place. You see in what spot he has anticipated for himself
the enjoyment of a haven sheltered, as it were, from the storms of this
world, where, after his long toils, he may spend the remainder of his

  Sidenote: Ps. xxiv. 2.

2. For your coast, removed not only from danger, but from all tumult,
fills the senses with tranquillity, and transports the mind from the
fearful and raging billows of care to an honourable rest. So that those
words of David concerning the holy Church, which belong in common to
all, appear to be especially fitting and appropriate to yourselves;
_For He hath founded it upon the seas, and prepared it upon the floods_.
For a mind undisturbed by inroads of barbarians and the evils of war,
has leisure for prayer, devotes itself to the service of God, cares for
the things of the Lord, cherishes those things which belong to peace
and tranquillity.

  Sidenote: Hab. iii. 7.

3. We meanwhile, exposed to the outbreaks of the barbarians and the
storms of war, are tossing in the midst of troubles, and from these
toils and dangers can only gather that those of our future life will
be still more grievous. Wherefore that saying of the Prophet seems to
accord with our condition, _I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction_.

  Sidenote: Ps. cxx. 5.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. ii. 15.

4. For since I have now lived in the body fifty and three years, among
the shadows of this world, whereby the truth of future perfection is
obscured, and have already endured such heavy afflictions, am I not
camping in the tents of Cushan, and having my habitation among the
dwellers of Midian? For these, owing to their consciousness of their
darksome works, dread being judged even by mortal men, _but he that is
spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man_.

Farewell, my brother; love me, as indeed you do, for I also love you.

                              LETTER LX.
                               A.D. 393.

  IN this Letter S. Ambrose urges Paternus not to break the laws
  both of God and man by promoting a marriage between his son and
  his daughter’s daughter, who were within the forbidden degree of
  relationship, and shews him what confusion would arise from such
  an union.

                         AMBROSE TO PATERNUS.

1. I HAVE read your greeting, my like-minded friend Paternus, but the
question on which you ask my advice, wishing to marry your son to your
grand-daughter by your daughter, is by no means paternal, but unworthy
of you both as grand-father and as father. Consider therefore what
it is you ask about, for in all that we wish to do, we ought first
to investigate the nature of the deed, and then we shall be able to
estimate whether it is worthy of praise or blame. For instance, carnal
intercourse with women is a pleasure to some, physicians even say it
is healthful to the body; but we must consider whether it be with a
wife or a stranger, with a married or an unmarried woman. If a man have
commerce with one who is espoused and given to him he calls it marriage;
he who assails the chastity of one who belongs to another commits
adultery, by the very name of which the temerity of the attempt is
generally repressed. To slay an enemy is accounted a victory, to slay
a criminal is justice, to slay an innocent man murder, and if a man is
conscious of this he withholds his hand. Wherefore I beg that you also
will consider what it is you propose.

2. You wish to arrange a marriage between our children. But I would ask
whether you would have equals or those who are unequal joined together?
if I mistake not, they are wont to be called ‘pairs[245].’ He who
yokes oxen to the plough, or horses to the chariot, chooses pairs, that
both their age and their form may harmonize, that there be no natural
difference, nor blemish of diversity. You are proposing to unite your
son and your grand-daughter by your daughter, that is, that he should
marry his sister’s daughter, true though it is that he was born of
a different mother from his professed mother in law. Consider what
restraint is implied in the very names; he is called her uncle, she is
called his niece. Does not the very sound of the names[246] recal you,
when the one has in it the sound of grand-father, and the other refers
alike to uncle and to grand-father? How great again is the confusion of
the other terms? You will be called both grand-father and father in law,
she too will receive the different names of niece and daughter in law.
The brother and sister also will exchange different names, she will be
the mother in law of her brother, he the son in law of his sister. The
niece will marry her uncle, and the affection of these your unstained
offspring be exchanged for an irregular love.

3. On this point you tell me that the holy man your Bishop is looking
for my sentiments. I cannot think or believe this. For if this were
so, he would himself have chosen to write, but by not doing so he has
intimated that he considers there is no ground for doubt upon the point.
For how can there be any such doubt, when the prohibition of marriage
between first cousins extends, according to the Divine law, to those
who are related in the fourth degree. But this is the third degree,
which even by the civil law seems to be excepted from the fellowship
of marriage.

4. But let us first inquire what are the decrees of the Divine law,
for you allege in your letters that an union between such persons must
be considered as allowed by that Law, in that it is not forbidden. I
however assert that it is actually forbidden; for seeing that first
cousins are forbidden slighter familiarities, much more must I deem
this forbidden which contains within it the bond of a much closer union.
For he who affixes censure to lighter offences does not acquit but
rather condemn heavier ones.

5. But if you consider it to be permitted because it is not specially
forbidden, neither will you find it forbidden by the words of the
Law that the father should take his daughter to wife. But is this
lawful, merely because it is not forbidden? By no means; it has been
interdicted by the law of nature, by that law which is in the hearts of
each of us, by the inviolable rule of piety, on the ground of nearness
of kin. How many things of this kind will you find which are not
forbidden in the law promulgated by Moses, but which are yet forbidden
by the voice of nature.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. x. 23.

  Sidenote: 2 Cor. v. 17.

6. There are many things which are lawful, but which are not expedient,
for _all things are lawful, but all things are not expedient, all
things are lawful, but all things edify not_. If then the Apostle
recalls us even from those things which edify not, how can we imagine
that may be done which is not permitted by the oracle of the Law, and
which edifies not, because it differs from the rule of piety? Yet those
very things in the old Law which were more severe were mitigated by
the Gospel of the Lord Jesus. _Old things are passed away, behold, all
things are become new._

7. What is so usual as a kiss between an uncle and a niece, which he
owes to her as a daughter, she to him as a parent? Will you therefore
cast suspicion on this kiss of unoffending piety by proposing such
a union, will you deprive your beloved offspring of a sacrament so

8. But if the Divine law pass by you unheeded, at least the laws of
Emperors, from whom you have received such ample honours, ought not
to have been so disregarded. Now the Emperor Theodosius forbad even
cousins by either the fathers’ or mothers’ side to be united under the
name of marriage, and affixed a severe penalty upon any rash union of
brothers’ children. And yet these are equal as regards each other, but,
as they are bound together by the ties of mankind and brotherly union,
he would have them owe their birth to piety.

9. But you will say this rule has been relaxed in favour of some. The
law however is not prejudiced thereby, for that which is [not][247]
enacted for general use is only profitable to him in whose favour the
relaxation takes place, and so the odium is much less. Now although
we read in the Old Testament of one calling his wife his sister, it is
unheard of that any man should marry his niece and call her his wife.

10. It is indeed a curious plea which leads you to assert that your
grand-daughter is not connected with your son, her uncle, by any
close bond, merely because they have no relationship by the father’s
side[248]. As if an uterine brother and sister, born that is, of the
same mother but by a different father, would be united together when
of a different sex, for as much as they have no relationship by the
father’s side[249], but are only united to each other by the mother’s

11. You ought therefore to relinquish your intention, which, even
were it lawful, would not tend to propagate your family, for your
son owes to us grand-children, your dear grand-daughter owes to us

Farewell to you and all yours.

                              LETTER LXI.
                               A.D. 394.

  THIS letter was addressed to Theodosius after his victory over
  Eugenius. S. Ambrose in it explains his absence from Milan, and
  after expressing his gratitude to God for His blessing on the
  arms of Theodosius, urges the Emperor to a merciful use of his


1. YOU seem to have supposed, most blessed Emperor, as I understood
from your Majesty’s letters, that I had removed to a distance from
Milan because I believed your cause was forsaken by God. But in my
absence I was not so foolish, nor so unmindful of your virtues and good
deeds, as not to feel sure that the assistance of heaven would aid your
piety, and assist you to rescue the Roman Empire from the cruelty of a
barbarian robber, and the rule of an unworthy usurper.

2. Wherefore I made immediate haste to return, as soon as ever I was
aware that he whom I thought it right to avoid was gone, for I had not
deserted the Church of Milan, which the judgment of God had committed
to me, but I shunned the presence of one who had involved himself in
sacrilege. So I returned about the first of August, and from that day
I have been in residence here, and here your Majesty’s letter[251] has
found me.

3. Thanks be to our Lord God, Who has responded to your faith and piety,
and revived among us the pattern of ancient sanctity, giving to us to
see in our own times what we marvel at in the Lessons of Holy Scripture,
so effectual a presence, I mean, of Divine aid in battle[252], that
no mountain tops delayed your passage, no hostile arms presented any

4. For this you think I ought to give thanks to the Lord our God; and
this I will willingly do, conscious of your good deeds. That victim is
certainly pleasing to God, which is offered in your name; and how great
faith and devotion does this evince! Other Emperors, as soon as ever
they gain a victory, order triumphal arches or other badges of triumph
to be erected, but your Clemency provides a victim for God, and desires
that oblations and thanksgivings should be offered to the Lord by the

5. I therefore, though unworthy and unequal to such an office, and to
the offering of such prayers, will yet tell you how I have acted. I
carried with me your Majesty’s letter to the altar, and laid it thereon,
bearing it in my hand, when I offered the Sacrifice; that so your faith
might speak with my voice, and the Imperial letter itself might perform
the functions of the priestly oblation.

6. Truly the Lord is merciful to the Roman Empire, seeing that He hath
chosen such a prince and parent of princes, whose virtue and power,
raised on so great and triumphant an eminence of dominion, is supported
by such humility as to vanquish Emperors in valour and priests in
humility. What shall I wish for, or what shall I desire? You possess
everything; from your stores therefore I will obtain the sum of my
wishes; your Majesty is pitiful, and has great clemency.

7. But I desire for you again and again an increase of mercy, than
which the Lord hath given nothing more excellent; that by your clemency,
the Church of God, as it rejoices in the peace and tranquillity of the
innocent, so it may also rejoice in the absolution of the guilty. I
would chiefly ask you to pardon those who have sinned for the first
time. May the Lord preserve your Clemency. Amen.

                             LETTER LXII.
                               A.D. 394.

  IN this letter also S. Ambrose urges on Theodosius a merciful
  use of his victory, and appeals to him specially for some of
  the defeated party who had sought the protection of the Church.
  He acknowledges the greatness of the request, but pleads for it
  on the score of the divine favour which had been miraculously
  displayed in his behalf.


1. ALTHOUGH I lately wrote to your Clemency even a second time, still
I was not satisfied to fulfil my duty of corresponding with you letter
by letter; for your gracious benefits have so often laid me under
obligation that by no services can I pay my debt to your Majesty, most
blessed Emperor.

2. The very first occasion ought not therefore to have been omitted,
but through your chamberlain I ought to have offered to you my thanks,
and laid before you the expression of my duty; and this that my
omitting to write previously might not seem to arise from sloth rather
than necessity: I had also to inquire for some mode whereby I might
offer to your Goodness my proper and dutiful greeting.

3. Rightly then do I send my son Felix the Deacon, to convey to you my
letter, and to offer to you in my name both my dutiful respects, and
also a memorial in behalf of those who, suing for mercy, have fled to
the Church, the Mother of your piety. Their tears have constrained me
to anticipate your Clemency’s mind by my petition.

4. Our request is indeed a great one, but it is addressed to one on
whom the Lord has bestowed unheard-of and wonderful things, to one
whose mercifulness we have experienced, and whose piety we have as a
hostage. We confess then that we look for even more, for as you have
surpassed yourself in valour, so also you must surpass yourself in pity.
For your victory is considered to have been bestowed on you in the
primitive manner, and miraculously, as it was on Moses, on holy Joshua
the son of Nun, on Samuel and on David, not by human respect but by the
outpouring of celestial grace. Wherefore we look for a measure of pity
corresponding to that by means of which such a victory has been earned.

                             LETTER LXIII.
                               A.D. 396.

  THIS, the longest and latest, and certainly not the least
  interesting, of S. Ambrose’s Letters, is addressed to the
  Church of Vercellæ, which, owing to intestine divisions, had
  been for some time without a Bishop. S. Ambrose first urges
  them to remember Christ’s Presence among them, and to proceed
  to Election with that thought especially in their minds. He then
  speaks of two follows of Jovinian, Sarmatio and Barbatianus, who
  had introduced their evil doctrines among them, and so fostered
  divisions. This leads him to dwell at length on the evils of
  sensuality and the benefits of self-denial, on the profit of
  fasting, and the excellence of a virgin life, and bids them
  ‘stand fast,’ and not be led astray by false teachers. Then he
  recurs to the subject of the election of a Bishop, and bids them
  lay aside all evil feelings, and choose one worthy of so high
  an office, setting before them the examples of our Lord Himself,
  of Moses and Aaron. He then speaks of the qualities to be looked
  for in a true Bishop, and urges them to choose one worthy to
  succeed to the see of the holy martyr Eusebius, and, recurring
  to the examples of the old Testament, dwells on the history of
  Elijah. He ends by a general exhortation to all the Church of
  Vercellæ to the chief Christian virtues, after the model of
  S. Paul’s Epistles, to which the outline of this letter bears a
  general resemblance. Some questions as to its genuineness have
  been alluded to in the notes. There seems no sufficient reason
  for doubting that it is a genuine letter of S. Ambrose. It is
  thoroughly Ambrosian in style and method, and in its treatment
  of Scripture, especially of the history of the old Testament and
  of the lives of the great saints of the old dispensation. It was
  written not more than a year before S. Ambrose’s death.


1. I AM overcome by grief that the Church of the Lord, which is among
you, has still no Bishop, and alone in all the regions of Liguria and
Æmilia, of Venetia[253] and the adjacent parts of Italy, stands in
need of those ministrations which other Churches were wont to ask at
her hands, and, what causes me still more shame, the contention[254]
which causes this delay is ascribed to me. For as long as there are
dissensions among you, how can either we determine anything, or you
make your election, or any man accept the election, so as to undertake
among men who are at variance an office difficult to bear the weight of,
even among those that agree?

2. Are you the scholars of a confessor, are you the offspring of those
righteous fathers, who as soon as they saw holy Eusebius[255], though
before he was unknown to them, put aside their own countrymen, and
forthwith approved of him; and required no more than the sight of him
for their approval? Rightly did he who was chosen unanimously by the
Church, turn out so eminent a man, rightly was it believed that he whom
all demanded was chosen by the judgment of God. It is fitting therefore
that you follow the example of your fathers, especially since it
behoves you, who have been trained by so holy a Confessor, to be better
than your fathers, forasmuch as you have been trained and taught by a
better preceptor; and to show forth a visible sign of your moderation
and concord, by unanimously agreeing to the choice of a Bishop.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xviii. 19, 20.

3. If the Lord has said, _If two of you shall agree as touching any
thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of My Father
which is in heaven: For where two or three are gathered together in My
name, there am I in the midst of them_; how much less, when many are
assembled in the name of the Lord, where all agree together in their
petitions, how much less ought we in any wise to doubt that there
the Lord Jesus will be present to inspire their will and grant their
petition, to preside over the ordination and confer the grace?

  Sidenote: Eph. ii. 14.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. i. 30.

  Sidenote: S. John i. 26.

4. Make yourselves therefore worthy that Christ should stand in the
midst of you; for wheresoever is peace there is Christ, for Christ is
_Peace_; wheresoever is righteousness there is Christ, for Christ is
_Righteousness_. Let Him stand in the midst of you, that you may see
Him, that it be not said to you also, _There standeth One among you,
Whom ye know not_. The Jews saw Him not, for they believed not on Him;
we behold Him by devotion, and Him by faith.

  Sidenote: Ps. xix. 1.

  Sidenote: Acts vii. 56.

5. Let Him therefore stand in the midst of you, that you may have the
_heavens_ which _declare the glory of God_, opened to you; that you may
do His will and work His works. The heavens are opened to him who sees
Jesus, as they were opened to Stephen, when he said, _Behold I see the
heavens opened, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God_. Jesus
stood as an intercessor, He stood, as being eager to assist His soldier
Stephen in his combat; He stood as being prepared to crown His martyr.

  Sidenote: Dan. vii. 9, 10.

  Sidenote: Ps. lxxxii. 1.

6. Let Him therefore stand in the midst of you, that you may not
fear Him when seated on His throne, for seated thereon He will judge,
according to the saying of Daniel, _I beheld till the thrones were
cast down, and the books were opened, and the Ancient of days did sit_.
And in the 82nd Psalm it is written, _God standeth in the congregation
of princes, He decideth among gods_. So then being seated He judges,
standing He decides. He judges concerning them that are not perfected,
He decides among the gods. Let Him stand for you as a Defender, as the
good Shepherd, that cruel wolves may not attack you.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. ix. 27.

7. Nor is it without reason that my admonition directs itself to this
point; for I hear that Sarmatio and Barbatianus[256] have come among
you, vain boasters, who assert that there is no merit in abstinence,
no grace in a strict life, none in virginity, that all are to be rated
at one price, that they who chastise their flesh, in order to bring it
into subjection to the body, are beside themselves. But had the Apostle
Paul thought it a madness, he never would have practised it himself,
nor written it for the instruction of others. Yet he thus glories,
saying, _But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection, lest
that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself be found
a reprobate_[257]. So that they who chastise not their own bodies, yet
would fain preach to others, are themselves accounted reprobates.

  Sidenote: 1 S. John ii. 19.

8. For is there aught so reprobate[258] as that which excites us
to impurity, to corruption, to wantonness? as the fuel of lust, the
enticer to pleasure, the nurse of incontinence, the incentive of
desire? What new school has sent forth these Epicureans? No school of
philosophers, as they affirm, but of ignorant men who are setters forth
of pleasure, who persuade to luxury, who hold chastity to be useless.
_They were with us, but they were not of us_, for we blush not to say
what the Apostle John said. It was when placed here that they first
fasted, within the monastery they were under restraint; there was no
room for licence, all opportunity of jesting and altercation was cut

9. This these men of delicacy could not bear. They departed, and when
they desired to return were not received, for I had heard many things
concerning them against which it behoved me to be on my guard; I
admonished them, but in vain. Thus they began to boil over and spread
abroad what might prove the miserable incentives of all kinds of
vice. Thus they lost the fruits of their fasting, they lost the fruits
of having contained themselves a little while. And now with Satanic
malice they envy others those good works, the fruits of which they have
themselves lost.

10. What virgin can hear without grieving that her chastity will have
no reward? Far be it from her readily to give credence to this, still
less let her lay aside her earnestness, or change the intention of
her mind. What widow, were she to find her widowhood profitless, would
choose to preserve inviolate her first marriage-vow, and live in sorrow,
instead of allowing herself to be comforted? What wife is there who
hearing that no honour is due to chastity, might not be tempted by
unwatchful heedlessness of mind or body? And that is why the Church, in
her sacred Lessons, in the discourses of her priests, daily sends forth
the praises of chastity, the glory of virginity.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. v. 9.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. v. 10.

  Sidenote: Ib. 11, 12.

  Sidenote: Eph. v. 3.

  Sidenote: Ib. 5.

  Sidenote: Rom. vi. 3.

  Sidenote: Ib. viii. 17.

11. Vainly then has the Apostle said, _I wrote to you in an Epistle
not to company with fornicators_: and lest perhaps they should say,
‘We speak not of the fornicators of this world, but we say that he
who has been baptized into Christ ought not to be deemed a fornicator,
but whatever his life may be, it will be accepted by God,’ the Apostle
has added; _Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world_,
and below, _If any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or
covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner;
with such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them
also that are without?_ And to the Ephesians, _But fornication, and
all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not once be named among you,
as becometh saints_, adding straightway, _For this ye know, that no
whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater,
hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God_. This, it is
plain, is said of the baptized, for they receive an inheritance who are
baptized into the death of Christ, and are _buried together with Him,
that they may rise together with Him_. Wherefore they are _heirs of
God_, and _joint-heirs with Christ_, heirs of God because the Grace of
God is conveyed to them, and coheirs of Christ because they are renewed
according to His life; heirs also of Christ because by His Death He
grants to them as Testator His inheritance.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. x. 7.
            Exod. xxxii. 6.

12. Now such as these, who have somewhat to lose, ought more to take
heed to themselves than they who have nothing. These ought to act with
greater caution, to avoid the snares of vice and the incentives to sin,
which chiefly arise out of meat and drink. _The people sat down to eat
and drink, and rose up to play._

  Sidenote: Gen. iii. 1–4.

13. Even Epicurus himself, whose example these men prefer to that of
the Apostles, he, the champion of pleasure, while he denies that it
produces evil, denies not that certain consequences flow from it, from
which evils are generated: he maintains too that not even the life of
the licentious, which is filled with pleasures of this kind, can be
said to be objectionable, unless it be assailed by the fear of pain
or death. How far removed he is from the truth, may be discovered
even from this, that he declares pleasure to be the work of God in
man as its originator, as his follower Philomarus[259] maintains in
his Epitomes, referring this opinion to the Stoics as its authors.

14. But this is refuted by holy Scripture, which teaches us that
pleasure was instilled into Adam and Eve by the snares and enticements
of the Serpent. For the Serpent itself is pleasure, and, in accordance
with this, the passions of pleasure are various and slippery, and
infected by the poison, so to speak, of corrupt enticement. Hence it
is plain that Adam, deceived by the sensual appetite, fell from his
obedience to God, and the reward of grace. How then can pleasure recal
us to Paradise, when it alone cast us out of Paradise?

  Sidenote: S. Matt. iv. 2.

  Sidenote: Ib. 3.

  Sidenote: Ib. 4.

  Sidenote: Ib. xvii. 21.

15. Wherefore the Lord Jesus, willing to strengthen us against the
temptations of the Devil, fasted before His combat, to teach us that
otherwise we cannot conquer the snares of evil. Moreover, the Devil
himself employed the force of pleasure in launching the first dart of
his temptations, saying, _If Thou be the Son of God, command that these
stones be made bread_. To which the Lord replies, _Man shall not live
by bread alone, but by every word of God_; nor would He do it, although
within His power, that He might teach us by this wholesome precept to
attend rather to love of reading, than to pleasure. Now seeing they
deny that we ought to fast, let them be prepared with some reason why
Christ fasted, unless it were that His fast might be an example to us.
Lastly in a subsequent instance He has taught us that except by fasting
evil cannot easily be conquered. These are His words, _This kind of
evil spirits goeth not out but by prayer and fasting_.

  Sidenote: Acts x. 10.

  Sidenote: Exod. xxxiv. 28.

  Sidenote: Dan. vi. 22.

  Sidenote: Ib. ix. 2.

  Sidenote: Tobit xii. 8, 9.

16. Or what can be the meaning of Scripture which teaches that Peter
fasted, and that it was while he was fasting and praying that the
mystery of the baptism of the Gentiles was revealed to him? what but
to convince us that the Saints themselves by fasting are advanced in
virtue? It was while fasting that Moses received the Law, and in like
manner, Peter, while fasting, was taught the grace of the New Testament.
To Daniel also it was vouchsafed through fasting to stop the mouths of
the lions, and to behold the events of times to come. Lastly, what hope
of salvation can there be for us, unless by fasting we wash away our
sins, since Scripture says, _Fasting and alms purge away sin_?

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. xv. 32.

17. Who then are these new teachers who deny the merit of fasting?
Are they not heathen words which say, _Let us eat and drink_? And well
does the Apostle tell them, saying, _If after the manner of men I have
fought with the beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead
rise not? let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die_. That is to say,
What did it profit me to contend even unto death, save that I might
redeem my body? For in vain is it redeemed if there is no hope of the
resurrection. If therefore all hope of this is to be abandoned, let us
eat and drink, let us not lose the fruit of things present, seeing that
future things are not within our grasp. It is for those then to indulge
in meat and drink, who have nothing to hope for after death.

18. Lastly, the Epicureans, the champions of pleasure, assert that
death is nothing to us: what is dissolved, they say, is insensible,
and what is insensible is nothing to us. By this they show plainly that
they live by the body only and not by the mind, and do not perform the
functions of the soul but of the body only, in that by separation of
soul and body they deem all their vital functions to be dissolved, the
merits of their virtues and all vigor of their souls to perish, that
with his bodily senses the whole man fails, and that, though the body
itself is not immediately dissolved, the mind leaves not a relic behind
it. Then they would have the soul perish sooner than the body, whereas
even according to their own opinion they ought to remember that the
flesh and bones remain after death; and, would they abide by the truth,
they ought not to deny the grace of the resurrection.

  Sidenote: Ib. 33, 34.

19. Well therefore does the Apostle, confuting these persons,
admonish us not to be overthrown by such opinions, saying, _Be not
deceived, evil communications corrupt good manners. Be sober[260] unto
righteousness and sin not; for some are ignorant of God._ To be sober
then is good, for drunkenness is sin.

20. But to Epicurus, this advocate of pleasure, him of whom we make
such frequent mention, in order to prove that these men are disciples
of the heathens, and follow either the sect of the Epicureans or the
man himself who was excluded even by philosphers from their company
as the pattern of luxury, what if we can prove even him to be more
tolerable than these men? Now he asserts, as Demarchus[261] tells
us, that it is not drinking-bouts, nor banquettings, nor the birth of
sons, nor the embraces of women, nor a large supply of fish and such
delicacies provided for sumptuous feasts, it is not these which make
life sweet, but sober discourse. He added also that they who are not
excessive in seeking the dainties of the table, are moderate in the use
of them. The man who cheerfully limits himself to the juices of plants
and to bread and water, despises delicate feasts, for from these arise
many evils. Elsewhere too they say that it is not excessive banquets
and revels which make pleasure sweet, but a temperate life.

21. Seeing then that philosphy has renounced these men, shall not the
Church exclude them? They themselves too, as is usual in a bad cause,
often attack themselves by their own arguments. For although it be
their main opinion, that there is no sweetness of pleasure but that
which arises from eating and drinking; yet, perceiving that they cannot
lay down so shameful a definition without the utmost disgrace, and that
none stand by them, they have sought to disguise it under the gloss
of colourable arguments, and thus one of them has said, In seeking
pleasure by means of feasting and song, we have lost that which is
derived from hearing that Word whereby alone we can be saved.

  Sidenote: Acts xvii. 18.

22. Do we not then perceive in this complicated discussion how
inconsistent and variable these men are? Scripture condemns them,
for it has not passed over those whom the Apostles confuted, as Luke
records in the Acts of the Apostles, which he has written in narrative
style, _Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans[262], and of the
Stoics encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say?
other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods._

23. Yet not even from this number did the Apostle part devoid of
success. For Dionysius the Areopagite, and Damaris his wife, with many
others, believed. And thus by their acts this assembly of the learned
and eloquent proved themselves vanquished by the simple discourse of
the faithful. What then do these men mean by attempting to pervert
those whom the Apostle has won, and Christ redeemed with His own blood,
insisting that the baptized have no need to apply themselves to the
exercise of virtue; that they are not injured by revellings, by excess
of pleasure; that they who deprive themselves of such things are
foolish; that virgins ought to marry and bear children; widows also
ought to renew that carnal commerce which they had better never have
known; and that although they might be able to contain themselves they
are mistaken in refusing again to enter into the bond of marriage?

24. What then? Shall we put off the man and put on the beast? shall
we strip off Christ, and be clothed over and over with the garments of
Satan? The very heathen sages held that pleasure was not to be esteemed
honourable, lest they should seem to couple men with brutes, and can we
instil the habits of animals into the human breast, and engrave on the
rational mind the irrational instincts of wild beasts?

25. Yet there are many kinds of animals, who when they have lost their
mate, will no longer copulate, but lead, as it were, a solitary life.
Many also feed on simple herbs and only quench their thirst in the pure
stream; you may also often see dogs refuse food which they have been
forbidden, and, if bid to refrain, close up their hungry jaws. Do men
then require to be recalled from that in which even mute animals have
learnt from man’s teaching not to transgress[263]?

26. But what is more excellent than abstinence, which makes even the
years of youth to be old, and produces an old age of conduct? For as
by excess of food and drunkenness even old age is inflamed, so on the
other hand, the insolence of youth is restrained by sparing food and
by the flowing stream. Fire without us is quenched by the pouring on
of water, no wonder then if even internal heat is allayed by draughts
from the brook; for the flame is nourished or fails, according as it
is fed or not. As hay, stubble, wood, oil, and the like are the fuel of
fire, and feed it, and if you withdraw or do not supply them the fire
is quenched, so also the warmth of the body is nourished or diminished
by food; by food it is excited and by food allayed. Gluttony therefore
is the mother of lust.

  Sidenote: Gen. ix. 20.

  Sidenote: 1 Tim. v. 23.

27. And shall we not say that temperance is accordant with nature, and
with that Divine law, which in the very origin of all things, gave us
to drink of the fountains and to eat of the fruit of trees? After the
flood the just man found himself tempted by wine. Wherefore let us use
the natural drink of temperance, and would that we all could do so. But
since we are not all strong, the Apostle says, _Use a little wine for
thine often infirmities_. It is to be drunk then because of infirmity
not for pleasure, and therefore as a remedy, sparingly, not as a luxury,

  Sidenote: 1 Kings xix. 6.

  Sidenote: Ib. 8.

  Sidenote: Exod. xvii. 6.

  Sidenote: Dan. i. 8;
           ♦xiv. 30;
            iii. 40.

28. Again, Elijah, when the Lord God was training him to the perfection
of virtue, found _a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at
his head; and in the strength of that meat he fasted forty days_. Our
fathers, when they passed over the sea on foot, drank water, not wine.
It was when fed on their homely food and drinking water, that Daniel
repressed the rage of the lions, and the Hebrew children saw the fiery
furnace playing round their limbs with harmless flames.

  Sidenote: Judith xiii. 16.

  Sidenote: Esther iv. 16;
            v. 2.

  Sidenote: S. Luke ii. 37.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. iii. 4.

29. And why should I speak of men only? Judith, in no wise moved by
the luxurious banquet of Holofernes, won a triumph which men’s arms had
found desperate, by the sole merit of her temperance, delivering her
country from invasion, and slaying with her own hand the captain of the
host: a manifest example both that this warrior dreaded by the people
had become enervated by his luxury, and that temperance in food had
made this woman stronger than men. It was not in her sex that she
surpassed nature, but by her spare diet she conquered. Esther obtained
favour from the proud king by her fasts. Anna, _a widow of about
fourscore and four years_, serving in the temple _with fastings and
prayers night and day_, came to the knowledge of Christ, and John the
Teacher of abstinence, and, as it were, a new Angel upon earth, was His

  Sidenote: 2 Kings iv. 39.

  Sidenote: Ezra viii. 2.
            Neh. viii. 2.

  Sidenote: 2 Cor. xi. 27.

30. O foolish Elisha! to feed the prophets with wild and bitter gourds;
O Ezra[264] unmindful of Scripture though from memory thou dost restore
Scripture! O senseless Paul, to glory in fasting, if fasting avails

  Sidenote: Is. lviii. 11.

  Sidenote: Ps. xxiii. 5. Vulg.

31. But how can that not profit whereby our vices are purged? And if
you offer it together with humility and mercy, then, as Isaiah has said
by the Divine Spirit, _thy bones shall be made fat, and thou shalt be
like a watered garden_! Thy soul then is fattened, and its virtues are
enriched by the spiritual fat of fasting, and thy fruits are multiplied
by the richness of thy mind, that thou mayest be made drunk, as it were,
with soberness[265], as is that cup whereof the Prophet speaks, _And my
cup which inebriateth me, how goodly is it_!

  Sidenote: Ecclus. xviii. 30, 31.

  Sidenote: Ib. xix. 2.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. vii. 4.

32. But not only is that temperance praiseworthy which is sparing
in food, but that also which restrains desires. For it is written,
_Go not after thy lusts, but refrain thyself from thine appetites. If
thou givest thy soul the desires that please her, she will make thee
a laughing stock to thine enemies_! and again, _Wine and women will
make men of understanding to fall away_! Hence Paul teaches temperance
even in marriage; for he who commits excess therein is, as it were, an
adulterer, and violates the Apostolical law.

  Sidenote: Col. ii. 9.

33. But how can I express the greatness of the grace of virginity,
which was counted worthy to be chosen by Christ, to be the bodily
temple of God, wherein dwelt, as we read, _the fulness of the Godhead
bodily_! A virgin conceived the Saviour of the world, a virgin brought
forth the Life of the universe. Ought not then virginity to be above
all other states[266] which was profitable to all in Christ? A virgin
bore Him Whom this world cannot contain or support. He, born of the
womb of Mary, preserved inviolate her chastity, and the seal of her
virginity. Therefore Christ found in the Virgin what He would take for
His own, what the Lord of all would assume to Himself. By the woman
and the man our flesh was cast out of Paradise, by the Virgin it was
re-united to God.

  Sidenote: Exod. xv. 20.

34. And what shall I say of the other Mary[267], the sister of Moses,
who, leading the female band, passed on foot over the straights of the
sea? By the same grace Thecla was reverenced even by lions, so that the
unfed beasts, lying at the feet of their prey, underwent a holy fast,
neither with wanton look nor sharp claw venturing to harm the virgin,
for even by a look the sanctity of virginity is profaned.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. vii. 25.

35. Again, with what reverence has the holy Apostle spoken, _Now
concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord, yet I give my
judgement as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord_. Commandment he
has not, but counsel; for that which is above the Law is not commanded,
but counselled and advised. Nor is any authority assumed, but grace is
shewn, and that not by any chance person, but by him who _hath obtained
mercy of the Lord_. Are then the counsels of these men better than
those of the Apostles? The Apostle says, _I give my counsel_, but they
dissuade all from leading a virgin’s life.

  Sidenote: Cant. iv. 12.

  Sidenote: Eph. v. 27.

36. And we ought to wonder at the greatness of the commendation of
it which the Prophet, or rather Christ in the person of the Prophet,
has expressed in one short verse. _A garden inclosed is my sister,
my spouse, a spring shut up, a fountain sealed._ Christ says this
to the Church, whom He would have _a virgin without spot or wrinkle_.
Virginity is a fertile _garden_, which bears many fruits of a good
odour; _a garden inclosed_ because it is surrounded on all sides with
the wall of chastity; _a fountain sealed_, in that virginity is the
fountain and source of modesty, and that which keeps unbroken the seal
of purity; that fountain wherein is reflected the image of God, since
with chastity of body accords likewise holy simplicity.

  Sidenote: 2 Cor. xi. 2.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. vii.

37. Nor can any one doubt that the Church herself is a virgin, whom
even at Corinth the Apostle Paul espoused, that he _might present her
a chaste virgin to Christ_. Thus in his first Epistle he gives counsel
and sets a high value on the gift of virginity, for that it is not
disquieted by the needs of this present world, nor defiled by its
corruptions, nor agitated by its storms. In the latter he espouses the
Corinthians to Christ, that so, in the purity of that people, he may
ratify the virginity of the Church.

  Sidenote: Ib. 26.

  Sidenote: Ib. 32.

  Sidenote: Ib. 34.

  Sidenote: Ib. 35.

38. Answer me now, O Paul, in what way _for the present distress_ dost
thou give counsel? _He that is unmarried_, thou sayest, _careth for
the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord_, adding
further, _the unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord_, that
she may be holy both in body and spirit. She has therefore a bulwark
against the storms of this world, and thus shielded and fortified
by the Divine protection she is disquieted by none of the blasts of
this world. Counsel then is good, because therein lies profit, but
in commandment is a bond[268]. Counsel leads forward the willing,
commandment binds the reluctant. So that if any follow this counsel,
and repent not, she hath profited; on the other hand, if she change
her purpose, she hath no ground to accuse the Apostle, for she ought
to have judged better of her own weakness, and thus she is responsible
to herself for her own choice, for she has bound herself by a bond and
knot heavier than she can bear.

  Sidenote: Rom. xiv. 2.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. vii. 37–40.

39. Wherefore, as a good physician, who desires both to preserve for
the strong the stability of their virtue, and to restore health to
the weak, he gives to the one counsel, to the other a remedy; _Whoso
is weak, let him eat herbs_; let him take a wife; he that is stronger,
let him use the strong meat of continence. And he well adds; _He that
standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power
over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep
his virgin, doeth well. So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth
well, but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better. The wife is
bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be
dead she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.
But she is happier if she so abide, after my judgment, and I think also
that I have the Spirit of God._ Now having the counsel of God consists
in examining all things diligently, in urging what is best, and
pointing out what is safest.

40. A careful guide points out many ways, that each person may walk on
which he will, and which he finds suitable for himself: provided only
he lights on one which will lead him into the camp. Good is the way of
virginity, but, being lofty and steep, it requires the stronger sort.
Good too is the way of widowhood, not so difficult as the former, but,
being rocky and rough, it requires the more cautious sort. Good too
is the way of matrimony, but, being smooth and direct, it arrives by
a longer circuit at the camp of the faithful, and this way is trodden
by the larger number. We have therefore the rewards of virginity, the
merits of widowhood, there is also a place for conjugal chastity. They
are the degrees and advances of several virtues.

  Sidenote: Exod. iii. 5.

  Sidenote: Deut. v. 31.

41. Stand stedfast therefore in your hearts, that no man may unsettle
or overthrow you. The Apostle has taught us what ‘to stand’ signifies,
that is, what was said to Moses, _For the place whereon thou standest
is holy ground_; for no one stands but he who stands by faith, who
stands firm in the resolution of his heart. In another place too we
read, _But as for thee, stand thou here by Me_. Both are addressed
to Moses by the Lord, both _the place whereon thou standest is holy
ground_, and _stand thou here by Me_, that is to say, ‘thou standest
with Me, if thou standest in the Church. For the place itself is holy,
the land itself bears the fruit of holiness, and is rich with the
haunts of virtue.’

42. ‘Stand therefore in the Church, stand where I appeared to thee,
there I am with thee. For where the Church is, there is the most secure
resting-place for thy soul; there is the support of thy mind, when I
appeared to thee out of the bush. Thou art the bush, I am the fire: the
fire in the bush, and I in the flesh. And therefore am I the fire, that
I may give thee light, that I may burn up thy thorns, that is, thy sins,
and discover to thee My grace.’

  Sidenote: Ps. xxvi. 4.

  Sidenote: Ib. l. 20.

43. Stand firm therefore in your hearts, and drive away from the
Church those wolves which seek to carry off prey. Let there be no sloth
in you, nor an evil mouth or bitter tongue. Sit not with vain persons,
for it is written, _I have not dwelt with vain persons_. Listen not to
those who detract from their neighbours, lest, hearing others, ye be
yourselves excited to do likewise, and it be said to each of you, _Thou
satest and spakest against thy brother_.

  Sidenote: Ps. cxxxiv. 1, 2.

44. Sitting we speak against others, but standing up we praise the
Lord, as it is said; _Behold now, praise the Lord, all ye servants
of the Lord; ye that stand in the house of the Lord_. He who sits, to
speak of the habit of the body, is, as it were, dissolved by ease, and
relaxes the energy of his mind. But the careful watchman, the unwearied
scout, the wakeful sentinel who keeps the outposts of the camp, these
stand. The brave warrior also, who would prevent the designs of his
enemy, stands[269] ready in his rank ere he is looked for.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. x. 12.

  Sidenote: Ps. xxvi. 5.

  Sidenote: Ib. xxxvii. 1.

45. _Let him that standeth take heed lest he fall._ He who stands is
free from detraction, for it is by the talk of the idle that slander
is disseminated and rancour displayed. Wherefore the Prophet says, _I
have hated the congregation of the wicked, and will not sit among the
ungodly_. And in the 37th Psalm, which is full of moral precepts, he
has placed in the very outset, _Be not malignant among them that are
malignant, neither be thou envious against the evil-doers_. Malignity
does more harm than malice, for its property is neither pure simplicity
nor open malice; but a hidden malevolence, and it is more difficult to
guard against what is concealed than against what is known; and so our
Saviour bids us beware of evil spirits, for they captivate us by the
outward show of charming pleasures, and the false show of other things,
holding forth honour as a lure to ambition, wealth to riches, power to

  Sidenote: Prov. xiv. 30. LXX.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. ix. 12.

46. Wherefore in every act, but especially in the search after a
Bishop, by whose model the life of all is formed, malignity ought to be
absent, that by a composed and peaceful exercise of judgment he may he
preferred to all who is to be chosen from all and who may heal all. For
_a gentle-minded man is the physician of the heart_, of that whereof
our Lord also in the Gospel has professed Himself a Physician, _They
that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick_.

  Sidenote: Heb. v. 5.

  Sidenote: Ib. 7.

47. He is the good Physician, Who has taken upon Him our infirmities,
Who has healed our sicknesses, and yet He, as it is written, _glorified
not Himself to be made an High Priest_, but _He that said unto Him_,
even the Father, _Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten Thee, as
He saith also in another place, Thou art a Priest for ever after the
order of Melchisedeck_. And as He was to be the type of all priests,
He took upon Him our flesh, that _in the days of His flesh, He might
offer up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears
unto_ God the Father, _and though He were the Son_ of God, might even
_learn obedience from the things He suffered_, in order to teach us,
that He might become to us the Author of salvation. Finally, having
accomplished His sufferings, and being Himself made perfect, He gave
health to all, He bore the sin of all.

  Sidenote: Numb. xvii. 8.

  Sidenote: Heb. v. 2.

  Sidenote: Ib. 4.

48. Thus He Himself chose Aaron the High Priest, that human ambition
might not sway the choice, but the grace of God; no voluntary offering,
nor taking upon himself, but a heavenly call, that he might offer gifts
for sins, who could have compassion on sinners _for that he himself
also_, it is written, _is compassed with infirmity_. A man should
not _take this honour to himself, but he that is called of God as was
Aaron_; so also Christ did not assume but received His priesthood.

  Sidenote: Ib. vii. 2, 3.

  Sidenote: Rev. i. 8.

49. And further, since the succession derived by descent from Aaron
produced heirs of his race rather than partakers of his righteousness,
therefore there came the antitype of that Melchisedeck whom we read of
in the Old Testament, the true Melchisedeck, the true King of Peace,
the true King of Righteousness, for this is the interpretation of his
name; being _without father, without mother, without descent, having
neither beginning of days, nor end of life_, which also has reference
to the Son of God, for in His Divine generation, He had no mother, and
in His birth from the Virgin Mary He knew no father; Who, born of the
Father alone before the world, and from the Virgin alone in the world,
could have no beginning of days, for He _was in the beginning_. And how
could He have any end to His life, Who is the Author of life to all?
He is _the Beginning and the Ending_. But this is referred to also by
way of example, that a Bishop ought to be without father and without
mother, in that it is not nobility of birth, but holiness of life and
preeminence in virtue that is chosen in him.

  Sidenote: Heb. xi. 9.

  Sidenote: Ps. xcix. 6.

50. Let him possess faith and ripeness of conduct, not one without
the other, but let both continue in one, with good works and deeds.
Wherefore the Apostle Paul wishes us to be imitators of those who _by
faith and patience possess the promises_ of Abraham, of him who by
patience was counted worthy to receive and possess the grace of the
blessing promised to him. The prophet David has admonished us that we
ought to be imitators of holy Aaron, for he has proposed him to us,
among the saints of the Lord, as an example for our imitation, saying,
_Moses and Aaron among his priests, and Samuel among such as call upon
His Name_.

  Sidenote: Numb. xvi. 48.

51. An example worthy to be followed by all truly was he, seeing
that when death, owing to the rebels, was spreading among the people,
he placed himself between the living and the dead, thereby to arrest
death so that no more might perish. Of a priestly mind and temper truly
was he, who thus with pious zeal offered himself, as a good Shepherd,
for the Lord’s flock. Thus he broke the sting of death, checked its
violence, refused to let it pass. Thus piety aided his services,
because he offered himself for those who resisted.

  Sidenote: Ib. 32.

  Sidenote: Ib. 3.

52. Wherefore let those also who separate themselves learn to fear the
anger of the Lord, and to appease His priests. What? did not the earth
open and swallow up Dathan Korah and Abiram on account of their schism?
For when Korah Dathan and Abiram stirred up two hundred and fifty men
against Moses and Aaron to separate themselves from them, they rose up
against them, saying, _Let it suffice for you that all the congregation
are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them_.

  Sidenote: 2 Tim. ii. 19.

53. Wherefore the Lord was angry and spake to the whole congregation.
_The Lord knoweth them that are His_, and hath drawn His saints to
Himself; and those whom He hath not chosen, He has not so drawn to
Himself. And the Lord commanded that Korah and all those who together
with him had rebelled against Moses and Aaron, the priests of the Lord,
should take censers, and put incense therein, that he who was chosen of
the Lord, might be declared to be holy among the ministers of the Lord.

  Sidenote: Numb. xvi. 8, 9.

  Sidenote: Ib. 10, 11.

54. And Moses said unto Korah, _Hear, I pray you, ye sons of Levi,
seemeth it but a small thing unto you that the God of Israel hath
separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to
Himself to do the service of the tabernacle of the Lord?_ and below,
_Seek ye the priesthood also? for which cause both thou and all thy
company are gathered together against the Lord: and what is Aaron that
ye murmur against him?_

55. The whole people therefore, weighing the cause of offence, that
these men, though unworthy, wished to fill the office of the priesthood,
and therefore separated themselves, murmuring against the Lord, and
censuring His judgment in the choice of their priests, were seized with
great fear, and oppressed with apprehension of punishment. But at the
general entreaty that all may not be involved in destruction through
the insolence of a few, the guilty are marked out, and two hundred and
fifty men with their leaders are separated from the rest, the earth
quakes and is rent asunder in the midst of the people, a deep gulf is
opened and swallows up the offenders, and thus they are removed from
the pure elements of creation, so as neither to pollute the air by
breathing it, nor the heavens by looking on them, nor the sea by their
touch, nor the earth by their burial.

56. The punishment ceased, the wickedness ceased not; for owing to
this very act a murmuring arose among the people that by means of the
priests the people had perished. Indignant at this the Lord would have
destroyed all, had He not first been moved by the prayers of Moses and
Aaron, and afterwards, at the intercession of Aaron His priest, (in
order to render their pardon more humiliating,) consented to spare
their life at the prayer of those, whose prerogative they had denied.

  Sidenote: Numb. xii. 1.

  Sidenote: Ib. 10.

  Sidenote: Rom. xi. 25.

57. Miriam the prophetess herself, she who with her brethren had
crossed the straights of the sea dryshod, because, being still ignorant
of the mystery of the Ethiopian woman, she had murmured against her
brother Moses, became leprous white as snow, and even at the prayer
of Moses was scarcely healed of this great plague. This her murmuring
however is to be considered as a type of the Synagogue, which,
uninstructed in the mystery of this Ethiopian woman, that is, of the
Gentile Church, utters daily reproaches, and envies that people by
whose faith she herself will also be relieved from the leprosy of her
unbelief, according as we read, _that blindness in part is happened to
Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in_.

58. And that we may observe that it is Divine rather than human grace
which operates in priests, of all those rods which Moses received from
the tribes and laid by, the rod of Aaron alone budded, and thus the
people perceived that the Divine commission is a gift which is to be
looked for in a priest, and though they before thought that a similar
prerogative belonged to themselves, they now ceased to claim the same
privilege for a merely human election. But this rod, what else does
it indicate, but that priestly grace never decays, and in the utmost
lowliness has in the exercise of its functions the flower of strength
committed to it, or because this also has reference to a mystery? Nor
is it without a meaning that we deem this to have taken place near the
end of the life of Aaron the priest. It appears to be intimated that
the ancient Jewish people, decaying and worn away by the long-continued
infidelity of their priesthood, will in the latter times be reclaimed
to zealous faith and devotion by the example of the Church, and by the
aid of reviving grace will again put forth the blossoms which have so
long been dead.

  Sidenote: Numb. xx. 26.

  Sidenote: Heb. v. 1.

59. But what is signified by the fact that on the death of Aaron it
was not to all the people, but to Moses alone, who is among the priests
of the Lord, that God gave the command to invest with the garments of
Aaron the priest Eleazar his son, what but to teach us that a priest
ought to be consecrated by a priest, and clothed with his proper
garments, that is, with priestly virtues; and then, when it appears
that he lacks no part of his priestly array, but is complete in all
things, that he should be brought near to the holy altars. For being
about to offer for the people, he ought to be chosen by the Lord,
and approved by the people; and this lest some grave cause of offence
should be found in him whose duty it is to intercede for the sins of
others. No ordinary degree of virtue befits a priest, for he ought
sedulously to shun not only more heinous sins, but even the smallest;
he ought to be open to compassion, not to revoke his promise, to raise
the fallen, to sympathise with sorrow, to preserve meekness, to love
piety, to drive away or stifle wrath, to be a trumpet to rouse the
people to devotion, or to soothe them into tranquillity.

  Sidenote: Prov. xv. 18.

  Sidenote: Ps. iv. 4. Vulg. LXX.

60. It is an old saying; Accustom yourself to be single-minded that
your life may be as a picture, and ever preserve the same stamp which
it has received. How can he be one and the same, who at one time is
inflamed with anger, at another, boils with bitter indignation, whose
countenance burns and then changes to paleness, varying and changing
colour every moment. But suppose that it is natural to be angry, or
that for the most part there is cause to be so; it also is the part of
a man to moderate his wrath, and to resist being carried away by brutal
fury, so as not to know how to be appeased; it is his duty not to
embitter family discord, for it is written, _A wrathful man diggeth
up sin_. He is not one with himself who is double-minded, nor he who
cannot restrain his wrath, of whom David says well, _Be ye angry, and
sin not_. Such a one does not command his anger, but rather indulges
his natural passions, which cannot indeed be prevented but may be
moderated. Although then we are angry, let our passion admit only such
emotion as is according to nature, not sin which is contrary to nature.
For it is intolerable that he who undertakes to govern others should be
unable to govern himself.

  Sidenote: 1 Tim. iii. 2.
            Tit. i. 7.

61. And so the Apostle has given us a model, that it behoves a _Bishop_
to be _blameless_, as he also says elsewhere, _For a Bishop must be
blameless, as the steward of God, not self-willed, not soon angry,
not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre_. For how can
the compassion of the almsgiver and the avarice of the coveter agree

  Sidenote: Ib. 9.

  Sidenote: Ib. 6.

62. I have set down those things which I have learnt are to be avoided;
it is the Apostle who teaches what virtues are needed, and he tells us
that the _gainsayers_ are to be _convinced_ with patience, and commands
a Bishop to be _the husband of one wife_, and this not in order to
exclude him from marriage, (for this is beyond the bounds of the
precept,) but that by conjugal chastity he may preserve the grace of
his Washing; nor again, that he may feel that he has the sanction of
Apostolical authority for begetting children after he is a priest, for
he speaks of one having children, not of one begetting them or marrying

63. And I have thought it better to touch upon this, because many
persons argue as if the being _husband of one wife_ had reference to
a man marrying once after Baptism, seeing that by Baptism all the sin
which would interpose any obstacle is removed. True indeed it is that
in Baptism all sins and offences are washed away, so that even to one
who has polluted his body with many women not united to him by wedlock,
all is remitted. But Baptism does not dissolve marriage, if a man has
married again, for it is sin, not the Law, which is destroyed by the
Bath, and in marriage there is no sin but a law. Being therefore a
law it is not dissolved as if it were a fault, but retained, in that
it is a law. Now the Apostle has laid down a rule saying, _If any be
blameless, the husband of one wife_. So that if any man be blameless,
the husband of one wife, he comes under the forms of the rule for
undertaking the priestly office, but he who marries again incurs not
indeed the sin of pollution, but loses the prerogative of a priest.

64. We have declared what the law prescribes, let us speak also of what
is prescribed by reason. But in the first place we are to understand
that the Apostle has not ordained this with reference to Bishops and
Presbyters only, but that the Fathers of the Nicene Council[270] have
also decreed that no man should be a cleric at all who has contracted a
second marriage. For how can he give consolation or honour to a widow;
how can he exhort her to continue a widow, or to preserve that faith
to her husband which he has not preserved to his own first marriage?
Or what difference would there be between the people and the priest,
if they were bound by the same laws? The life of the priest ought to
be pre-eminent as well as his graces, for he who obliges others by his
precepts ought himself to observe the precepts of the law.

  Sidenote: 1 Tim. iii. 6.

65. How vehemently I resisted ordination! and when I was at last
constrained to consent, how I strove that it might be postponed! but
the popular impulse[271] prevailed over prescribed[272] rules. And yet
it was approved by the judgement of the Bishops of the West, and its
example followed by those of the East[273]; and this notwithstanding
the prohibition to ordain a _novice, lest he be lifted up with pride_.
If my ordination was not postponed, it was owing to a constraining
force, and if proper humility be not wanting to the priest, where the
fault does not lie with him no blame will be imputed.

66. But if even in other Churches such deliberation is used in
ordination, how much care is required in that of Vercellæ, where two
duties seem equally required of the Bishop, monastic severity and
ecclesiastical discipline. For Eusebius of blessed memory was the
first to bring together in the West these two differing requisites,
and though living in the city observed the monastic institute, and
with the government of his Church united the sobriety of an ascetic
life. Great increase accrues to the grace of the priesthood when young
men are thus obliged to practise abstinence and to obey the laws of
chastity, and, though living within the city, to renounce its customs
and ways.

  Sidenote: Heb. xi. 37.

  Sidenote: Ib. 38.

  Sidenote: Dan. i. 16.

  Sidenote: Heb. xi. 33, 34.

67. Hence sprung those famous men Elijah, Elisha, and John the son
of Elizabeth, who clothed _in sheepskins, being destitute, afflicted,
tormented, wandered about in deserts_, in mountains thickets and
precipices, among pathless rocks, in horrid caves, through marshy fords,
_of whom the world was not worthy_. Hence Daniel, Ananias, Azarias and
Misael, who were brought up in the royal palace, were fed sparingly as
though they had been in the desert, with coarse food and water to drink.
Rightly then did the king’s servants prevail over kingdoms, shake off
the yoke and set at nought captivity, _subdue kingdoms_, conquer the
elements, _quench the violence of fire, escape the edge of the sword,
stop the mouths of lions, out of weakness were made strong_, shrank not
from the _mockings_ of men, seeing that they hoped for heavenly rewards,
nor dreaded the darkness of the prison, since on them had shone the
brightness of eternal light.

  Sidenote: Prov. xix. 12.

68. Following their example, holy Eusebius[274] left his country and
kindred, and preferred foreign sojourn to the enjoyment of home. For
the faith’s sake he also chose and desired the hardships of exile,
having for his companion Dionysius of blessed memory, who chose a
voluntary banishment in preference to the Emperor’s friendship. Thus
when these illustrious men, beset by arms, hemmed round by soldiers,
were being carried off from the greater church, they triumphed over the
imperial power. Troops of soldiers and the din of arms could not rob
them of their faith, but they subdued the fierceness of the brutal mind,
depriving it of power to hurt the Saints. _For_, as it is written in
Proverbs, _the king’s wrath is as the roaring of a lion_.

  Sidenote: 2 Cor. vi. 10.

  Sidenote: Heb. xi. 34.

69. He confessed himself vanquished, by requesting them to relinquish
their purpose, but they deemed their pen of reeds more powerful than
his iron swords. Thus it was unbelief, not the faith of the Saints,
which was wounded and fell: they for whom a heavenly abode was prepared
needed not a sepulchre in their own country. They wandered through
the world _as having nothing, yet possessing all things_. Every place
whither they were sent appeared full of delights, nor could they
feel any want who always abounded in faith. They were tempted but not
overcome, in fastings, in labours, in watchings, in prisons; _out of
weakness they were made strong_. Fed to the full by fasting they looked
not for the charms of pleasure; refreshed by the hope of eternal grace,
the burning summer parched them not, nor did the cold of icy regions
break them down; for the warm breath of devotion invigorated them; they
feared not the bonds of men, for Jesus had loosed them; they desired
not to be redeemed from death, for they looked forward to be raised
again by Christ.

70. Holy Dionysius again prayed that his life might close in exile,
fearing that, if he returned, he should find the minds of the clergy or
people perplexed by the doctrines and customs of the unbelieving, and
he won this grace and carried with him with calm mind the peace of the
Lord. Thus as holy Eusebius first lifted up the standard of confession,
so blessed Dionysius, dying in his exile, won a higher title even than

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. iv. 9.

  Sidenote: Eph. vi. 12.

71. Now this endurance in holy Eusebius throve under the monastic
discipline, and by being accustomed to a stricter rule, he imbibed a
power of bearing hardships. For it is certain that in the higher kinds
of Christian devotion these two things are the most excellent, the
Clerical function and the Monastic rule. The first is trained to be
obliging and courteous in its behaviour, the second is accustomed to
abstinence and endurance; the one lives as on a theatre, the other in
secret; the one is seen, the other hidden. It is the saying of one who
was a noble combatant, _We are made a spectacle unto the world, and to
Angels_. Worthy truly was he to have Angels as his spectators, when he
wrestled that he might attain the prize of Christ, when he contended
that he might lead on earth an Angel’s life, that he might overcome
the wickedness of spirits in heaven, for _he wrestled with spiritual
wickedness_. Rightly was the world a spectator of him whom it was
called on to imitate.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xvi. 24.

  Sidenote: Gal. ii. 20.

72. Thus one of these lives is on the stage, the other in the cell;
the one contends with the distractions of the world, the other with
the lusts of the flesh; the one subdues, the other flees from corporal
pleasures; the one regulates, the other refrains itself, for to the
perfect it is said, _If any man will come after Me, let him deny
himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me_. Now he follows Christ
who can say, _Nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me_.

  Sidenote: Acts xx. 24.

73. Paul denied himself, when, knowing that _chains, bonds and
tribulations awaited him_ in Jerusalem, he voluntarily exposed himself
to these dangers, saying, _Neither count I my life dear unto myself, so
that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have
received of the Lord Jesus_. And though many stood round him, weeping
and beseeching, they did not affect his resolution, so strict a censor
over itself is a ready faith.

  Sidenote: Gal. vi. 14.

74. Thus the one kind of life fights, the other retires into seclusion;
the world is triumphed over by the one, and placed at a distance by the
other; _to the one the world is crucified, and to it the world_, to the
other the world is unknown; the one has more temptations and therefore
a more signal victory; the other falls less frequently and more easily
keeps guard over itself.

  Sidenote: 1 Kings xvii. 3.

  Sidenote: Ib. xix. 8.

75. So also Elijah himself, that the word of his mouth might be
confirmed, was sent by the Lord to the brook Cherith. Both Ahab and
Jezebel threatened him, Elijah feared and rose up, _and went in the
strength of that_ spiritual _meat forty days and forty nights unto
Horeb the mount of God_; and he came thither unto a cave, and lodged
there, and afterwards was sent from thence to anoint kings. Thus he
was inured to endurance by dwelling in the desert, and as though fed
by coarse viands unto the fatness of virtue, went forth increased in

  Sidenote: S. Luke iii. 2.

  Sidenote: Ib. 19.

76. John also grew up in the desert, and baptized the Lord, and there
first exercised himself in constancy, that afterwards he might reprove

  Sidenote: 1 Kings xvii. 3–6.

  Sidenote: Ps. civ. 15.

  Sidenote: 1 Kings xix. 8.

  Sidenote: Ib. 3.

77. And now, seeing that we have cursorily passed over, in treating
of holy Elijah’s dwelling in the desert, the names of places which are
not without meaning, let us return to consider this. Elijah was sent
to the brook Cherith, there the ravens fed him, in the morning they
brought him bread, in the evening flesh. And with reason did they bring
him bread in the morning, for _bread strengthens man’s heart_, and
it was with mystical food that the prophet was fed. In the evening he
was supplied with flesh. Understand what thou readest; for Cherith is
understanding, Horeb signifies, ‘heart’ or ‘as heart;’ of Beersheba the
signification is the ‘well of the seventh,’ or ‘of the oath.’

  Sidenote: Ps. xlvi. 4.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. v. 17.

  Sidenote: S. John vii. 38.

78. Elijah first went to Beersheba, to the mysteries and sacraments
of the Divine and holy Law, afterwards he was sent to the Brook, to
the stream of that _river_ which _makes glad the city of God_. Here
you perceive the two Testaments, and their single Author; the ancient
Scriptures as a deep and dark well whence you have to draw water with
difficulty, for He Who was to fill it full was not yet come, as He
said in after times, _I am not come to destroy the Law, but to fulfil
it_. Therefore the Saint is commanded by the Lord to pass over the
brook, for he who shall drink of the New Testament is not only a river,
but _out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water_, rivers of
understanding, rivers of meditation, spiritual streams, which yet are
dried up in time of unbelief, lest the profane and faithless should
drink of them.

  Sidenote: Ps. cxlvii. 9.

79. And there the ravens acknowleged the Lord’s prophet whom the
Jews acknowleged not. They fed him whom that royal and noble nation
persecuted. Who is Jezebel who persecuted him, but the Synagogue,
vainly flowing, vainly abounding in the Scriptures, which it neither
keeps nor understands? Who are the ravens that fed him, but they whose
young ones call upon Him, to whose cattle He _giveth fodder_, as we
read, _and feedeth the young ravens that call upon Him_. These ravens
knew whom they were feeding; for they had a spiritual intelligence, and
brought food to that stream of sacred knowledge.

80. He too feeds the prophet who understands and keeps what is written.
Our faith supports him, our advance gives him nourishment; he feeds on
our minds and senses, his discourse is sustained by our understanding
of it. We give him bread in the morning, in that, placed in the light
of the Gospel, we bring to him the stablishing of our hearts. By these
things is he nourished and strengthened and fills the mouths of them
that fast, to whom the unbelief of the Jews administered no food of
faith. All prophetic words are fasting diet to them, for they cannot
discern its interior richness, to them it is food weak and thin, such
as cannot make fat their bones.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. iii. 2.

  Sidenote: Ps. lxv. 8, 9.

81. Perhaps the reason why they brought him flesh in the evening
was that it is, as it were, stronger food, such as the Corinthians,
who were weak, could not bear, and were therefore fed with milk by
the Apostle; and thus in the evening of the world stronger meat was
brought, in the morning of the world bread. And so since it was the
Lord Who commanded this food to be administered to him, we may suitably
address Him in this place with these prophetic words, _Thou makest the
outgoings of the morning and evening to praise Thee_, and below, _Thou
preparest their corn, for so Thou providest for the earth_.

82. But now I think we have said enough of the teacher, let us now
follow up the lives of his disciples, who have given themselves to
praise the Divine Name, and celebrate it with hymns night and day.
For this is the service of Angels, always to be praising God, and
with frequent prayers to propitiate and beseech the Lord. They give
themselves to reading, and occupy their minds with continual labours,
separated from all female society, they mutually protect each other.
What a life this is, wherein there is nothing you need to fear, but
much for you to imitate! The pain of fasting is repaid by tranquillity
of mind, alleviated by custom, made supportable by rest, or beguiled
by occupation; worldly solicitude does not burthen nor outward troubles
engross it, nor do the distractions of the city draw down upon it any

  Sidenote: Eph. iv. 32.

  Sidenote: Ps. xxxvii. 1.

  Sidenote: Ib. xxvi. 5.

83. For the maintenance or teaching of this gift an instructor is to
be sought: what kind of one he ought to be you perceive, and by your
unanimous aid we shall be able to obtain him, if you mutually forgive
one another, if any of you consider himself injured by the other. For
it is not the sole condition of virtue not to hurt him who has not hurt
you, but it consists also in forgiving him who has injured you. We are
generally injured by the fraud of others, by the guile of our neighbour,
but we must not deem it to be the part of justice to repay guile with
guile, and fraud with fraud. For if justice be a virtue, it must be
free from the imputation of crime, and not return evil for evil. For
what kind of virtue is it for you to do yourself what you punish in
another? This is merely to propagate iniquity, not to punish it; and
the character of the person whom you injure, whether he be just or
unjust, makes no difference, for you ought not to have done evil. Nor
does the mode of your ♦transgression signify, whether it proceed from
the desire of avenging yourself, or of injuring others, for in neither
kind are you free from blame. There is no difference between being
ungodly and unjust, and therefore it is said, _Fret not thyself because
of the ungodly, neither be thou envious against the evil-doers_,
and above, _I have hated the congregation of the wicked_. Thus he
comprehends all, without exception; he points to their wickedness
without enquiring for the cause.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. v. 44.

  Sidenote: Deut. xxxii. 35.

84. And what can be a better model than the Divine justice? For the
Son of God says, _Love your enemies_. And again He says, _Pray for them
which despitefully use you and persecute you_. So far does He remove
the love of revenge from the perfect, that he enjoins upon them charity
towards their persecutors. And as in the Old Testament He said, _To Me
belongeth vengeance, I will repay_, so in the Gospel He commands us to
pray for them that injure us, that He Who has threatened to punish them
may not do so. For He desires you to pardon of your own free-will, with
which He agrees according to His promise. And if you call for vengeance,
you know that the unrighteous is more severely punished by his own
thoughts, than by judicial severity.

  Sidenote: Col. iii. 11.

85. And as no man’s life can be free from adversities, let us take care
that they do not befal us by our own fault. For no man is condemned
more severely by another’s judgment than the foolish man, who is the
author of his own misery, is by his own. Wherefore let us avoid such
occupations as are troublesome and contentious, which bear no fruit,
but only bring obstacles. But we ought to see that we have no cause to
be ashamed either of our choice or of our act; for it is the part of
a prudent man, to guard against having to feel frequent sorrow for his
acts, since it is the prerogative of God alone never to repent. For
what is the fruit of justice but calmness of mind, or what does living
justly bring with it, but a life of tranquillity? According to the
model of the master will be the condition of the whole house. But if
this is required in a family, how much more in the Church, where both
rich and poor, bond and free, Greek and Scythian, noble and plebeian,
are all one in Christ Jesus.

  Sidenote: 1 S. Pet. i. 19.

  Sidenote: Ib. 15.

  Sidenote: Ib. 17.

86. Let no man suppose that because he is rich more deference ought
to be shewn him. In the Church he is rich, who is rich in faith, for
the faithful have a whole world of riches. What wonder is it that the
faithful should possess the world, seeing he possesses the heritage
of Christ, which is more precious than the world? _Ye were redeemed
with precious blood_, is said to all, and not to the rich only. But
if ye would be rich, follow him who says, _Be ye holy in all manner
of conversation_. This is said not to the rich only but to all, for He
judges without respect of persons, according to the faithful testimony
of His Apostle. Wherefore, says he, _pass the time of your sojourning
here_ not in indulgence, nor pride, nor elation of heart, but _in fear_.
Upon this earth ye have received what is temporal, not what is eternal,
use therefore those temporal things as knowing that you must shortly
depart hence.

  Sidenote: Ib. 18, 19.

  Sidenote: Rom. viii. 17.

  Sidenote: Ps. xxxiv. 6.

  Sidenote: 2 Cor. viii. 9.

87. Trust not therefore in riches, for all these things must be left
behind, and faith alone will accompany you; justice indeed, if faith
precede, will also be your companion. Why do riches entice you? Not
with _silver and gold_, not with silken vests and riches _were ye
redeemed from your vain conversation; but with the precious blood of
Christ_. He therefore is rich who is an _heir of God, and co-heir of
Christ_. Despise not then a poor man, it is He Who hath made thee rich.
Scorn not a needy man; _lo! the poor crieth, and the Lord heareth him_.
Reject not a needy man; for Christ, when He was _rich became poor_, and
this for thy sake, _that by His poverty He might make thee rich_. Exalt
not thyself therefore, as though thou wert rich, for He sent forth His
disciples without money.

  Sidenote: Acts iii. 6.

  Sidenote: Phil. ii. 9.

  Sidenote: Isa. xxxv. 3.

88. And the chief of these said, _Silver and gold have I none_. He
glories in his poverty as if he shunned contamination. _Silver and
gold_ he says, _have I none_, he does not say, gold and silver, for he
who knows not the use of these things knows not the relative value of
them. _Silver and gold have I none_, but faith I have. I am rich enough
in the name of the Lord Jesus, which is above every name. Silver I have
none, nor do I ask for it, gold I have not, nor do I desire it, but I
have that which ye that are rich are without, which even ye esteem of
more value, and this I give to the poor, namely, to say in the name of
Jesus, _Strengthen ye the weak hands and lift up the feeble knees_.

89. But if ye would be rich, become poor. For ye shall in all things
be made rich, if ye become poor in spirit. It is not money but the
disposition which makes a man rich.

90. There are those who humble themselves when riches abound, and this
is well and prudently done, for the law of nature is enough for all,
and what suffices to her is easily found, but where lust is, there, in
the abundance of riches, is still poverty. And no man is born poor, but
becomes so. Thus poverty lies not in nature but in our notions of it,
and therefore to find riches is easy to nature, but difficult for lust.
In proportion to man’s gains this thirst for gain increases, and he is,
as it were, inflamed by the intoxication of his lusts.

91. Why do ye seek to accumulate riches as though they were necessary?
Nothing is so necessary as to know what is not necessary. Why do ye
cast the blame upon the flesh? it is not the lust of the belly, but the
desires of the mind which make a man insatiable. Is it the flesh which
blots out the hope of the future; is it the flesh which takes away the
sweetness of spiritual grace; is it the flesh which obstructs faith;
is it the flesh which in every way defers to the frantic domination
of vain opinions? The flesh loves rather that frugal temperance, which
relieves it of its burthen, which endues it with health, for so it rids
itself of keen anxiety, and obtains for itself tranquillity.

  Sidenote: Prov. xiii. 8.

  Sidenote: Prov. x. 15.

92. But riches in themselves are not blameable. For _the ransom of a
man’s life are his riches_, for he who gives to the poor, redeems his
soul. There is therefore scope for virtue even in these material riches.
Ye are as it were pilots, in a great sea. If any man steers well his
ship, he quickly passes over the sea, and reaches his haven, but he who
cannot manage his property is sunk together with his burthen. Wherefore
it is written, _The rich man’s strength is his strong city_.

  Sidenote: Ps. cxix. 94.

  Sidenote: Ib. cxxxii. 6.

  Sidenote: Ib. xxxiii. 16.

  Sidenote: which Isa. i. 3.

  Sidenote: Ib. liii. 7.

93. And what is this city but Jerusalem, which is in heaven, in which
is the kingdom of God? Good is this possession, which brings perpetual
fruit. Good is this possession, which we do not leave behind us, but
possess in heaven. He who finds himself in this possession says, _The
Lord is my portion_. He says not, My portion stretches and extends
itself to such and such limits. He says not, My portion is among such
and such neighbours, unless haply with reference to the Apostles, the
prophets and the saints of the Lord, for these are the portion of the
just. He says not, My portion is in the meadows, or in the woods, or
in the fields, less perchance in the fields of the wood, wherein the
Church is found, of which it is written, _We found it in the wood_.
He says not, Troops of horses are my portion, for _a horse is counted
but a vain thing to save a man_. He says not, Herds of oxen asses or
sheep are my portion, except so far as he numbers himself among those
herds _know their owner_, and with that ass which shuns not the _crib_
of Christ; that lamb too is his portion which was _brought to the
slaughter_, and _that sheep which before her shearers was dumb, which
opened not his mouth; by whose humility judgment has been exalted_. And
it is rightly said, _before her shearers_ because, on that Cross He put
off what was but accidental, not part of His essence, for He put off
His body, but lost not His Divinity.

94. It is not every one therefore who can say _the Lord is my portion_.
Not the covetous man, for avarice comes and says; Thou art my portion,
I have thee in subjection, thou art my slave, thou hast sold thyself
to me with that gold, thou hast adjudged thyself to be mine with
these goods. The sensual man says not, Christ is my portion, because
luxury comes and says, Thou art my portion, I have brought thee into
subjection to myself by that banquet, I have caught thee by the snare
of those feasts, I keep thee in my bondage by the constraints of thy
gluttony. Wilt thou not acknowledge that thou didst set a higher value
on the indulgence of thy appetite than on thy life? I condemn thee by
thine own judgment; deny it if thou canst; but thou canst not. Again,
thou hast reserved nothing for thy subsistence, thou hast spent it all
on thy table. The adulterer cannot say, _The Lord is my portion_, for
lust comes and says, I am thy portion, thou hast enslaved thyself to me
by the love of that damsel, by a night spent with that harlot thou hast
committed thyself to my dominion. The traitor cannot say, _Christ is my
portion_, because his wickedness immediately seizes upon him and says,
He is deceiving thee, O Lord Jesus, this man is mine.

  Sidenote: S. John xiii. 2.

95. We have an example of this, for, when Judas had received the sop
from Christ, the devil entered into his heart, as claiming him for his
own possession, retaining his right to his own portion, and saying,
This man is not Thine but mine; my servant, Thy betrayer; to me, then,
he manifestly belongs. With Thee he sits at table, but it is I who
feed him, from Thee he has received bread, from me money; with Thee he
drinks, but to me he has sold Thy Blood. And the event proved how truly
he spoke. Then Christ departed from him, and Judas also left Jesus, and
followed the devil.

  Sidenote: Philem. i. 1.

96. How many masters has he, who deserts that one Master! But let us
not desert Him. Who would fly from Him Whom Paul and Timothy follow,
bound with chains, but voluntary ones, chains which do not bind but
loose, chains in which they glory, saying, _Paul, a prisoner of Jesus
Christ, and Timothy_. Bondage under Him is more honourable than freedom
and release from others. Who then would fly from peace, who would fly
from salvation, who would fly from pity, who would fly from redemption?

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xi. 12.

97. Ye see, my sons, what they have become who have followed this
course, how they, though dead, still work. Now we join in praising
their virtue, let us also study to attain to their diligence, and
silently recognize in ourselves that which we speak of with approval
in others. Nothing effeminate, nothing frail can deserve praise, _The
kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force_.
Our fathers ate the Paschal lamb in haste. Faith makes good speed,
devotion is lively, hope unwearied; it loves not perturbations of
the soul, but it loves to pass from profitless inactivity to fruitful
labour. Why put off till to-morrow? you may still gain to-day; beware
lest you fail to attain the one, and lose the other also. The loss even
of one hour is not unimportant; one hour forms part of our whole life.

98. There are some young persons who wish straightway to arrive at old
age, that they may no longer be subject to the will of their elders,
and there are old men who would return if they could to youth. Now
I can approve of neither of these desires; the young men, disdaining
things present, desire that their life may be changed, the old men that
it may be prolonged. But it is in the power of the young to become old
by gravity of mind, and of the old to grow young by vigorous actions.
For it is not age so much as discipline which brings with it correction
of life. How much more therefore ought we to lift up our hopes to the
kingdom of God, where our life will be renewed, and where there will be
a change not of age but of grace.

99. It is not by indolence or sleep that we obtain for ourselves a
reward. The sleeper cannot work, there comes no fruit from indolence,
but rather loss. Esau, being slothful, lost the first-fruits of
blessing, choosing to receive rather than to seek for food. The
industrious Jacob found grace at the hands of both his parents.

  Sidenote: Rom. xii. 19.

  Sidenote: Gen. xxvii. 43.

100. But Jacob, although superior in virtue and grace, gave way to his
brother’s anger, who was indignant that his younger brother should be
preferred to him. Wherefore it is written, _Give place unto wrath_, to
the intent that displeasure against another may not draw you also into
sin, while wishing to resist and to be avenged. If you will consent to
yield you may remove the blame both from yourself and from him. Imitate
the patriarch, who by his mother’s advice went into a far country. And
who was this mother? Rebecca, that is, patience. For who could give
this counsel but patience? The mother loved her son, and chose that
he should be separated from herself rather than from God. And thus as
a good mother she gave benefits to both her sons, but on her younger
son she conferred a blessing which he had power to keep. For she did
not prefer one son to the other, but she preferred diligence to sloth,
faith to unbelief. And even on her elder son she conferred no little
favour, for she sent away the younger, to save him from unworthy

  Sidenote: S. John i. 29.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xviii. 21.

101. His piety not his fault having thus banished him from his parents,
he conversed with God, he increased in his estate, in his children,
in grace. Nor was he elated by these things on meeting with his
brother, but he humbled himself and did obeisance, not to his brother,
implacable as he was, but to God Whom in his person he honoured.
Therefore he bowed down to him seven times, being the number which
signifies remission, for it was not a man that he adored, but Him of
Whom He foresaw in spirit that He should come in the flesh, _to take
away the sins of the world_. And this mystery is unfolded to you in the
reply of Peter, who says, _How oft shall my brother sin against me and
I forgive him, till seven times?_ Thus you see this forgiveness of sins
is a type of that great sabbath, of that perpetual rest of grace; and
therefore it receives the gift of contemplation.

  Sidenote: Gen. xxxiii. 6.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xviii. 22.

102. But what is the meaning of his setting in array his wives, and
sons, and all his servants, and commanding them to bow themselves
to the earth? It was not to the earth, as an element, which is often
filled with blood, which is the receptacle of crimes, and which is made
hideous by desolate rocks, or by precipices, or by a barren and hungry
soil, but as that Flesh Which was to be our salvation. And perhaps this
is that mystery which the Lord has taught thee in the words, _I say not
unto thee, until seven times, but, until seventy times seven_.

  Sidenote: Col. iii. 13.

  Sidenote: Ps. cix. 4.

  Sidenote: Ps. cix. 28.

103. Do ye therefore forgive the wrongs done to you, that ye may be the
sons of Jacob. Be not provoked as was Esau. Imitate holy David, who as
a good teacher, has left us an example in the words, _For the love that
I had unto them, lo! they take now the contrary part, but I give myself
unto prayer_, and so when men reviled him, he prayed. Prayer is a good
shield, a shield which wards off contumely, which repels curses, and
throws them back on the heads of those who utter them, so that they are
wounded by their own weapons: _Let them curse_, it is said, _but bless
Thou_. That curse of men is to be courted, for it obtains for us a
blessing from the Lord.

  Sidenote: Heb. xiii. 12.

  Sidenote: Phil. iii. 20.

  Sidenote: Exod. xxxiii. 7.

  Sidenote: Ib. xxix. 12, 13.

104. For the rest, my most dearly beloved, remembering that _Jesus
suffered without the gate_, do ye go forth from this earthly city,
for your city is Jerusalem, which is above. Do ye dwell there that ye
may say, _For our conversation is in heaven_. Jesus went forth from
the city, that ye, going forth from the world, may be above the world.
Moses alone, who saw God, had his tabernacle without the camp when he
talked with God; and when sacrifices were offered for sin, the blood
indeed was carried to the altar, but the bodies were burned without
the camp; for no man living among the temptations of this world can lay
aside sin, nor can his blood be accepted by God until he has put off
the defilement of this body.

  Sidenote: Gen. xviii. 3.

  Sidenote: Ib. xix. 24.

  Sidenote: Josh. ii. 14.

105. Love hospitality, for thereby holy Abraham found favour in God’s
sight, received Christ as his guest, and Sarah, already worn with
age, obtained grace to bear a son; Lot also escaped the flames which
destroyed Sodom. And thou also mayest receive Angels, if thou wilt
offer hospitality to strangers. And what shall I say of Rahab, who,
by performing this office, escaped destruction?

  Sidenote: Eccles. vii. 2.

106. Compassionate those who are kept in bondage, as though ye also
were bondsmen. Console those who are under sorrow; _It is better to go
to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting_. From the one
we win the merit of discharging a duty, from the other the stain of a
transgression. And again in the one case the reward is yet hoped for,
in the other it is received. Sympathise with those who suffer as if ye
suffered together with them.

107. Let a woman be obedient not servile to her husband, let her offer
herself to be ruled not coerced. Let the husband also direct his wife
as her governour, honour her as the companion of his life, share with
her as his fellow-heir in grace.

108. Mothers, wean your own children, love them, and pray for them,
but pray that their life[275] may be prolonged above this earth, rather
than in it, for there is nothing longlived in this earth, and that
which seems permanent is at the best short and fragile. Admonish them
rather to take up the Cross of Christ than to love this life.

  Sidenote: S. John xix. 25.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xxvii. 45.

  Sidenote: S. John xix. 27.

  Sidenote: Ps. xlv. 1.

109. Mary, the mother of the Lord stood by the cross of her Son; it is
no other than the holy Evangelist John who teaches me this. Others have
told us that in the Lord’s passion the earth was shaken, the heaven
covered with darkness, the sun withdrew its light, the thief, after
a faithful confession, was received into paradise. John has taught
what the others have not, how when nailed to the Cross He spoke to His
mother, esteeming rather this exhibition of pious offices to His mother
than that gift of a heavenly kingdom, which, after triumphing over His
pains, He conferred. For if it be pious to grant pardon to the thief,
much more pious is it that the Son should shew such solicitous honour
to His Mother: _Behold_, He says, _thy son, Behold thy mother_. Christ
testified from the Cross, and distributed the offices of piety between
the mother and the disciple. The Lord made not only a public but also a
private Testament, and John signed this His Testament, a witness worthy
of so great a Testator, a good Testament, not of money but of eternal
life, written not with ink, but by the Spirit of the living God, Who
says, _My tongue is the pen of a ready writer_.

  Sidenote: Ib. lxxxviii. 4, 5.

110. Nor did Mary fall below what became the Mother of Christ. When the
Apostles fled she stood before the Cross, and with pious eyes looked
upon the wounds of her Son, for she expected to see not the death of
her Offspring, but the salvation of the world. Or perhaps because she
who was the Palace[276] of the King had learnt that the redemption of
the world would ensue from the death of her Son, she thought that by
her own death she might add something to the general good. But Jesus
needed no helper for the redemption of all, Who without any helper
saved all. Wherefore He says, _I am become like a man without help;
free among the dead_. He received the affection of His Mother, but He
sought not aid from others.

111. Imitate her, ye holy mothers, who in her only and beloved Son
exhibited such an example of maternal virtue, for your children cannot
be dearer to you than hers was, nor did the Virgin seek consolation in
the bearing of another son.

  Sidenote: 1 S. Pet. ii. 18.

112. Masters, command your servants not as your inferiors in rank, but
as remembering that they are partakers of the same nature as yourselves.
Servants also, serve your masters cheerfully, for every one ought
cheerfully to endure that state whereunto he is born; and obey not
only the good, but also the froward. For what merit has your service,
if ye serve the good diligently; but if ye serve the froward also
ye have merit, for neither do the free obtain any reward, if, having
transgressed, they are punished by the judges, but herein lies their
merit if they suffer wrongfully. Thus if ye, considering Jesus Christ,
serve even austere masters with patience, ye will have your reward. For
the Lord Himself suffered, the just from the unjust, and with admirable
patience nailed our sins to His Cross, that he who shall imitate Him
may wash away his sins in His blood.

113. In short, turn all of you to the Lord Jesus. Take pleasure in this
life so that it be with a good conscience; let the hope of immortality
make you patient of death, let your assurance of the resurrection be
confirmed by the grace of Christ; let there be truth and simplicity,
faith and confidence, abstinence and holiness, industry and sobriety,
modest conversation, learning without vanity, sobriety of doctrine,
faith not intoxicated by heresy. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be
with you all, Amen.

                           LETTER LXIV[277]

  S. AMBROSE replies to Irenæus, who had asked why the manna,
  which was given to the children of Israel, was not given now,
  that the Body of Christ, Which is given to Christians, is the
  true Manna, of which the other was a type; as it was also of
  Divine Wisdom, which is the food of souls.

                     AMBROSE TO IRENÆUS, GREETING.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. xiii. 10.

  Sidenote: S. John vi. 58.

1. YOU ask me why the Lord God does not now rain manna as He did on our
fathers. If you consider, He does rain manna from heaven on those who
serve Him, and that day by day. The earthly manna indeed is to this
very day found in many places, but it is not now an event so miraculous
because _that which is perfect is come_. Now _that which is perfect_
is the Bread from heaven, the Body born of the Virgin, as to which the
Gospel sufficiently instructs us. O how greatly does this excel what
went before it! For they who eat that manna or bread, are dead, _but
he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever_.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. iv. 4.

  Sidenote: Exod. xvi. 15, 16.

  Sidenote: Prov. xvi. 24.

2. But there is also a spiritual manna, the dew that is of spiritual
Wisdom, which descends from heaven upon those who sincerely seek for
it, and which waters the souls of the righteous, and puts sweetness
into their mouths. Wherefore he who comprehends this out-pouring of
divine wisdom receives pleasure from it, nor requires any other food,
_nor lives by bread alone, but by every word of God_. He who is more
curious, will ask what that is which is sweeter than honey. The servant
of God answers him, _This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to
eat_. And hear further what this bread is, _the word_, he says, _which
the Lord hath commanded_. Now this food so commanded by God nourishes
the soul of the wise, imparting light and sweetness, brightened by
the beams of truth, and communicating to it the soothing sweetness of
divers virtues and the word of wisdom like that of an honey-comb; for
_pleasant words_, it is written in the Proverbs, _are as an honey-comb_.

  Sidenote: S. Luke xiii. 19.

  Sidenote: Ib. xvii. 6.

  Sidenote: Ib. xiii. 21.

  Sidenote: Exod. xxxii. 20.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xxiv. 41.

3. And now hear the reason why it was small; it was because a grain of
mustard-seed which is compared to the kingdom of heaven is also small,
and because faith, which is as a grain of mustard-seed, can remove
mountains and cast them into the sea. Again, _the kingdom of heaven is
like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till
the whole was leavened_. Again, Moses ground the head of the golden
calf to powder, and cast it into water, and made the people drink of
it; for their heart was hardened by the greatness of their perfidy, and
he did thus that it might be softened and made refined by faith. Lastly,
that woman who grinds meal well and fine shall be taken, but she who
grinds ill shall be left.

  Sidenote: Cant. iii. 6.

4. Follow then these examples as regards thy faith, that thou mayest be
like that soul which excites in itself the love of Christ, and which,
as it ascends aloft, is admired by the host of heaven; that it may
rise without impediment, that it may soar above this world with joy
and gladness, lifting itself on high like the vine stock and like the
smoke, sending forth the fragrance of a holy resurrection, and the
sweetness of faith, as it is written, _Who is this that cometh out of
the wilderness like the stock of vine burned with smoke, perfumed with
myrrh and frankincense, with all powders of ointment?_

  Sidenote: Exod. xxx. 8.

  Sidenote: Ps. cxli. 2.

  Sidenote: Rev. viii. 3, 4.

5. The refined nature of this faith is well expressed by being compared
with powder or by the mention of perfume; for we read in Exodus of that
prophetic incense which is the prayer of the Saints, as being a subtile
perfume and compounded of many things, that it may be set forth in the
sight of the Lord, as David also says, _Let my prayer be set forth in
Thy sight as the incense_. And so it is in the Greek also, κατευθυνθήτω
ἡ προσευχή μου ὡς θυμίαμα ἐνώπιον σου. And in the Revelation of John
we read that _an Angel stood at the Altar, having a golden censer; and
there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the
prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.
And the smoke of the incense_, it is said, _with the prayers of the
Saints, ascended up before God out of the Angel’s hand_.

  Sidenote: Cant. vii. 2.

6. Small too is the navel and the belly of that soul which ascends
up to Christ, and therefore it is praised by the words of the spouse
saying, _Thy navel is like a round goblet, which wanteth not liquor,
thy belly is like an heap of wheat set about with lilies_. For it is
rounded and polished with all kinds of learning, and is a spiritual
drink not failing in fulness, and in the knowledge of heavenly secrets.
The belly of the soul is also like the navel, mystical, and not only
strong food whereby the heart is strengthened, but also sweet and
flowery food whereby it is delighted, is received therein. And perhaps
this is what Moses meant, that by many and pious prayers the sacrilege
was to be atoned for.

  Sidenote: Wisd. vii. 22.

  Sidenote: Rev. xviii. 22.

7. In the book of Kings also, when the Lord revealed Himself to holy
Elijah, a small still voice was first heard, and then the Lord revealed
Himself to him; thereby to teach us that bodily things are solid
and gross, but such as are spiritual tender and so fine as not to be
perceptible to the eye. In the same way we read in the book of Wisdom
that the Spirit of Wisdom is subtile and lively _for in her is an
understanding spirit, holy, one only, manifold, subtile and lively_;
and she grinds her words before she speaks, that neither her mode
of speech nor her meaning may give offence. Lastly, it shall be said
to Babylon herself, when about to be destroyed, _And the sound of a
millstone shall be heard no more at all in thee_.

8. The manna then was fine, and was gathered each day, not reserved
for the day following; because the extemporaneous inventions of
Wisdom please the most; when made at leisure they excite not the same
admiration as when struck out at the moment by the spark of genius.
Or it may be that future mysteries are revealed herein: the manna
kept till the rising of the sun was unfit to be eaten, in other words,
after the coming of Christ, it lost its grace. For when the Sun of
Righteousness arose, and the more illustrious Sacraments of the Body
and Blood of Christ appeared, lower things were to cease, and the
people were to take in their stead what was more perfect.

Farewell; love me, for I also love you.

                              LETTER LXV.

  THIS letter contains a mystical explanation of the statement in
  Exodus xxiv. 6. that Moses put half the blood of the sacrifices
  into basons and poured half on the altar.


  Sidenote: Exod. xxiv. 6.

1. YOU were perplexed, you tell me, when reading that Moses, after
offering sacrifice and the immolation of salutary victims to the Lord,
put half of the blood in basons, and sprinkled half on the altar, to
know what could be the purport of this. But why need you doubt and
inquire of me, when for the sake of the faith, and of acquiring Divine
knowledge, you have traversed the whole world, and night and day have
devoted the whole time of your life to constant reading? Thus with your
keen intellect you have embraced all the objects of the understanding,
and are wont to prove as concerns even the books of philosophy, how
far they deviate from the truth, many of them being so futile that the
words of their writers perished sooner than their life.

2. But since gathering words, like money, is of great profit, and
great increase is thereby obtained for the general good of trade, I
cannot refrain from mentioning how wonderful is that division of the
blood. For part of it seems to signify the moral, and part the mystical
discipline of wisdom. That part which is put into basons is moral, that
which is sprinkled on the altar is mystical; in that by the Divine gift
and a certain inspiration it is instilled into men’s minds, that the
sentiments they conceive of God may be suitable and full of faith.

  Sidenote: 2 Cor. xii. 4.

  Sidenote: Acts vii. 55.

  Sidenote: Ps. cx. 1.

  Sidenote: Deut. xxxiv. 10, 11.

3. Moreover, they who have spoken of His majesty, and of heavenly
things, whether apostles or holy prophets, have only dared to speak of
such things as were shewn them by revelation. Hence Paul has testified
in his Epistle that he was _caught up into Paradise, and heard words
which it is not lawful for a man to utter_; Stephen also _saw the
heavens opened, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God_, and
the Prophet David saw Him sitting on His right hand. And what shall
I say of Moses, of whom the Scripture says that _there arose not such
a prophet since in Israel, who knew the Lord face to face, in all the
signs and the wonders which he did in the land of Egypt_.

  Sidenote: S. John xx. 22.

  Sidenote: Exod. iv. 12.

4. The mystical part therefore is offered to God, Who by the brightness
of the Divine Wisdom, Whose Father and Parent He is, quickens the
vigour of the soul, and enlightens the mind. But the Wisdom of God
is Christ, on Whose breast John lay, that from that secret source of
wisdom he might be known to have imbibed Divine mysteries. He himself,
conscious of his gift, has recorded this, for he dreaded to claim for
himself, and to ascribe to his own genius that which he had received.
The Lord also said to the Apostles, opening their mouths, _Receive
ye the Holy Ghost_, whereby He declared that He is the same Who said
to Moses, _I will open thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt
say_. Wherefore this wisdom, divine, unspeakable, unadulterated and
incorruptible, pours her grace into the minds of her saints, and
discloses to them knowledge that they may behold her glory.

5. But that is the discipline of moral wisdom which is poured into
basons, and is taken and drank from them. The basons therefore are the
organs of the senses. The basons are the two eyes, the ears, the nose,
the mouth and other parts suitable to this function; for the eyes are
the recipients and ministers of sight, the ears of hearing, the nose
of smell, the mouth of taste, and so with the rest. Into these basons
that Word in Whom is the Headship of the priestly and prophetic office
poured the half of His blood; that He might quicken and animate the
irrational parts of our nature, and endow them with reason.

6. Again, having rehearsed and proclaimed the precepts of the Law to
the people, and being about to explain the meaning of that mystical ark
of the testimony, and of the candlestick, and of the censers, he slew
victims, and offered sacrifice, sprinkling half of the blood on the
sacred altar, and putting half in basons.

  Sidenote: Heb. iv. 12.

7. A division therefore is made between that mystical or divine and
moral wisdom. For the Λόγος is a divider of souls and of virtues:
the Λόγος is the _Word of God, quick and powerful_, which pierces
and penetrates even to the dividing asunder of the soul, and which
also distinguishes and divides virtues, whose minister, Moses, by the
division of the blood, distinguished the kinds of virtue.

8. And forasmuch as nothing is so emphatically declared in the Law as
Christ’s Advent, or prefigured as His Passion, consider whether this
be not the saving victim which God the Word offered by Himself, and
sacrificed in His own body. For first both in the Gospel and also in
the Law He taught us moral discipline, and manifested it in His own
patience and in very act and deed, transfusing into our lives and
senses, as if into basons, the very substance and marrow as it were of
wisdom, and quickening thereby men’s minds to be a seed-plot of virtue,
and instructed in piety, and then, drawing near the altar, He poured
out the blood of His offering.

  Sidenote: Prov. ix. 2.

9. Should you choose then to understand it thus, the sense is pious;
the interpretation also which follows that of Solomon is, if you prefer
it, equally concordant, namely, that whereas the prophet Moses put the
blood into basons, this is the same blood whereof it is written that
_Wisdom hath mingled her wine_, bidding men to forsake foolishness,
and seek after understanding. From the bason then we drink wisdom,
discipline, understanding, correction, amendment of life, regulation of
habits and counsels, the grace of piety, increase of virtue, a fountain
of plenty.

  Sidenote: S. John i. 29.

  Sidenote: Ib. xix. 34.

10. But by this sprinkling the blood on the Altar you may understand
the cleansing of the world, the remission of all sins. For He sprinkles
that blood on the Altar as a Victim to atone for the sins of many. For
the Victim is a Lamb, but a Lamb not of irrational nature but of divine
power, of Which it is said, _Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away
the sin of the world_. For not only has He cleansed with His blood the
sins of all men, but has also gifted them with divine power. Does not
He seem to you to have indeed shed his blood, from Whose side blood and
water flowed over the very altar of his Passion?

Farewell; love me as you do, with the affection of a parent.

                             LETTER LXVI.

  HERE is a mystical exposition of Aaron’s taking the earrings
  of the women to make the golden calf, and of other details
  connected with it.

                          AMBROSE TO ROMULUS.

  Sidenote: Exod. xxxii. 2.

1. THERE is no doubt that letter-writing was invented that we might
hold a sort of converse with the absent, but this becomes more
excellent in use and example when frequent and pleasant colloquies
pass between a parent and his sons, whereby is really produced a sort
of image of actual presence, even though they are separate in body; for
by such offices love attains its growth, just as it is augmented by our
mutual letters between ourselves. All this I begin to experience much
more abundantly in these last addresses of your affection, wherein you
have thought fit to ask me with what intent Aaron took the gold from
the people when they required gods to be made them, and why the head
of a calf was fashioned with that gold, and why Moses was so deeply
incensed that he commanded every man to rise upon his neighbour and
slay him with the sword. For it is a great thing that the absent should
suffer no loss either of kindness or of the liberal communication
of mutual knowledge. My sentiments on this point, therefore, as you
require it, I will offer for the purpose rather of comparison than of

2. While Moses was receiving the Law on Mount Sinai the people were
with Aaron the Priest. Prone as they were to transgress, we do not find
that they committed sacrilege so long as the Law was being delivered,
but when the Divine Voice ceased, sin overtook them, so that they
required gods to be made them. Aaron, thus constrained, asked for their
rings and the women’s earrings, which, when given to him, he cast into
the fire, and the head of a calf was molten of them.

  Sidenote: Gen. xxxv. 2.

  Sidenote: Exod. xxxii. 2.

3. We can neither excuse this great priest, nor dare we condemn him.
It was not however unadvisedly that he deprived the Jews of their rings
and earrings; for they who designed sacrilege could have neither the
seal of faith nor ornaments of their ears. The patriarch Jacob too hid
the earrings along with the images of the strange gods, when he hid
them in Shechem, that no one might come to know of the superstitions
of the Gentiles. And he said well, _Break off the golden earrings
which are in the ears of your wives_; not as leaving the men their
earrings, but in order to shew that they had them not. Fitly also are
the earrings taken from the women, that Eve may not again hear the
voice of the serpent.

  Sidenote: 1 Kings xii. 30.

4. Because they had listened to sacrilegious counsel, an image of
sacrilege was formed by the melting of their earrings; for he who hears
amiss is wont to perpetrate sacrilege. Why the head of a calf came
forth, the sequel shews, for it was signified thereby, either that in
time to come Jeroboam would introduce this kind of sacrilege, and that
the people of the Hebrews should worship golden calves; or else that
all unbelief bears the semblance of brutal and savage folly.

  Sidenote: Ps. xxix. 5, 6.

5. Moses, incensed by this unworthy act, broke the tables, and ground
the head of the calf to powder, that he might abolish all traces of
their impiety. The first Tables were broken in order to the restoration
of the second, whereby, through the preaching of the Gospel, unbelief
was broken to pieces, and done away. And thus Moses brought down this
Egyptian pride, and repressed this self-exalting arrogance, by the
authority of the eternal Law. Wherefore David also says, _The Lord
shall break the cedars of Libanus, and shall reduce them to pieces,
as a calf of Libanus_.

  Sidenote: Isa. xxv. 8.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. xv. 54, 55.

  Sidenote: Ps. cx. 7.

  Sidenote: S. John xix. 30.

6. The people drank up all their perfidy and pride, that impiety and
arrogance might not drink them up. For it is better that every one
should prevail over the flesh and its vices, that it may not be said
that _prevailing[278] death hath swallowed him up_, but rather, _Death
is swallowed up in victory; O death, where is thy sting, O grave, where
is thy victory?_ And of the Lord it is said, _He shall drink of the
brook in the way_; for He received the vinegar, that He might drink up
the temptations of all men.

  Sidenote: Exod. xxxii. 26, 27.

7. But in his causing every man to slay his neighbour, the parents
their children, the brother his brother, we find an evident precept
that religion is to be preferred to friendship, piety to kindred. For
that is true piety which prefers divine things to human, eternal to
temporal. Wherefore also Moses himself said to the sons of Levi, _Who
is on the Lord’s side, let him come to me. And he said unto them, Thus
saith the Lord God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and
go throughout the camp_, that thus, by the contemplation and love of
the Divine Majesty all human ties and affections might be destroyed.
It is written that three thousand men were slain, nor need we feel any
jealousy of the number being so great, for it is better that by the
punishment of a few the body should be exonerated, than that vengeance
should be taken on all; nor indeed does any punishment of wrong against
God appear too severe.

  Sidenote: Num. xviii. 6.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. ix. 27.

  Sidenote: Heb. iv. 12.

8. Again, the ministry of the Levites, whose portion is God, was chosen
for this work, as being more holy than the others: for they know not
how to spare their own who know nothing of their own, for to the holy
God is everything. Now he is the true Levite and punisher and avenger,
who kills the flesh that he may preserve the spirit, such as he was who
says, _I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection_. And who are
such close neighbours as the flesh and the soul? What is so akin to us
as the passions of the body? These the good Levite slays within himself
with that spiritual _sword_ which is _the word of God, sharp and

  Sidenote: S. Luke ii. 35.

9. There is also a sword of the Spirit, which pierces the soul, as was
said to Mary, _A sword shall pierce through thy own soul also, that the
thoughts of many hearts may be revealed_. Is not the flesh united with
the soul by a kind of fraternal bond? Is not discourse also related and
akin to our mind? When therefore we check our discourse, that we may
not incur the sin of much speaking, we put aside the rights of blood,
and loose the bonds of this fraternal connexion. Thus by the force
of reason the soul severs from itself its irrational and, as it were,
cognate part.

10. And so Moses taught the people to rise against their neighbours,
by whom faith was in danger of being mocked, and virtue hindered,
that whatever in us was straying from virtue, perplexed by error, or
entangled in vice might be cut off. By this direction to the people he
obtained not only a mitigation of the Divine wrath and a turning away
of offence, but even conciliated for them grace.

11. Thus, according to our apprehension, we have explained, since you
asked it, our sentiments. And do you, if you have aught preferable,
impart it to us, that from you and from ourselves we may learn which
to choose and follow.

Farewell: love me as a son, for I also love you.

                             LETTER LXVII.

  S. AMBROSE begins by pointing out that Moses deferred to Aaron
  in matters connected with the Priesthood, and then goes on to
  dwell on the rarity and the blessing of true penitence.


  Sidenote: Num. xii. 8.

  Sidenote: Deut. xxxiv. 10.

  Sidenote: Exod. xxxiv. 28.

  Sidenote: Ib. iv. 12.

  Sidenote: Num. xii. 1.

1. THE greatness of each person as regards his own functions is taught
us in that Scripture lesson by which your attention has been justly
attracted, that Moses, than whom no man saw God more intimately,
_neither arose there a prophet since in Israel whom the Lord knew face
to face_; he who was constantly with the Lord forty days and nights,
when he received the law in the Mount, he, I say, to whom the Lord gave
the words which he should speak, is found to have approved the counsel
of his brother Aaron more than his own. Was there then any man more
prudent and learned than Moses? Nay, of Aaron himself we afterwards
read that together with Miriam he transgressed concerning the Ethiopian

  Sidenote: Deut. xviii. 15.

  Sidenote: S. Luke xvi. 31.

2. But I would have you carefully consider this very thing, how Moses
excelled in knowledge, Aaron in counsel. Moses was the greatest prophet,
who said of Christ, _Like unto me, unto Him shall ye hearken_. And the
Lord Himself says of him, _if they hear not Moses and the prophets,
neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead_. In the
matter of prophecy therefore Moses is preferred as a prophet; but where
the subject and function and office relates to the Priesthood, Aaron is
preferred as being a Priest. Let us now treat the passage itself.

  Sidenote: Lev. x. 16–18.

3. A he-goat was slain for sin; offered for an whole burnt-offering.
Moses afterwards sought for it, and it was burnt. _And he was angry
with Eleazar and Ithamar, the sons of Aaron which were left alive,
saying, Wherefore have ye not eaten the sin-offering in the holy place,
seeing it is most holy, and God hath given it you to bear the iniquity
of the congregation? Ye should indeed have eaten it in the holy place
as I commanded._ Now when Aaron saw that Moses was angry he replied to
him meekly, _Behold, this day have they offered their sin-offering and
their burnt-offering before the Lord, and such things have befallen
me, and if I had eaten the sin-offering to-day, should it have been
accepted in the sight of the Lord? And when Moses heard that, he was
content._ Let us consider what these things mean.

4. Not to sin is an attribute of God alone: to amend and correct one’s
error and to do penance for one’s sin is the part of a wise man. But
this is very difficult in this human life. For what is so rare as to
find a man who will convict himself, and condemn his own act? Rare
is the confession of sin, rare is penitence, rare among men is the
admission of that word. Nature and shame both recoil from it; nature,
because all are under sin, and he who wears flesh is subject to
transgression. Thus the nature of the flesh, and the allurements of
the world are repugnant to innocence and integrity. Shame recoils also,
because every man blushes to confess his own fault, thinking more of
the present than of the future.

  Sidenote: Ps. xiv. 6.

5. Now Moses desired to find a soul free from sin, that it might lay
aside the slough of error, and depart, relieved from transgression,
without any cause of shame within itself. But such a soul he found not,
because an irrational impulse comes quickly on, and a certain flame,
whose motions are very swift, feeds upon the soul, and burns up its
innocence. For the future is outweighed by the present, moderation by
violence, worth by numbers, soberness by pleasure, hardness by luxury,
sadness by joy, austerity by blandishments, slowness by too great
precipitance. And iniquity, which suggests occasions of doing evil,
is a thing swift in its nature, for its _feet are swift to shed blood_;
but all virtue uses gentle and long delays, judging beforehand and
looking narrowly into what is to be undertaken. And thus the good mind
scrutinizes its own counsels, and examines beforehand what is becoming
and excellent; but in iniquity the act outstrips consideration.
Penitence therefore is tardy and abashed, because it is oppressed and
drawn back by present shame; having, in itself, regard only to things
future, the hope whereof is late, the fruit tardy, and so the desire of
them is tardy also.

6. During these strivings of hope and virtue shamelessness runs
onward, and by the glare of things present, penitence is excluded,
its affections are, as it were, burnt up, and all that has respect to
it is lost. The Law seeks and finds it not, for it is scorched by the
heat and smoke of iniquity, and the anger, as it were, of the Law is
roused. Moses says that the sin-offering ought to have been eaten in
the holy place, and rebukes the priests as remiss; Aaron replies that
the priestly judgment ought to be cautious; that such a function must
not be lightly entrusted to an unsound conscience, lest this error be
worse than the first. For by a filthy vessel wine or oil is easily
tainted and spoilt.

7. But how could sin be burnt out when the fire was strange fire; and
this in the sight of the Lord to Whom even hidden things are known? Can
it please the Lord, if a man, while he is yet engaged in sin, and keeps
unrighteousness in his heart, professes that he is doing penance? It is
the same thing as if one who is sick should feign himself well, he will
only become worse; for the pretence of health can avail him nothing;
since it is but shadowed forth by words, not sustained by any support
of virtue.

8. This strange fire then is lust, this strange fire is every incentive
of cupidity, this strange fire is all burning avarice. By this fire man
is not cleansed but rather burned up. For where this strange fire is,
if any man offer himself in the sight of the Lord, the celestial fire
consumes him as it did Nadab and Abihu who were burned together with
those sacrifices which had been offered for sin on the sacred Altars.
He therefore who would cleanse his sin let him remove from him strange
fire. Let him offer himself to that fire only which burns up the fault
not the man.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. iii. 11.

  Sidenote: Ib. ix. 20.

  Sidenote: Luke xix. 8.

  Sidenote: Heb. xii. 29.

  Sidenote: S. Luke xxiii. 43.

9. And who this fire is, let us learn from the words, that Jesus _shall
baptize with the Holy Ghost and with fire_. This is that fire which
dried up her issue of blood who had suffered it for twelve years; that
fire, which took away the sin of S. Zacchæus when he said that he would
give half of his goods to the poor, and if he had taken any thing from
any man would restore fourfold. This is that fire, which wiped away
the thief’s crime, for He is _a consuming fire_ Who said, _To-day shalt
thou be with Me in Paradise_. Thus He healed those in whom He found a
simple and pure confession; no malice, no fraud.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xxvii. 4.

10. Judas moreover could not obtain a remedy, although he said, _I have
sinned, in that I have betrayed the innocent blood_, for he cherished
within his breast strange fire, which urged him on to destroy himself.
He was not worthy to be healed, for he wept not through conversion of
his inmost mind, nor did he diligently do penance; for such is the love
of the Lord Jesus that He would have granted pardon even to him, had he
waited for the mercy of Christ.

  Sidenote: S. John iv. 34.

  Sidenote: Isa. xxx. 15.

11. This fault therefore the priests cannot remove, nor the sin
of him who offers himself in guile, and still harbours a desire of
transgressing. For they cannot eat of that which is full of fraud, and
has the serpent’s scar within; for the food of the priest lies in the
remission of sins. Wherefore Christ the chief of Priests says, _My
meat is to do the will of My Father which is in heaven_. What is the
will of God but this, _In returning and rest shall ye be saved_? In the
guileful man therefore there is no food. Neither again can he taste the
sweetness of a feast whose conscience is not sincere and pure; for the
bitterness of fraud takes away the sweetness of the viands; and an evil
conscience will not permit penitence to refresh and feed the guilty

  Sidenote: Lev. xvi. 27.

12. Such affections therefore, such petitions, such penitence are
neither useful nor a pleasure to the priests. And that he-goat offered
as an whole burnt offering for sin was deservedly burnt, because
strange fire was found in the sacrifice. On that account it was not
a pleasing and acceptable sacrifice to God; for that is not accepted
which has not been approved among the riches of sincerity and truth.

  Sidenote: Ib. xvi. 8.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xxiv. 40

13. And so elsewhere also you read of two he-goats, one whereon was
the lot of the Lord, the other that of the scape-goat, and that that
whereon was the lot of the Lord was offered and sacrificed, while the
one whereon was the lot of the scape-goat was sent into the wilderness
to take away the iniquities of the people, or of any sinner. For as
there are _two men in the field, and one of them shall be taken and
the other left_, so are there two he-goats, one of which is used for
sacrifice, and the other sent into the wilderness. The one is of no
use, neither to be eaten nor fed upon by the sons of the priests. For
as in matters of food, what is good is eaten, what is useless or bad
is thrown away, in the same way we call good works festive, as fit for

  Sidenote: Lev. xxv. 6.

14. It will not therefore be pleasing to the Lord if the priest eat
of a sacrifice which presents a deceptive offering, not the sincerity
of a diligent confession. And therefore that goat is to be sent into
the wilderness, where our fathers wandered, where they wandered and
could not attain to the land of the resurrection, but the memory of
them passed from the land. Hear again what are festive works. _And
the sabbath of the land shall be meat for you._ For rest in God, which
causes tranquillity of mind, is festive and refreshing. And now let us
also rest from discoursing.

Farewell; love me as you do, for I also love you.

                            LETTER LXVIII.

  AN explanation of the text, _Thy heaven shall be brass and thy
  earth iron_.

                          AMBROSE TO ROMULUS.

  Sidenote: Deut. xxviii. 23.

  Sidenote: 1 Kings xvii. 1.
            S. Luke iv. 25.

1. BEING yourself in the country I am surprised at your having been
led to inquire of me the reason why God should have said, _And thy
heaven shall be brass, and thy earth iron_. For the very appearance of
the country and its present fertility might teach us how great is the
mildness of the air, and how genial is the climate, when God vouchsafes
to give plenty, but when sterility, how all things are closed up, how
dense the air, so as to seem hardened into the very substance of brass.
Elsewhere also you read that in the days of Elijah _the heaven was shut
up three years and six months_.

2. By the heaven then being brass is signified its being shut up,
and refusing its use to the earth. The earth also is iron, for it
♦withholds its produce, and with hostile rigour excludes from its
fructifying soil the seeds thrown upon it, which its wont is to cherish
as in the bosom of a tender mother. For when does iron bring forth
fruit, when does brass melt into showers?

3. Those impious men therefore He threatens with miserable famine,
that they who know not how to shew filial piety to the common Lord and
Father of all, may be deprived of the support of His paternal clemency,
that the heaven may be to them as brass, and the air condensed into
the substance of metal; that the earth may be to them as iron, deprived
of its natural productions, and as is usually the case with poverty,
a sower of strife. For they who are in want of food commit robberies,
that at the expense of others they may relieve their own hunger.

  Sidenote: Exod. xvi. 4.

4. If further the offence of the inhabitants be so great that God
stirs up and brings war upon them, then their land is truly iron,
bristling with crops of spears, and stripped of its own fruit, fruitful
as regards punishment, barren as regards nourishment. But where is
abundance? _Behold I will rain bread for you, saith the Lord._

Farewell; love me, for I also love you.

                             LETTER LXIX.

  IN this Letter S. Ambrose answers a question propounded to him
  as to the ground of the severity of the Mosaic Law against those
  who disguised their sex.

                     AMBROSE TO IRENÆUS, GREETING.

  Sidenote: Deut. xxii. 5.

1. YOU have referred to me, as to a father, the inquiry which has been
made of you, why the Law was so severe in pronouncing those unclean who
used the garments of the other sex, whether they were men or women, for
it is written, _The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a
man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment; for all that do so
are an abomination unto the Lord_.

2. Now, if you will consider it well, that which nature herself abhors
must be incongruous. For why do you not wish to be thought a man,
seeing that you are born such? why do you assume an appearance which
is foreign to you? why do you play the woman, or you, O woman, the man?
Nature clothes each sex in their proper raiment. Moreover in men and
women, habits, complexion, gestures, gait, strength and voice are all

3. So also in the rest of the animal creation; the form, the strength,
the roar of the lion and lioness, of the bull and heifer are different.
Deer also differ as much in form as they do in sex, so that you may
distinguish the stag from the hind even at a distance. But in the case
of birds the similitude between them and men, as regards covering, is
still closer; for in them Nature distinguishes their sex by their very
plumage. The peacock is beautiful, but the feathers of its consort are
not variegated with equal beauty. Pheasants also have different colours
to mark the difference of the sexes. And so with poultry. How sonorous
is the cock’s voice, night by night performing his natural office of
calling us from sleep by crowing. They do not change their form; why
then do we desire to change ours?

4. A Greek custom has indeed prevailed for women to wear men’s tunics
as being shorter. Be it allowed however that they should imitate the
nature of the more worthy sex; but why should men choose to assume
the appearance of the inferior? A falsehood is base even in word, much
more in dress. So in the heathen temples, where there is a false faith,
there also is a false nature. It is there considered holy for men to
assume women’s garments, and female gestures. And therefore the Law
says that every man who puts on a woman’s garment is an abomination
unto the Lord.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. xiv. 34, 35.

  Sidenote: Gen. iii. 16.

  Sidenote: 1 Tim. ii. 11, 12.

5. I conceive however that it is spoken not so much of garments as of
manners, and of our habits and actions, in that one kind of act becomes
a man, the other a woman. Wherefore the Apostle also says, as the
interpreter of the Law, _Let your women keep silence in the Churches;
for it is not permitted unto them to speak, but they are to be under
obedience, as also saith the Law. And if they will learn anything, let
them ask their husbands at home._ And to Timothy: _Let the woman learn
in silence with all subjection; but I suffer not a woman to teach, nor
to usurp authority over the man_.

6. But how unseemly is it for a man to do the works of a woman! As for
those who curl their hair, like women, let them conceive also, let them
bring forth. Yet the one sex wears veils, the other wages war. Let them
however be excused who follow their national usages, barbarous though
they be, the Persians and Goths and Armenians. Nature is superior to

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. xi. 13–15.

7. And what shall we say of others who think it belongs to luxury to
have in their service slaves wearing curls and ornaments of the neck?
It is but just that chastity should be lost where the distinction of
sexes is not preserved, a point wherein the teaching of nature is
unambiguous, according to the Apostle’s words; _Is it comely that a
woman pray unto God uncovered? Doth not even nature itself teach you
that if a man have long hair it is a shame unto him: but if a woman
hath long hair, it is a glory unto her; for her hair is given her for
a covering._ Such is the answer which you may make to those who have
referred to you.

Farewell; love me as a son, for I love you as a father.

                              LETTER LXX.

  S. AMBROSE in this Letter considers a part of the prophecy of
  Micah as describing the recovery of a fallen soul.

                        AMBROSE TO HORONTIANUS.

1. THE Prophets indeed announced the gathering together of the
Gentiles, and the future establishment of the Church; but as the Church
sees not only the continuous progress of strong souls, but likewise the
relapse of weak ones, and their subsequent conversion, we are able to
gather from the Prophetical books both how the gracious and strong soul
advances without stumbling, and also how the weak soul falls, and how
she repairs her falls and recovers her steps.

  Sidenote: Mic. v. 2.

2. Accordingly as in the Song of Songs we read of this continuous
progress of blessed souls, so let us now consider, as set forth in the
prophet Micah, concerning whom we have begun to speak, the conversion
of a fallen soul. For it is not without good reason that the prophet’s
words, _But thou Bethlehem Ephratah_, excited your attention. For how
can that house where Christ was born be the house of wrath? Such is,
indeed, what the name of the place signifies, but certain mysterious
operations are declared thereby.

  Sidenote: Ib. i. 1.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xi. 27.

  Sidenote: Mic. i. 1.

3. Let us first consider what Micah signifies in Latin. It means ‘Who
is from God,’ or as we find elsewhere ‘who is this man,’ the son of
the Morasthite, that is, the heir? Now, who is this heir, but the Son
of God, Who says, _All things are given unto Me of My Father_; and Who,
being Himself the Heir, would have us His co-heirs. And well may we
say ‘Who is that man?’ not one of the people, but chosen to receive the
grace of God, in whom the Holy Spirit speaks, who began to prophesy _in
the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah kings of Judah_. By which order
is signified the course of the vision, for the progress is from the
times of evil kings to that of a good king.

  Sidenote: Ib. iv. 8.

  Sidenote: Isa. v. 2.

4. Thus as the afflicted soul was first oppressed under evil kings, let
us consider what was the progress of her conversion. Being weak she was
overthrown, and all her fences were made as a way for the passers-by,
or for the inroads of passion; dissolved in luxury and pleasure, she
was trodden down and removed from the presence of the Lord. Her _tower
was decayed_, that tower which, as we read in the song of Isaiah, was
placed in the midst of a choice vineyard. Now this is the case with
the tower, when the vine is withered, and her flock wanders; but when
the verdure of the vine comes back, or the sheep returns, it grows
bright again, for nothing is so decayed as iniquity, or so bright as

  Sidenote: Rev. i. 8.

  Sidenote: Mic. iv. 9.

  Sidenote: Ib.

  Sidenote: S. Luke xiii. 11.

5. To this tower the sheep is recalled, when the soul is recalled from
her relapse, and in that sheep that reign of Christ returns, which was
in the beginning, for He is _the Beginning and the Ending_, even the
beginning of our salvation. Still the soul is first severely rebuked,
in that she has grievously transgressed, and she is asked, _Why hast
thou learnt evil? was there no king in thee?_ that is, thou hadst a
king to govern and protect thee, thou oughtest not to have strayed
from the path of righteousness, nor to have left the ways of the Lord,
Who imparted to thee sense and reason. Where were thy thoughts and
counsels, whereby by innate vigour thou mightest have guarded against
unrighteousness and warded off transgression? Why have _pangs taken
thee, as a woman in travail_; that thou shouldest be in labour of
iniquity, and bring forth unrighteousness? For there is no greater
grief than for a man to wound his conscience with the sword of sin;
nor is there any heavier burden than the weight of sin and the load of
transgression. It bows down the soul, it bends it even to the earth, so
that it cannot raise itself. Heavy, my son, heavy indeed is the weight
of sin. Thus that woman in the Gospel, who was bowed together, and thus
bore the semblance of a heavy-laden soul, could be made straight by
Christ alone.

  Sidenote: Mic. iv. 10.

  Sidenote: Rom. v. 3–5.

6. To such a soul it is said, _Be in pain and labour to bring forth,
O daughter of Sion_. For the pains of child-birth work tribulation, and
_tribulation patience, and patience experience, and experience hope,
and hope maketh not ashamed_. At the same time all that is opposed
to virtue is plucked up and cast forth, lest its seeds should remain
behind and revive, and put out new buds and fruit.

  Sidenote: Mic. iv. 13.

7. Nor is it without a meaning that horns and hoofs were given to
her, that she might bruise all the sheaves of the floor, like the
calf of Mount Lebanon. For unless the sheaves were bruised, and the
straw winnowed, the corn that is within cannot be found and separated.
Wherefore let the soul that would advance in virtue first bruise and
thrash out its superfluous passions, that so, when the harvest is come,
it may shew forth its fruits. How many are the weeds which choke the
good seed! These must first be rooted out, that they may not destroy
the fertile crop of the soul.

  Sidenote: Prov. xiii. 24.

  Sidenote: Ps. lxxxix. 32.

  Sidenote: Ecclus. xxx. 1.

8. Then the provident guide of the soul has regard to this, that he
may circumscribe her pleasures and cut off her desires, that she may
not delight herself in them. That father’s corrections are profitable,
who spares not the rod, that he may render his son’s soul obedient to
salutary precepts. For he visits with a rod, as we read, _I will visit
their offences with the rod_. And so he who smites the soul of the
Israelites with a rod on the cheek, by this Divine punishment instructs
her in the discipline of patience. But no man need despair who is
chastised and corrected, for he who loveth his son chastiseth him. Let
no man therefore despair of a remedy.

  Sidenote: Mic. v. 2.

  Sidenote: S. Luke ii. 4.

  Sidenote: S. John vi. 50.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. ii. 18.

9. Behold therefore, that house which was to thee ‘the house of one
seeing wrath,’ is become ‘the house of bread;’ where rage was, there
is now piety; where the slaughter of the Innocents, there now the
redemption of all mankind, as it is written, _But thou, Bethlehem
Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out
of thee shall He come forth that is Ruler in Israel_. Bethlehem is the
house of bread; Ephratah the house of one seeing wrath. This is the
interpretation of these names. In Bethlehem Christ was born of Mary,
but Bethlehem is the same as Ephratah. Thus Christ was born in the
house of wrath, and therefore it is no longer a house of wrath, but
the house of bread, for it received that _bread which came down from
heaven_. But Ephratah is the house of one that was wrath, because while
Herod searches there for Christ, he commands the Innocents to be slain,
wherefore _In Rama was there a voice heard, Rachel weeping for her

  Sidenote: Ps. cxxxii. 6.

  Sidenote: S. Luke i. 42.

  Sidenote: Gen. xxxv. 19.

10. But let no man fear any longer; for that rest which David sought
after _is heard of at Ephrata_, and _found in the fields of the wood_.
A wood, as yet, was the assembly of the Gentiles, but after it believed
in Christ it became fruitful, receiving the fruit of the blessed womb.
And Rachel died in childbirth, because even then, as the patriarch’s
wife, she saw the wrath of Herod, which spared not the tenderest
age. Or again, because in Ephratah she gave birth to that Benjamin
who excelling in beauty came last in the order of the mystery, I mean
Paul, who before his birth caused no small grief to his Mother, by
persecuting her sons. And she died, and was buried there, that we,
dying and being buried together with Christ, may rise again in His
Church. Therefore according to another interpretation, Ephratah
signifies ‘enriched or filled with fruit.’

  Sidenote: Mic. v. 2.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. ii. 6.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. ♦xxv. 40.

11. Now here, that is, in the book of the Prophet, we find the
expression, thou art ὀλιγοστός, that is, one of few. But in Matthew
we find, _And thou, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, art not among the
few_. In one the expression is house of Ephratah, in the other house
of Juda; but this is a difference of words not of meaning. For inwardly
Judæa saw this exhibition of wrath, outwardly she suffered it. And she
is among the few, because they are few who enter the house of bread
by the narrow way. But he is not among the few, that is among those
that make progress, who knows not Christ. Nor is she the least, who is
the house of blessing, and the receptacle of Divine grace; yet in this
she is the least, for any thing which is offered to Christ seems to be
offered to her. And he who seeks for the Church seeks for Christ; and
He is either honoured or despised in every little one, wherefore He
says Himself, _Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these, ye
have done it unto Me_.

  Sidenote: Gen. xxxv. 19.

  Sidenote: Ps. cxxix. 8.

  Sidenote: Ib. cxxvi. 7.

12. Now that Bethlehem is the very same place as Ephratah we learn from
the passage in Genesis, which says, _And Rachel died, and was buried in
the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem_. Holy Rachel, being a type of
the Church, was buried in the way, that they who go by might say, _The
Lord prosper you_, and _they shall come again with joy_.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. x. 17.

13. Wherefore every soul which receives that bread which comes down
from heaven is the house of bread, that is, the Bread of Christ, being
nourished and supported and having its heart strengthened by that
heavenly bread which dwells within it. Hence Paul also says, _For
we being many are one bread_. Every faithful soul is Bethlehem, as
Jerusalem also is said to be, which has the peace and tranquillity of
that Jerusalem which is above, in heaven. That is the true Bread which,
when broken into pieces, fed all men.

14. The fifth version[279] has the words, ‘the house of Bread.’ For
‘Beth’ signifies a house, and ‘lehem’ signifies bread. From the other
versions I imagine that the unbelief of the Jews, who feared to convict
themselves, either led the writers to omit it or others to erase it.

  Sidenote: Jud. xix. 2.

15. And that Bethlehem is of the tribe of Judah we learn from that
passage in the book of Judges, where the Levite took to him a concubine
out of Bethlehem-judah, and his concubine was incensed against him, and
returned to her father’s house in Bethlehem-judah.

  Sidenote: Mic. v. 2.

  Sidenote: Ps. xix. 5.

  Sidenote: Mic. v. 3.

  Sidenote: Is. liv. 1.

16. Now Christ’s _goings forth were from everlasting_[280], because
our life[281] then commenced, when He _went forth to run His course_,
and gave to Israel the day of salvation. _Until the time ♦that she
which travaileth hath brought forth._ To that soul to which Christ
hath come fruitfulness or bringing forth hath come also; so it was with
the Church, who has _brought more than she that had children_; who has
brought forth seven, that is, a lawful peaceful and tranquil progeny.
Now that soul begins to conceive, and Christ to be formed in her, which
welcomes Him on His arrival and is so fed by His plenty that she is in
want of nothing, and other souls by seeing her return unto the way of

  Sidenote: Mic. v. 5.

  Sidenote: Rom. viii. 37.

17. _And there shall be peace to him_, but it is by temptations that
he must be tried; then, when he has shut out or repulsed vain thoughts,
when he has subdued all the motions of his rising passions, when
distress and persecution and hunger and peril and the sword press
hard upon him, will the value of his peace and tranquillity be tested.
Then, it is said, _shall be peace_; because in all these things _we
are conquerors through Him that loved us_, because we trust in Him that
neither death nor the power of temptations shall cast off or separate
us from His love. He will send temptations, that the just may be proved.
The Lord sends temptations, not that He wishes any man to be beguiled,
but because the weak are for the most part vanquished by temptation,
whilst the strong are proved by them.

  Sidenote: Mic. v. 7.

  Sidenote: Ib. 8.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xiii. 43.

  Sidenote: For Mic. v. 10.

  Sidenote: 2 Cor. vii. 5.

  Sidenote: Eph. ii. 14.

18. Then there shall be to them _dew from the Lord_, and rest; then the
soul of the just shall be _as a young lion among the flocks of sheep_.
I cannot doubt but that this similitude should, after the manner of
the Gospel, be referred to Christ, for He has said, _Then shall the
righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father_.
_his chariots shall be broken_; that is to say, the senseless impulses
and motions of the body shall be appeased; that condition shall cease
wherein _Without are fightings, within are fears_, and over all, that
is, within and without, tranquillity shall prevail; nor shall there be
any resistance or repugnance to this good will, because the obedience
of the flesh, when _the middle wall of partition is broken down_, and
both are made one, shall abolish all discord.

  Sidenote: Mic. vi. 8.

  Sidenote: Ib. vii. 1.

  Sidenote: Ib. 2.

19. But if any weak soul, like Israel according to the flesh have
stumbled, and, shaken by persecutions, have separated herself in
some degree from the love of Christ, she is checked and reproved as
faithless, and ungrateful, and unbelieving, as one who, after being
freed from the vanities of the world, has looked behind her and so
relapsed into them again; as one from whom no gifts, no sacrifice
of bulls, but only to know what is good and to do justly, has been
required. _He hath showed thee, o man, what is good; and what doth
the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to have mercy, and to
walk humbly with thy God?_ But since the weaker soul has not kept this
commandment, the Lord says to her, _Woe is me, for I am as when they
have gathered the summer fruits, as the grape-gleanings of the vintage_.
And the prophet, in whom the Lord spoke, says to that soul, _Woe is me,
the good man is perished out of the earth_. This is as though the Lord
Himself spoke, in compassion for the future punishment of sin, and as
weeping over our transgressions.

  Sidenote: Ib. 8.

20. Then the soul, learning that she will gather no fruit from what
she has sown; that in the loss of her harvest nothing will remain to
strengthen her, that she will press her olives, but will find no oil of
gladness, nor will drink the wine of pleasantness; finding also in the
works of the flesh all things full of blood, full of circumvention, of
fraud and deceit, hollow shows of affection, and pre-concerted guile;
nay, those of her own household adverse to her; and therefore that
the motions of her companion the body, which are grievous enemies of
the soul, must be guarded against; turns to God, and begins to hope in
Him, and knowing that the flesh is truly an enemy to her, says to it,
_Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy, when I fall I shall arise, when
I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me_.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. v. 5.

  Sidenote: Mic. vii. 9.

  Sidenote: Mic. vii. 9.

  Sidenote: Ib.

21. Finding moreover that she is mocked by some power which opposes her
following a better path, and domineers over her, so that she has been
delivered _for the destruction of the flesh_, to be afflicted with
various evils, assigned to her either by the Lord to satisfy for her
sins, or by the Evil One who is envious of her conversion, and desires
to harass and regain her to himself, finding this, she says, _I will
bear the indignation of the Lord_, Who either chastens me in my fall,
or has given thee power to persecute me, _because I have sinned against
Him_, but I will endure _until He plead my cause_. For unless I shall
confess, and pay the price of my iniquities, I cannot be justified. But
being justified and having paid double for my sins, He shall _execute
judgment for me_, laying aside His wrath, since the sentence against me
is satisfied. _He will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold
His righteousness_ and gaze on His delights. Then she that is mine
enemy, that is, the malice of the devil, shall see the light of my
reconciliation and _shame shall cover her which saith to me, Where is
the Lord thy God?_ She shall behold in me His pity and His love.

22. Wherefore let us not listen to him when we are in any of the
troubles of this world, be it bodily pain, or the loss of our children,
or of other necessaries, let us not listen to his words, _Where is the
Lord thy God?_ It is under severe pain that his temptations are to be
feared, it is then that he seeks to turn the sick soul astray.

  Sidenote: Ib. 18.

  Sidenote: Ps. xxxii. 1.

23. Wherefore the soul which has not listened to his allurements,
seeing afterwards the wonderful works of God, seeing herself in heaven,
and the devil creeping upon the earth, will congratulate herself saying,
_Who is a God like unto Thee, that pardoneth iniquity and passeth by
transgression?_ Thou hast not been mindful of Thy indignation, but hast
cast all our iniquities into the sea as the lead of Egypt, and hast
graciously returned to have pity upon us, both forgiving and hiding
our offences, as it is written, _Blessed is he whose unrighteousness is
forgiven, and whose sin is covered_. For some sins Thou dost wash away
in the blood of Thy Son, others Thou dost remit unto us, that by good
works and confession we may cover our errors. The expression therefore
_that pardoneth iniquities_, appertains to remission; because He takes
them away altogether, so that the things which He remembers not are
as though they did not exist. But the words _passeth by transgression_,
signify that inasmuch as we confess our failings, and cover them
with the fruit of our good works, they are referred to the author of
our fault, and the instigator of our sin. For what else does he who
confesses his fault do but prove himself to have been beguiled by the
craft and malice of that spiritual wickedness which is his adversary?

24. For this therefore this soul gives thanks, that the Lord both
_pardoneth iniquities and passeth by transgressions_, and _casts
them into the deep of the sea_. Which may also be referred to Baptism,
wherein the Egyptian is drowned, the Hebrew rises again; and whereby
by the depths of His wisdom, and the multitude of her good works her
former sins are covered, through the riches of the mercy of our God,
Who is mindful of the promise which He gave to Abraham, and suffers not
that soul which is heir of Abraham to perish.

25. It is by these means that such a soul is recovered. But do you,
my son, who from the first flower of boyhood have been an heir of the
Church which bore and which sustains you, persevere in your purpose,
mindful of the grace of God, and of the gift which you have received
by the imposition of my hands, that in this degree[282] also, as in the
holy office of deacon, you may shew faith and industry, and expect a
recompense from the Lord Jesus.

Farewell; love me as a son, for I also love you.

                             LETTER LXXI.

  S. AMBROSE in this letter continues the subject of the last,
  and, having described in that the steps by which the fallen
  soul recovers herself, here considers how the faithful soul is
  taken in charge, taught and conducted to perfection by Christ:
  and shews that the stages in the progress of such a soul are
  typified by the journies of Christ.

                        AMBROSE TO HORONTIANUS.

  Sidenote: Rom. xi. 25.

1. IN my last letter I spoke of the soul that has made in its progress
certain devious circuits, wavering, as Israel according to the flesh
did of old, to and fro. For Israel herself also, when _the fulness of
the Gentiles shall be come in_, shall be delivered by the grace of our
Lord Jesus Christ: the Gentile soul meanwhile, whose transgression has
been lighter, having by her conversion worked her own recovery. In my
present letter I will treat of the daughter of the Church; and consider
how the Lord Jesus first took her under His care, taught her, and, in
His Gospel, led her on to perfection.

2. Now it was as she lay in misery and confusion that He first took her
under His care,――for how else but miserably can that soul live, which
is exiled from Paradise?――and brought her to Bethlehem. The progress
then, of this soul is at once signified in that it goes up to the
“house of bread[283],” where it can know no death or barrenness of
faith. Observe, I am now speaking of souls in general, those souls by
which we live and move, not of any soul in particular; for it is not
of the individual or species, but of souls in general that I purpose
to discourse.

3. Christ went down into Egypt, as Protector and Guide of our soul,
from thence He returned into Judæa. He was in the wilderness, in
Capernaum; near the borders of Zabulon; by the sea coast; He passed
through the corn fields; He was in Bethphage; in Ephraim; in Bethany;
then He passed over into the garden, where He gave Himself up; on
Calvary, where He suffered.

  Sidenote: Phil. ii. 8.

4. All these are the progresses of our soul, and exercised thereby
she receives the graces of a holy life[284]. For the human race,
when excluded from Paradise in Adam and Eve, and banished to the
village[285], began to roam up and down and to wander about with
careless steps: but in His own good time the Lord Jesus _emptied
Himself_ that He might receive this exile into himself, and re-form
her again to her previous state of grace. And thus, when found, she
retraced, as the Gospel lesson teaches us, her devious course of error,
and was recalled to Paradise.

  Sidenote: 1 Kings x. 22.

5. He led her through the cornfields that He might satisfy her hunger,
first in the desert, then to Capernaum, making her abode to be not
in the city but in the field: next He brought her to the borders of
Zabulon, near unto the floods of night, that is, the darker riddles
of the prophets; that she might learn thereby to reach to the borders
of the Gentiles, that common centre, and not to fear the storms and
billows of this world. Why should she, seeing that Christ has ships
of Tarshish, mystical ships I mean, which traverse the sea, and bring
pious offerings for the building of the Temple? In such ships as these
Christ sails, and like a good pilot rests in the stern while the sea
is calm; when it is disturbed He awakes, and rebukes the winds, that He
may anew shew peace on His disciples. Furthermore, by passing over to
the Gentiles, He delivers the soul which was bound by the chains of the
Law, that she may not pass over and keep company with the heathen.

  Sidenote: S. John xi. 54.

  Sidenote: Ib. xii. 1.

6. He came to Bethany to the “place of obedience;” therefore was the
dead there raised; for when the flesh is subdued to the spirit, human
nature no longer lies as if dead in the tomb, but is raised again
by the grace of Christ; there also she professes to offer herself to
‘suffering’[286] for the Name of God. From the place of obedience, as
John tells us, He is led to Ephraim, that is, to the “fecundity of good
fruits.” Hence He returns to Bethany, that is, to “obedience;” for she
who has once tasted the fruit of holy obedience is for the most part
ready to preserve it and to be proved thereby.

7. And now, having been proved, she comes to Jerusalem, being made
worthy to become the temple of God wherein Christ may dwell. Here it is
that the Lord Jesus, sitting upon the foal of an ass, is received with
the joy and congratulation of the age of innocence.

  Sidenote: Ib. xviii. 8.

  Sidenote: S. Luke xxiii. 43.

  Sidenote: Ib. 42.

8. Afterwards are taught in the garden the words of eternal life; in
that place where the Lord permitted Himself to be taken, as John the
Evangelist writes, signifying that our soul, or rather human nature,
released from the bonds of error, is restored by Christ to that abode
from whence in Adam she was cast. Wherefore to the thief who confessed
Him it is said, _Verily I say unto thee, To-day shalt thou be with Me
in Paradise_. The thief had said, _Lord, remember me when Thou comest
into Thy kingdom_. Christ answered not concerning His kingdom, but yet
to the purpose, _To-day thou shalt be with Me in Paradise_, that is,
What has been lost must first be restored, then the increase bestowed;
that thus the progress may be through Paradise to the kingdom, not
through the kingdom to Paradise.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xvi. 19.

9. For the disciples it is reserved that they may receive an ample
reward for their labours; and therefore to the thief He promised a
sojourn, but deferred the kingdom. So that to him who is converted
under the stroke of death, and confesses the Lord Jesus, to him let
an abode in Paradise be vouchsafed, but for him who has undergone long
travail, who has fought for Christ, who has won over souls and offered
himself for Christ, for his wages let the kingdom of God be prepared;
and let him rejoice in the fruition of this reward. To Peter it is said,
_I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven_; and thus,
while the convert from robbery obtains rest, on him who has been proved
in the Apostolate authority is bestowed.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. xv. 22.

10. This is the Evangelical soul, the soul of the Gentiles, the
daughter of the Church, far better than the soul cast out of Judæa;
raising herself from her earthly course to the Lord Jesus and to higher
things by good counsels and works; received by Christ upon Golgotha.
Upon Golgotha was the sepulchre of Adam; that Christ by His Cross might
raise him from death. Thus where in Adam was the death of all, there in
Christ was the resurrection of all.

Farewell, my son; love me, for I also love you.

                             LETTER LXXII.

  IN this letter S. Ambrose deals with the question of the rite of
  circumcision, and explains to Constantius why it was established
  in the Old Testament and yet done away in the New. He speaks
  also of the true and spiritual circumcision which belongs to

                        AMBROSE TO CONSTANTIUS.

  Sidenote: Acts xv. 10.

  Sidenote: S. John viii. 56.

  Sidenote: Gen. xvii. 10.

1. MANY persons have raised an important question why circumcision
should be enjoined as profitable by the authority of the Old Testament,
and rejected as useless by the teaching of the New; especially since
it was Abraham, who _saw the day_ of the Lord Jesus _and was glad_,
who first received the command to observe the rite of circumcision. For
it is manifest that he directed his mind not to the literal but to the
spiritual sense of the Divine Law, and so in the sacrifice of the lamb
saw the true passion of the Lord’s Body.

2. What then shall we consider to have been the aim of our father
Abraham, in first instituting that which his posterity were not to
follow? or for what reason are the bodies of infants circumcised,
and in their very birth subjected to dangers, and this at the Divine
command, so that peril of their life ensues from a mystery of religion.
What is the meaning of this? For the ground of the truth is hidden, and
either something should have been signified by an ♦intelligible mystery,
or else it should have been indicated by a mystery which was not so
full of danger.

3. And why was the sign of the Divine Testament attached to that member
which is considered as less comely to sight; or with what purpose did
the Creator of our body Himself, in the very beginning of our race,
choose that His work should be wounded and stained with blood, and a
portion of it cut off, which He, Who has disposed all things in order,
deemed proper to form together with the other members, as though it
were necessary? For this portion of our bodies is either contrary to
nature, and then no man ought to have that which is contrary to nature,
or it is according to nature, and that ought not to be cut off which
was created according to the perfection of nature; especially since
aliens from the portion of the Lord our God are wont to make this a
chief subject of ridicule. Again as it is God’s purpose, as He has
frequently declared, to induce as many persons as possible to the
observance of holy religion, how much more would they be invited,
were not some deterred either by the danger or reproach of this very

4. To return therefore to my first purpose and follow the order I have
proposed, it seems good to speak of the nature itself of circumcision.
The defence of this ought to be twofold, for so is the accusation,
the one brought by the Gentiles, the other by those who are considered
as belonging to the people of God, more vigorously on the part of the
Gentiles, for they deem men marked with circumcision to be worthy even
of scorn and disgrace. Yet their own wisest men approve of circumcision,
so as to think it right to circumcise those whom they select to know
and celebrate their mysteries[287].

5. The Egyptians too, who apply themselves to geometry and observing
the courses of the stars, consider a priest who does not bear the
mark of circumcision impious. For they believe that neither the wisdom
of incantation, nor geometry, nor astronomy can attain their due
power without the seal of circumcision. And therefore, in order to
render their operations efficacious they choose to solemnize a certain
purification of their own by means of the secret rite of circumcision.

6. And we find in ancient history that not only the Egyptians but also
some of the Æthiopians Arabs and Phœnicians used circumcision. And in
maintaining this custom they think that they are maintaining one still
to approved, for being thus initiated by means of the first fruits
of their own body and blood, they conceive that by the consecration
of this small portion, the snares which demons lay for our kind will
be defeated; and that those who attempt to injure the well-being of
the whole man, may find their power baffled either by the law or the
semblance of sacred circumcision. For I am of opinion that heretofore
the Prince of devils has deemed that his arts would lose their baneful
efficacy if he were to attempt to injure one whom he found initiated
by the seal of sacred circumcision, or one who seemed at least in this
respect to obey the Divine law.

  Sidenote: Gen. xvii. 12.

7. Now he who diligently considers the functions of our several members
will be able to judge that it was for no unmeaning purpose that as
regards this little portion of this member the child was not only
circumcised but circumcised also on the eighth day; when the mother
of the child begins to be in pure blood, having before the eighth day
been considered as sitting in unclean blood. Let so much have been
said in reply to those who are not joined with us in unity of faith;
on which account discussion with them, as differing from us, becomes
more difficult.

  Sidenote: 1 S. Pet. i. 18, 19.

8. But to those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ we have to offer
the following reply, which, when we were disputing against the opinions
of Gentiles, we were unwilling to disclose. For if we were _redeemed
not with corruptible silver and gold, but with the precious blood
of our Lord Jesus Christ_, and purchased from no one but him who had
purchased with money, and was owner of, the services of our now sinful
race, beyond a doubt he demanded a price for releasing from his service
those whom he kept in bondage. But the price of our freedom was the
Blood of the Lord Jesus, which of necessity was to be paid to him to
whom we were sold by our sins.

  Sidenote: Rom. vi. 5 sq.

9. Until, therefore, this price should have been paid for all men
which by the shedding of the Lord’s Blood had to be so paid for the
absolution of all, the blood of every man, who, by the Law and solemn
custom were to follow the precepts of holy religion, was required. But,
since one Lord Christ suffered, seeing that the ransom is now paid for
all, there is now no longer any need that the blood of every man one
by one should be shed by circumcision, for in the Blood of Christ the
circumcision of all has been solemnized, and in His Cross we are all
crucified together with Him, and buried in His sepulchre, and _planted
together in the likeness of His death, that henceforth we should not
serve sin: for he that is dead, is free from sin_.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xvi. 24.

10. But if any one, such as Marcion and Manichæus, deem the judgment
of God to be worthy of blame, either because He thought fit to give
command concerning the observance of circumcision, or because He
published a law directing the effusion of blood; he must needs consider
the Lord Jesus also worthy of blame, Who shed not a little but much
blood for the redemption of the world, and up to this hour commands
us also to shed our blood for the great contest of Religion, saying,
_If any man will follow Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross
and follow Me_. But if in the case of a man offering his whole self out
of piety, and cleansing himself by the effusion of much blood, such an
accusation is not just, how can we blame the Law, for exacting a little
drop of blood, when we proclaim the command of the Lord Jesus for the
shedding of much blood, and the death of the whole body?

11. Nor was the very symbol and semblance of circumcision useless,
for the people of God, signed thereby as by a certain bodily seal, was
distinguished from the other nations. But the name of Christ being now
bestowed upon them they have no need of a bodily sign, for they have
obtained the honour of a Divine appellation. But what was there absurd
in somewhat of pain or labour seeming to be imposed for piety’s sake,
to the intent that by such contests devotion might be better tried?
It is becoming also that from the very cradle of life the symbol of
religion should grow with our growth, and that all of a maturer age
should be ashamed to yield either to labour or pain when their tender
infancy had conquered both.

12. But now Christians have no need of the light pain of circumcision,
for bearing about with them the Lord’s Death, they at every act engrave
on their foreheads contempt of their own death, as knowing that without
the cross of the Lord they can have no salvation. For who would use a
needle to fight with when armed with stronger weapons?

13. And now any one may easily perceive how easily the suggestion may
be refuted, that more persons might be incited to the observance of
holy religion unless they were withheld by the fear of pain or the
appearance of labour. For could this terrify an older person, when many
infants endured it without danger? Granting however that some Jewish
children unable to bear the pain of circumcision and of so keen a
stroke may have died, still this did not deter those of a robuster and
more advanced age, and one who thus obeyed the celestial precepts it
only made more praiseworthy.

14. But if they imagine that this light pain was such an obstacle to
confession, what will they say of martyrdom? For if they choose to
blame the pain of circumcision, they must blame also the death of
martyrs, by whom religion so far from being impaired has received its
perfection. But the pain of circumcision is so much removed from being
hurtful to faith, that faith is approved by pain, for greater is the
grace of faith if any one for religion’s sake despise pain; and such
a one has a greater reward than he who was only willing to endure the
pain of circumcision that he might glory in the Law, and win praise of
men rather than of God.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. xii. 23.

15. It was fitting therefore that this partial circumcision should take
place before His advent Who was to circumcise the whole man, and that
the human race should receive a partial preparation for believing in
that which is perfect. But if circumcision must take place, in what
region of the body ought it rather to fall than on that which seems
to some less comely? _And those members of the body, which we think
to be less honourable, upon those we bestow more abundant power; and
our uncomely parts have abundant comeliness._ For in what member ought
men to be rather reminded of his blood than in that which is wont to
minister to transgression?

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xix. 12.

16. And now is the fitting time to reply to those also who say, If
this part of our body is according to nature it ought not to be cut
off, but if contrary to nature, then it ought not to have been born
together with it. Let these men, being so subtle, themselves answer me,
whether the succession of the human race, which arises by generation
is according to nature or contrary to nature? If according to nature,
it ought never to be interrupted, and then how can we praise the
chastity of men, the virginity of maids, the abstinence of widows, the
continence of wives? No effort then to promote this succession should
be suffered to lie idle. But the Author of nature Himself did not pay
this regard to generation, for He gave us, when living in the body, His
own example, and exhorted His disciples to chastity, saying, _There be
eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s
sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it._

17. Man being made up of body and soul, (for at present it will suffice
to speak of these and not to mention the spirit,) he is not naturally
the same in both, but what is according to the nature of the body is
contrary to the nature of the soul, and what is according to the nature
of the soul is contrary to the nature of the body; so that were I to
speak that which is according to nature in that which is seen, it will
be contrary to nature as regards the unseen, and what is according to
nature in the unseen is contrary to nature as regards the seen. It is
no incongruity therefore in the man of God, if there should be things
contrary to the nature of the body which are according to the nature of
the soul.

  Sidenote: S. John i. 29.

18. With regard to those who say that more would have believed if
circumcision had not been instituted, let them receive this answer,
that more would have believed if there had been no martyrdom, but the
constancy of a few is to be preferred to the remissness of a larger
number. For as many kinds of washings preceded, because that one true
Sacrament of Baptism with water and the Spirit, whereby the whole man
is redeemed, was to follow, so also the circumcision of many was to
precede, because the circumcision of the Lord’s Passion, which Jesus
suffered as the Lamb of God, that He might _take away the sins of the
world_, was to follow.

  Sidenote: 2 Cor. iv. 16.

  Sidenote: Rom. vii. 22.

19. My object in writing this has been to shew that it was fitting
that circumcision, which is outward, should precede, that now after
the Lord’s Advent it might seem to be justly excluded. But now that
circumcision is necessary which is in secret, _in spirit not in the
letter_, seeing that there are two men in one, of whom it is said,
_Though our outward man perish_ according to the desires of error,
_yet the inward man is renewed day by day_, and in another passage,
_For I delight in the law of God after the inward man_; that is, our
inward man which is made according to the image and likeness of God,
our outward is that which is formed of clay. So again in Genesis two
creations of man are declared to us, and it is signified that by the
second man was truly made.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. v. 28.

20. As therefore there are two men, so also is his conversation
two-fold; one of the inward the other of the outward man. And indeed
many acts of the inward man reach to the outward man, in the same way
that the chastity of the inward man passes into bodily chastity. He who
is free from adultery of the heart is free from adultery of the body,
but it does not also follow that he who has not sinned in body should
not have sinned even in heart, for it is written, _Whosoever looketh
on a woman to lust after her hath already committed adultery with her
in his heart_. For although he be not yet an adulterer in body, still
in affection he is one. So that there is a circumcision of the inward
man, for he who is circumcised has put off, like a foreskin, all the
allurements of the flesh, that so he may be in the spirit, not in the
flesh, and _by the spirit may mortify the deeds of the flesh_.

  Sidenote: Rom. iv. 11.

  Sidenote: Isa. xi. 6, 7.

  Sidenote: S. Luke iii. 6.

21. And this is that circumcision which is in secret, as Abraham
was first in the uncircumcision and afterwards came to be in the
circumcision. Thus our inward man, while it is in the flesh, is as
it were in uncircumcision, but when he is now no longer in the flesh
but in the spirit, he begins to be in the circumcision not in the
uncircumcision. And as he who is circumcised does not put off the whole
flesh but his foreskin only, where corruption more frequently lies,
so he who is circumcised in secret, puts off that flesh of which it
is written, _All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as
the flower of the field; the grass withereth, the flower fadeth, but
the word of our God shall stand for ever_; and there remains the flesh
which will see the salvation of God, as it is written, _And all flesh
shall see the salvation of God_. What this flesh is cleanse your ears
that you may understand.

  Sidenote: Gen. xlix. 8, 9.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. ii. 15.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. v. 17.

22. Now that circumcision which is secret ought to be of such a kind as
to bear no comparison with that which is outward. He therefore who is
a Jew in secret, is he who excels, he who is from Judah, whose _hand is
in the neck of his enemies_, who _stooped down and couched as a lion,
and as a lion’s whelp, whom his brethren praise_. From this Judah the
prince departs not, because his word makes princes, such as are not
overcome by worldly allurements and ensnared by the pleasures of this
world. And since Judah himself was born into this generation, many of
those who were born afterwards are preferred, that they may enjoy a
pre-eminence of virtue. Let us have therefore the circumcision which
is in secret, and the Jew that is in secret, that is, the spiritual:
but he that is _spiritual_, as being a prince, _judgeth all things,
yet he himself is judged of no man_. It was fitting therefore, that the
circumcision commanded by the prescript of the Law, which was partial,
should cease after His coming Who was to circumcise the whole man, and
fulfil the circumcision of the Law. And who is this but He Who said _I
am not come to destroy the Law, but to fulfil it_?

  Sidenote: Gen. xvii. 9. sqq.

24. That the fulness of the Gentiles is come in is another reason, if
you will attend to it carefully, why the circumcision of the foreskin
ought to cease. For it was not upon the Gentiles but upon the seed of
Abraham that circumcision was enjoined, for this is the first Divine
promise, _And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep My covenant
therefore, thou and thy seed after in their generations. This is My
covenant, which ye shall keep, between Me and you and thy seed after
thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised, and ye shall
circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the
covenant betwixt Me and you. And he that is eight days old shall be
circumcised among you, every man child in your generations. He that
is born in thy house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is
not of thy seed, must needs be circumcised; and My covenant shall be
in your flesh, for an everlasting covenant. And the uncircumcised man
child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised_ on the eighth
day, _shall be cut off from the people; he hath broken My Covenant_.
It is affirmed indeed that the Hebrew text, as Aquila intimates, does
not contain the words ‘on the eighth day;’ but all authority does not
rest with Aquila, who being a Jew has passed it by in the letter, and
not inserted, ‘on the eighth day.’

  Sidenote: Ib. xxi. 12.

  Sidenote: Lev. xvii. 1, 8.

25. Meanwhile you have heard that both the eighth day and circumcision
were given for a sign; now a sign is an indication of a greater matter,
a symbol of a future verity; and a covenant was given to Abraham
and his seed, to whom it was said, _In Isaac shall thy seed be_. The
circumcision of the Jews therefore, or of one born in his house, or
bought with his money was permitted. But we cannot extend this to a
foreigner or proselyte, unless they were born in the house of Abraham,
or bought with his money, or of his seed. Again, nothing is said of
proselytes; when it is wished to speak of them they are expressly
mentioned, as it is written: _And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
Speak unto Aaron, and unto his sons, and unto all the children of
Israel, and say unto them: ... Whatsoever man there be of the house of
Israel, or of the strangers which sojourn among you, that offereth a
burnt-sacrifice_. When therefore they are intended to be included the
Law touches them; when the Divine word does not point to them, how can
they seem to be bound? Again, it is written, _Speak unto the sons of
Aaron_, when the priests are intended; and so as regards the Levites

26. Thus it is abundantly manifest that even according to the letter
of the Law, although the Law be spiritual, yet that according to the
very letter of the Law the Gentiles could not be obliged to observe
circumcision, but that circumcision itself was a sign, until _the
fulness of the Gentiles should be come in, and so all Israel be saved_
by circumcision, not of a small portion of one member, but of the heart.
And both the excuse on our parts is sufficient, and the continuance of
circumcision among the Jews up to this day is excluded.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. i. 23, 24.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. x. 33.
            S. Luke ix. 26.

27. But as to its being imputed it as a cause of blame, now or in
past time, by the Gentiles, I would say, first, it is not competent to
them to blame or deride what others who are their fellows do. Suppose
however that there were cause for their ridicule, why ought this to
move us, when the very cross of the Lord is _a stumbling-block to the
Jews, and foolishness to the Greeks, but to us the power of God and
the wisdom of God_. And the Lord Himself has said, _Whosoever shall be
ashamed[288] of Me before men, of him will I also be ashamed before My
Father Which is in heaven_; teaching us not to be disturbed by those
things which are laughed at by men, if we observe them in the service
of religion.

                            LETTER LXXIII.

  IRENÆUS having enquired why the Law was ever given, seeing that
  Paul declares it to be injurious: S. Ambrose replies that it
  would have been useless, had we kept that natural law which is
  written on our hearts, and is found even in infants; but that,
  this being broken, the former became necessary, that it might
  take away all excuse by its manifestation of that sin which was
  afterwards removed by the grace of Christ.

                          AMBROSE TO IRENÆUS.

  Sidenote: Rom. iv. 15.

1. GREATLY, it would seem, have you been moved by the lesson from the
Apostle, having heard read to-day, _Because the Law worketh wrath; for
where no law is, there is no transgression_. And therefore you have
thought fit to ask why the Law was promulgated, if it profited nothing,
nay rather, by working wrath and bringing in transgression, was

  Sidenote: Ib. ii. 14.

2. And indeed, according to the tenor of your question, it is certain
that the Law, which was given by Moses, was not necessary. For had men
been able to keep the natural Law, which our God and Maker implanted
in the breast of each, there would have been no need of the Law, which,
_written on tables of stone_, tended rather to entangle and fetter
the infirmity of human nature, than to set at large and liberate it.
Now that there is _a natural Law written in our hearts_ the Apostle
also teaches us, when he writes, that for the most part _the Gentiles,
which have not the Law, do by nature the things contained in the Law,
and, though they have not read the Law, have yet the works of the Law
written in their hearts_.

  Sidenote: Rom. ii. 15.

3. This law therefore is not written but innate; not acquired by
reading, but flowing as from a natural fountain, it springs up in each
breast, and men’s minds drink it in. This Law we ought to have kept
even from fear of a future judgment, a witness whereof we have in our
conscience, which shews itself in those silent thoughts we have towards
God, and whereby either our sin is reproved or our innocence justified.
And thus that which has ever been manifest to the Lord, will be clearly
revealed in the day of judgment, when those secrets of the heart, which
were thought to be concealed, will be called into account. Now the
discovery of these things, these secrets, I mean, would do no harm,
if the natural Law still remained in the human breast; for it is holy,
free from craft or guile, the companion of justice, free from iniquity.

4. Moreover let us interrogate the age of childhood, let us consider
whether any crime can be found therein, avarice, ambition, guile, rage,
or insolence. It claims nothing for its own, assumes no honours to
itself, never prefers itself to others, neither wishes or knows how
to avenge itself. Its pure and simple mind cannot even comprehend the
meaning of insolence.

  Sidenote: Gen. iii. 6.

  Sidenote: Rom. vii. 8.

  Sidenote: S. John xv. 22.

5. Adam broke this Law, seeking to assume to himself that which
he had not received, that thus he might become as it were his own
maker and creator, and arrogate to himself divine honour. Thus by
his disobedience he incurred guilt, and through arrogance fell into
transgression. Had he not thus violated his allegiance, but been
obedient to the commands of heaven, he would have preserved to
his posterity the prerogative of nature and the innocence which he
possessed at his birth. Wherefore as by disobedience the authority of
the Law of Nature was corrupted and blotted out, the written law was
found necessary; in order that man, having lost all, might at least
regain a part; attaining by instruction to the knowledge of that which
he had received at his birth, but had subsequently lost. Moreover,
since the cause of his fall was pride, and pride arose from the dignity
of innocence, it was needful that some law should be passed which
should subdue and subject him to God. For without the Law he was
ignorant of sin, and thus his guilt was less because he knew it not.
Wherefore also the Lord says, _If I had not come and spoken to them
they had not had sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin_.

  Sidenote: Rom. iii. 19.

6. The Law then was published, first to take away all excuse lest man
should say, I knew not sin, because I received no rule what to avoid.
And next that _all the world might become guilty[289] before God_ by
the confession of sin. For it made all subject; in that it was not only
given to the Jews but also called the Gentiles; for proselytes from the
Gentiles were associated with them. Nor can he seem to be excepted, who
after being called was found wanting, for the Law also bound those whom
she called. And thus the fault of all worked subjection, subjection
humility, humility obedience. And thus as pride had drawn after it
transgression, so on the other hand, transgression produced obedience.
And thus the written Law, which seemed superfluous, was rendered
necessary, redeeming sin by sin.

  Sidenote: Rom. v. 20.

7. But again, lest anyone should be deterred, and say that an increase
of sin was caused by the Law, and that the Law not only did not profit
but was even injurious, he has a consolation for his solicitude,
because although _by the Law sin abounded, grace did much more abound_.
And now let us consider the meaning of this.

  Sidenote: Ib. vii. 7.

  Sidenote: Ps. cxix. 71.

  Sidenote: Rom. v. 19.

8. Sin abounded by the Law because _by the Law is the knowledge
of sin_, and thus it began to be injurious to me to know that which
through infirmity I could not avoid; it is good to foreknow in order
to avoid, but if I cannot avoid, to have known was injurious. Thus
the effect of the Law was changed to me into its opposite, yet by the
very increase of sin it became useful to me, because I was humbled.
Wherefore David also said, _It is good for me that I have been humbled_.
For by my humiliation I have broken those bonds of that ancient
transgression, whereby Adam and Eve had bound the whole line of their
posterity. Hence too the Lord came in obedience that He might loose
the knot of disobedience and of man’s transgression. And so, as by
disobedience sin entered, so by obedience sin was remitted. Wherefore
the Apostle also says, _For as by one man’s disobedience many were made
sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous_.

9. Here is one reason the Law on the one hand was superfluous and yet
became necessary. It was ♦superfluous herein, that it would not have
been needed could we have kept the natural Law, but as we kept it not,
the law of Moses became needful for us, to the intent that it might
teach us obedience and loose that knot of Adam’s transgression which
has fettered his whole posterity. Guilt indeed was increased by the
Law, but pride, the author of this guilt, was overthrown by it, and
this was profitable to me, for pride discovered the guilt, and this
guilt brought grace.

  Sidenote: Rom. iii. 19.

10. Hear another reason. At first Moses’ Law was not needed; it
was introduced subsequently, and this appears to intimate that this
introduction was in a sense clandestine and not of an ordinary kind,
seeing that it succeeded in the place of the natural Law. Had this
maintained its place, the written Law would never have entered in; but
the natural Law being excluded by transgression and almost blotted out
of the human breast, pride reigned, and disobedience spread itself; and
then this Law succeeded, that by its written precepts it might cite us
before it, and _every mouth be stopped, and all the world become guilty
before God_. Now the world becomes guilty before God by the Law, in
that all are made amenable to its prescripts, but no man is justified
by its works. And since by the Law comes the knowledge of sin, but not
the remission of guilt, the Law, which has made all sinners, would seem
to have been injurious.

  Sidenote: Col. ii. 14.

  Sidenote: Rom. v. 20.

  Sidenote: S. John i. 29.

  Sidenote: Rom. iv. 7.

11. But when the Lord Jesus came, He forgave all men that sin which
none could escape, and _blotted out the handwriting against us_ by
the shedding of His own Blood. This then is the Apostle’s meaning; sin
abounded by the Law, but grace abounded by Jesus; for after that the
whole world became guilty, He took away the sin of the whole world, as
John bore witness, saying: _Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away
the sin of the world_. Wherefore let no man glory in works, for by his
works no man shall be justified, for he that is just hath a free gift,
for he is justified by the Bath. It is faith then which delivers by the
blood of Christ, for _Blessed is the man to whom sin is remitted, and
pardon granted_.

Farewell, my son; love me, for I also love you.

                             LETTER LXXIV.

  IN this letter S. Ambrose explains the meaning of S. Paul’s
  expression, that ‘the Law was our schoolmaster,’ and shews how,
  while the letter of the precepts fitted the Jews, the spiritual
  sense which lay under the letter applies to Christians.

                          AMBROSE TO IRENÆUS.

  Sidenote: Gal. iii. 24.

  Sidenote: Num. xv. 35.

1. YOU have heard, my son, the lesson of to-day in the Apostle, that
_the Law was our schoolmaster in Christ_, that we might be justified by
faith. And by this one text I believe that those questions are resolved,
which are wont to perplex many. For there are those who say, ‘Since God
gave the Law to Moses, what is the reason that there are many things
in the Law which now seem abrogated by the Gospel?’ And how can the
Author of the two Testaments be one and the same, when that which was
permitted in the Law, when the Gospel came, was permitted no longer? as
for instance there is a circumcision of the body, which was even then
only given for a sign, that the verity of spiritual circumcision might
be preserved, yet why was it even given as a sign? Why was there such
diversity, that then it was esteemed piety to be circumcised, but now
it is judged to be impiety? Again it was ordered by the Law that the
Sabbath day ought to be a holiday, so that if any one carried a bundle
of sticks, he became guilty of death; but now we perceive that the same
day is devoted to bearing burthens and to transacting business without
any punishment. And there are many precepts of the Law which at the
present time would seem to have ceased.

  Sidenote: Ezek. xx. 25.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. v. 17.

2. Let us consider then what is the cause of this; for it was not
without a purpose that the Apostle said, _the Law was our schoolmaster
in Christ_[290]. To whom does a schoolmaster belong, to one of riper
years or to a youth? Doubtless to a youth or boy, that is, to one of
infirm age. For a pædagogus, as the word is rendered in the Latin,
is the teacher of a boy; and he cannot apply perfect precepts to an
imperfect age, because it cannot bear them. Again, the God of the Law
says by the Prophet, _I gave them also statutes that were not good_,
that is, not perfect. But the same God has preserved more perfect
things for the Gospel, as He says, _I am not come to destroy, but to
fulfil the Law_.

  Sidenote: Exod. xxxiv. 9.

3. What then was the cause of this difference, but human diversity?
He knew the Jews to be a stiff-necked people, prone to fall, base,
inclined to unbelief, that heard with the ear but understood not, that
saw with their eyes but perceived not, fickle with the instability of
infancy, and heedless of commands; and therefore He applied the Law, as
a Schoolmaster, to the unstable temper and impious mind of the people,
and moderating the very precepts of the Law, He chose that one thing
should be read, another understood; that thus the foolish man might
at least keep what he was reading, and depart not from the prescript
of the letter; while the wise should understand the sentiments of the
Divine mind, which the letter did not alter; that the unwise man might
keep the command of the Law, the prudent might observe the mystery. The
Law therefore has the severity of the sword, as the schoolmaster holds
the rod, that at any rate by the denunciation of punishment it may
keep in awe the weakness of the imperfect people; but the Gospel has
indulgence whereby sins are forgiven.

  Sidenote: 2 Cor. iii. 6.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. v. 30.

4. Rightly therefore does Paul say that _the letter killeth but the
spirit giveth life_. For the letter circumcises a small portion of the
body; the understanding spirit keeps the circumcision of the whole soul
and body; that the superfluous parts being cut off, (for nothing is so
superfluous as the vices of avarice, the sins of lust, which nature had
not, but sin caused,) chastity might be observed, and frugality loved.
The sign therefore is bodily circumcision, but the truth is spiritual
circumcision, the one cuts off the member, the other cuts off sin.
Nature has created nothing imperfect in man, nor has she commanded it
to be taken away as if it were superfluous, but that they who cut off
a part of their body might perceive that sins were much more to be cut
off, and those members which led to offences were to be retrenched,
even though they were joined together by a certain unity of body, as
it is written, _If thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it
from thee, for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should
perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell_. To
the Jews then, as to children, are enjoined not complete precepts but
partial ones, and, seeing that they were unable to keep the whole of
their bodies clean, they were commanded to keep clean, as it were, one
portion of it.

  Sidenote: Exod. xxxi. 13.

5. They were also commanded to keep the holiday of the Sabbath one
day in the week, so as to be subjected to no burthen, and I would that
being thus released from earthly works they had escaped, carrying with
them to that perpetual sabbath of future ages the burthen of heavy
crimes. But as God knew how prone to fall the people were, He enjoined
a part upon the weaker by the observance of one day, He reserved
the fulness for the stronger: the Synagogue observes the day, the
Church immortality. In the Law therefore is a part, in the Gospel is

  Sidenote: Num. xv. 33.

  Sidenote: S. John viii. 11.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. iii. 12, 13.

6. The people of the Jews are forbidden to carry sticks, that is, such
things as are consumed by fire. He keeps in the shade, who flies from
the sun. But to you the Sun of Righteousness suffers not the shade to
be an hindrance, but pouring forth the full light of His grace says to
you, _Go, and sin no more_. The follower of that eternal Sun says to
you, _Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious
stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man’s work shall be made manifest,
for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and
the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is_. Wherefore let
us build upon Christ, for Christ is our foundation, that which may not
be burnt but purified. Gold is purified by fire, and so is silver.

  Sidenote: Ps. xii. 6.

7. You hear me speak of gold and silver, you think it to be the
material substance, you desire to gather it, but you are losing your
labour. This gold and silver brings burthen but no fruit. The toil of
him who seeks it turns to the profit of his heir. This gold is burned
like wood, not preserved; this silver will bring detriment not profit
to your life in that day. Another kind of gold and silver is required
of you, that is, a good meaning, a word fitly spoken, of which God says
that He gives vessels of gold and silver. These are the gifts of God.
_The words of the Lord are pure words; even as the silver which from
the earth is tried and purified seven times in the fire._ The grace of
your understanding, the beauty of chaste discourse is required of you;
the brightness of faith not the tinkling of silver. The one remains,
the other perishes; the one has reward, and we carry it away with us,
the other, which we leave behind, brings loss.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. iii. 14, 15.

8. If any rich man thinks that the gold and silver which he has hoarded
and stored up can avail him for life, let him know that he carries an
empty burthen, which the fire of judgment will consume. Leave here your
burthens, ye rich men, that your burthen may not add fuel to the fire
which is to come. If you will bestow some of these goods, your burthen
will be diminished, and what remains will be no burthen. Lay not up
wealth, O miser; lest you should become in mere name only a Christian,
in work a Jew, perceiving that your burthens are a punishment to you.
For it has been said to you, not in the shade but in the sun, _If any
man’s work abide, he shall receive a reward, if any man’s work shall be
burned, he shall suffer loss_.

  Sidenote: Isa. xxxii. 20.

  Sidenote: Deut. xxv. 4.

  Sidenote: S. Luke xix. 33.

9. And therefore, as a perfect man, taught in the Law, confirmed in the
Gospel, receive the faith of both Testaments. For _Blessed is he that
sows beside all waters, that sends forth thither the feet of the ox
and the ass_, as we read to-day, that is, who sows upon the people who
follow the doctrine of both Testaments; this is that ox of the plough,
carrying the yoke of the Law, of which the Law says, _Thou shalt not
muzzle the ox, when he treadeth out the corn_; that ox which has the
horns of the Divine Scriptures. But the foal of the ass the Lord rides
upon, in the Gospel, representing the people of the Gentiles.

10. But I think that since the word of God is rich in meanings, we
ought also to understand that the ox has horns full of terror, the bull
is fierce, the ass mild, and that this is fitly applied to our present
purpose, for happy is he who observes both severity and mildness;
that so by the one discipline may be maintained, while by the other
innocence may be cherished; for too great severity is wont by means of
terror to tempt to falsehood. God prefers being loved to being feared;
for the Lord exacts love, the servant fear, for terror cannot be
perpetual in man, for it is written as we read to-day _Behold, in your
fear, they whom ye feared, shall fear_.

Farewell, my son; love me, for I too love you.

                             LETTER LXXV.

  THIS letter is a sequel to the preceding, and deals with the
  context of the passage of S. Paul which that letter discussed.
  S. Ambrose ends by maintaining that the Jews were ‘heirs’ only
  of the letter of the Old Testament promises, the Christian being
  the heir of the Spirit.

                     AMBROSE TO CLEMENTIANUS[291].

1. I AM indeed aware that nothing is more difficult than to treat
properly concerning the Apostle’s meaning, for even Origen’s
expositions of the New Testament are far inferior to his expositions
of the Old. Yet since in my previous letter you think that I have not
explained amiss the reason of the Law being called a Schoolmaster; in
what I say to-day too I purpose to unfold to you the actual force of
the Apostle’s statement.

  Sidenote: Gal. iii. 10.

  Sidenote: Ib. 13.

  Sidenote: Ib. 16.

  Sidenote: Ib. 19.

  Sidenote: Gal. iii. 22.

  Sidenote: Ib. 25.

  Sidenote: Ib. 29.

2. Now the former part of his discourse declares that no man shall be
justified by the works of the Law, but by faith, _For as many as are of
the works of the Law are under the curse_; but _Christ hath redeemed us
from the curse of the Law, being made a curse for us_. The inheritance
therefore is not given by the Law but by promise. _Now to Abraham were
the promises made, and to his seed which is Christ._ Thus the Law _was
added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the
promise was made_; and therefore _all are concluded under sin, that the
promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.
But after that faith is come, we are no longer under the Law, that is,
under a schoolmaster_; and this because we are _all the sons of God_,
and are all in Christ Jesus. Now if we are all in Christ Jesus, then
are we _Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise_. And this
is the conclusion at which the Apostle arrives.

  Sidenote: Heb. ix. 17.

  Sidenote: Jer. xii. 8.

3. Still however he is met with this objection, that even the Jew might
say, I also, being under the Law, have an heirship, for the Law is also
called the Old Testament, and where is a Testament there also is an
inheritance. And although the Apostle himself told the Hebrews that a
testament is of no force, until the death of the testator happen, that
is to say, a testament is of no strength while the testator liveth,
but is established by his death, yet as in Jeremiah the Lord, speaking
of the Jews, has said, _Mine heritage is unto Me as a lion_, he would
not deny that they were heirs. But there are heirs without possessions,
there are heirs also with them; and while the testator lives those
whose names are written in the will are called heirs, though without

  Sidenote: Gal. iv. 1.

  Sidenote: Ib. 3.

4. Little children are also heirs, but they _differ in nothing from
a servant, in that they are still under tutors and governors. Even
so we were in bondage under the elements of the world. But, when the
fulness of the time was come_, Christ also came, and now we are no
longer servants but sons, if we believe in Christ. Thus He gave them
the semblance of an inheritance, but withheld from them the possession
of it. Thus they have the name but not the benefit of being heirs,
for like children they possess the bare name of heirship without its
privileges, and have no right either to command or to use, waiting
for the fulness of their age that they may be delivered from their

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xxiii. 10.

  Sidenote: 2 Cor. iii. 17.

5. As then young children, so the Jews also, are under a schoolmaster.
_The Law is our schoolmaster_, the schoolmaster brings us to our Master;
and our One Master is Christ: _Neither be ye called masters, for one is
your Master, even Christ_. The schoolmaster is feared, the Master shews
the way of salvation. Thus fear brings us to liberty, liberty to faith,
faith to love; love obtains adoption, adoption the inheritance. Where
then faith is there is liberty; for the servant acts from fear, the
free-man by faith; the one by the letter, the other by grace; the one
in slavery the other by the Spirit; but _where the Spirit of the Lord
is, there is liberty_. If then where faith is, there is liberty; where
liberty there grace, where grace there inheritance; and he that is a
Jew in the letter not in spirit is in bondage, he who hath not faith
hath not the liberty of the spirit. Now where there is no liberty there
is no grace, where no grace no adoption, where no adoption there no

  Sidenote: 1 S. Pet. i. 18, 19.

  Sidenote: Isa. liii. 7.

  Sidenote: S. John i. 29.

6. Thus, the tablets being, as it were, closed, he beholds[292] his
inheritance but possesses it not, he has no permission to read it. For
how can he say ‘Our Father’ who denies the true Son of God, Him by Whom
our adoptive sonship is obtained for us? How can he rehearse the will
who denies the death of the testator? How can he obtain liberty, who
denies the Blood whereby he has been redeemed? For this is the price of
our liberty, as Peter says, _ye were redeemed with the precious Blood_,
not indeed of a lamb, but of Him Who came as a lamb, in meekness and
humility, and redeemed the whole world with the one offering of His
Body, as He himself says, _I was brought as a lamb to the slaughter_.
Wherefore John also says, _Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away
the sin of the world_.

  Sidenote: Gal. iv. 4.

  Sidenote: Eph. iv. 13.

7. Hence the Jew, being heir in the letter not in the spirit is as a
child under tutors and governours; but the Christian, who recognizes
that fulness of time wherein Christ came, _made of a woman, made
under the Law, that He might redeem all who were under the Law_; the
Christian, I say, _by unity of faith and knowledge of the
Son of God grows up unto a perfect man: unto the measure of the stature
of the fulness of Christ_.

Farewell, my son; love me, for I also love you.

                             LETTER LXXVI.

  AT Irenæus’ request S. Ambrose points out the scope of the
  Epistle to the Ephesians. Therein is proposed to us a heavenly
  inheritance, a seat in heavenly places together with Christ,
  Who has obtained freedom for us. It sets forth to us charity,
  whereby we are united to Christ, as the end of faith. He adds
  that no other Epistle contains the mention of so many blessings,
  and he briefly recounts these one by one.

                     AMBROSE TO IRENÆUS, GREETING.

1. YOU have asked me to set forth to you the scope and substance of
the Epistle to the Ephesians, an Epistle which seems somewhat obscure,
unless by analyzing it we can gather what those motives are by which
the Apostle would persuade us not to despair of the kingdom of God.

2. In the first place then he points out that the hope of reward and
the inheritance of those heavenly promises which have been brought
within our reach by the Passion and Resurrection of Christ, are wont to
be a great encouragement to the good in the pursuit of virtue.

  Sidenote: Eph. iv. 15.

3. To this he has added that not only has a mode of return to Paradise
been opened to us by Christ, but that even the honour of sitting in
heavenly places has been imparted to this flesh of our body by its
fellowship with the Body of Christ; so that you need no longer doubt
the possibility of your own ascension, now that you know that your
fellowship with the flesh of Christ subsists even in the kingdom of
heaven, knowing also that by His Blood reconciliation has been made
for all things, both on earth and in heaven, for He descended that He
might fill all things: and, further, that by His Apostles, prophets,
and priests, the whole world has been established, and the Gentiles
gathered in; and that the end of our hope is the love of Him, that we
may _grow up into Him in all things_; for He is the Head of all things,
and unto Him according to the measure of His working we are all raised
and built up by charity into one body.

  Sidenote: Eph. i. 5.

  Sidenote: Gen. ii. 24.

  Sidenote: Eph. v. 31, 32.

4. We ought not therefore to despair of the members adhering to their
Head; especially since from the beginning we have _been predestinated
by Jesus Christ to adoption as children of God in Himself_: which
predestination He has ratified, instructing us that the prediction
made from the first, that _a man shall leave his father and mother, and
shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh_, is _a
sacrament of Christ and the Church_. If therefore the union of Adam and
Eve is _a great sacrament which relates to Christ and the Church_, it
is certain that as Eve was bone of the bones of her husband, and flesh
of his flesh, so we are members of the Body of Christ, bone of His
Bones and flesh of His Flesh.

  Sidenote: Ib. i. 3, 5, 9.

  Sidenote: Ib. 10.

  Sidenote: Ib. vi. 12.

5. No other Epistle has pronounced so many blessings over the people
of God as this. For herein the pregnant witness of Divine grace has
declared that we are _blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly
places_, and _predestinated unto the adoption of children_, richly
endowed also with grace in the Son of God, _which things have abounded
unto the knowledge of the mystery of His eternal will_. Especially now,
in the fulness of time, when _all things are reconciled in Christ, both
in heaven and on earth_, have we attained an inheritance in Him, to
the intent that both what is of the Law and what is of Grace might be
fulfilled in us. For even according to the Law we seemed to be elected
in that season of youth, by which is signified a holy life, without
either the wantonness of childhood or the infirmity of age. We have
been taught also how we must vigorously _wage war not only against
flesh and blood, but also against spiritual wickedness in high places_.

  Sidenote: Acts i. 26.

  Sidenote: Ps. lxviii. 13.

  Sidenote: Num. xxvii. 1.

6. Wherefore as the possession of lands taken from the enemy fell to
their lot, so to us has fallen the lot of grace, that we may become
the heritage of God, Who possesses our reins, the seat of chastity and
temperance. Do you seek to know this lot? Remember that lot which fell
upon Matthias, that he might be chosen into the number of the twelve
Apostles. The Prophet David also says, _If ye sleep in the midst of
the lots_, because he who is placed in the middle, between the lot
of the Old and New Testament, resting upon both, arrives at the peace
of the heavenly kingdom. This lot of their paternal inheritance the
daughters of Zelophehad sought for, and their petition was admitted
by God’s judgment. But they sought for it in the shade, for Zelophehad
means ‘the shade of the mouth;’ they sought it then in dark sayings,
they spoke not what was revealed. Hence the supplication for their
inheritance by the daughters of Zelophehad was couched in dark sayings,
but in our case it stands in the light of the Gospel and in the
revelation of grace.

  Sidenote: Eph. ii. 4.

  Sidenote: Ib. 6.

7. Let us therefore be the possession of God, and let Him be our
portion, for in Him are the riches of His glory and inheritance. For
who is rich but God alone, Who created all things? Especially however
is He _rich in mercy_, in that He redeemed all mankind, and, as being
the author of nature, changed us, who according to our fleshly nature
were the children of wrath, and exposed to trouble, that we might
become the children of peace and charity. For who can change nature
but He Who created nature? Wherefore He raised the dead, and those that
were _quickened in Christ He hath made to sit in heavenly places in the
Lord Jesus_.

  Sidenote: Ps. cx. 1.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xxvi. 64.

8. Not that any man has been thought worthy of the privilege of
sitting in that seat of God, for to the Son alone hath the Father said,
_Sit thou on my right hand_; but because in that Flesh of Christ the
flesh of the whole human race has been honoured, because it partakes
of the same nature. For as He was subjected in our flesh by His unity
therewith, and by the obedience of the body, wherein He was made
obedient even unto death, so we, in His Flesh, are _sat down together
with Him in heavenly places_. We therefore are not set down by
ourselves but in the Person of Christ, Who alone, as the Son of man,
sitteth at the right Hand of God; as He said Himself, _Hereafter shall
ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of God_. To this end
has His Grace and Goodness been formed upon us in Christ Jesus, that
being dead according to works, redeemed through faith and saved by
grace, we might receive the gift of this great deliverance. Our very
nature, raised, as it were, in Him, has been made partaker of the Grace
of a new creation, that being new created in Christ, we, who had before
fallen away through the corruption of our guilty lineage, might walk in
good works.

  Sidenote: Eph. ii. 14.

  Sidenote: Ib. 15.

  Sidenote: Ib. 18.

9. For the strife which before existed in the flesh being removed, an
universal peace has been made in heaven; that men might be like Angels
upon earth, that the Gentiles and Jews might be made one, that both the
new and old man might be united, the middle wall of partition, which,
as a hostile barrier, had once divided them, being broken down. For
the nature of our flesh having stirred up anger discord and dissension,
and the law having bound us with the chains of condemnation, Christ
Jesus subdued by mortification the wantonness and intemperance of the
flesh, and made void _the law of commandment contained in ordinances_,
declaring thereby that the decrees of the spiritual Law are not to be
interpreted according to the letter; putting an end to the slothful
rest of the Sabbath and to the superfluous rite of outward circumcision,
and opening to all _access by one Spirit unto the Father_. For how
can there be any discord, where there is one calling, one body and
one spirit?

  Sidenote: Ib. iv. 10.

10. For what else did the Lord Jesus effect by His descent but our
deliverance from captivity into liberty, and the subjection to Himself
of that captivity which the bonds of unbelief had fettered, but which
is now restrained by the fetters of wisdom, every wise man putting his
feet into its bonds? For it is written that when He had descended He
ascended also, _that He might fill all things_, and that we might all
receive of His fulness.

  Sidenote: Ib. 11.

  Sidenote: Ib. 13.

11. Wherefore _He gave first Apostles_ in the Church, filling them with
the Holy Spirit, others _prophets, others evangelists, others pastors
and teachers_, that by their exhortations the progress of believers
might be accomplished, and the work of the ministry of faith might
receive increase. Every one by the growth of virtue is built up unto
the measure of the inward life, which _measure_, being that more
perfect one of a holy life, that is, _of a perfect man_, taking of the
fulness of Christ, has received the fulness of grace.

  Sidenote: Eph. iv. 16.

12. But who is a perfect man, but he who, being delivered from the
weakness of a childish mind, from the unstable and slippery ways of
youth, and from the unbridled passions of adult age, has attained to
the strength of full manhood, and has grown up unto such maturity of
character as not to be easily turned aside by the address of a wily
disputer, nor cast, as it were, upon the rocks by the turbid violence
of foolish doctrine? Who but he that betakes himself to the remedies of
error, who follows truth not only in his words but also in his works,
and, takes upon him the edifying of himself in love, that he may be
united with others in the unity of faith and knowledge, and, as a
member, not fall off from his Head, that is, from Christ, Who is the
Head of all, _from whom the whole body_ of the faithful and prudent
_fitted and compacted and joined together by the rational harmony of
the Word_ (for this is the meaning of συναρμολογούμενον, ἁρμονίᾳ τοῦ
Λόγου δεδεμένον[293],) _by that which every joint supplieth, according
to the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the
edifying itself in love_; that so it may rise as one temple of God in
all, and one habitation of the heavenly mansion in the spirit of all.

13. Herein I conceive we are to understand that not only holy men but
all believers, and all the heavenly and reasonable hosts and powers
are united in faith and spirit; that by a certain concord of powers
and offices one body, composed of all spirits of a reasonable nature,
may adhere to Christ their Head, being so united to the framework of
the building, that in no single point of juncture the several members
may seem to be severed from each other. For this is the meaning of the
Greek ἁφὴν τῆς χορηγίας κατ᾽ ἐνέργειαν ἐν μέτρῳ. And to unite each one
to Himself according to the due measure of his merits and faith will
not be difficult: for the edifice of love closes and blocks up every
crevice through which offences may enter. We ought not then to doubt
that in the building up of this temple the company of the heavenly
hosts will be united with us; for it is unreasonable to suppose that
while the Temple of God can be so built up by human love as that we
shall become _an habitation of God in the Spirit_, He should not dwell
within the heavenly Host.

  Sidenote: Eph. i. 18.

  Sidenote: Ib. iv. 22.

  Sidenote: Ib. 26.

  Sidenote: S. John xiii. 27.

  Sidenote: Eph. v. 24.

  Sidenote: Ib. 25.

  Sidenote: Ib. vi. 13.

  Sidenote: Ib. 12.

14. On this account, that the building may be raised within us more
rapidly, the Apostle exhorts us _to open the eyes of our understanding_,
to lift them to things above, diligently to follow after the knowledge
of God, to unravel the truth, to hide in our hearts the commandments of
God, _to put off deceitful lusts_ and hidden deeds of shame, to seek to
be renewed by the graces of the Sacraments, to moderate anger, to calm
all disturbance of spirit before the sun goes down, to beware lest the
adversary gain the upper hand of us, that mighty spirit who entered
into the heart of Judas, and broke through the gates of his soul,
overpowering his resistance, to shut out theft, to eschew falsehood,
to rise from the dead, to put on sobriety. He tells us likewise that
wives should be subject to their husbands, as the Church is to Christ,
and that husbands should offer up their own lives for their wives, _as
Christ gave Himself for the Church_. And lastly, that, as good soldiers,
we should _put on the armour of God_, and continually fight, not only
against _flesh and blood, but also against spiritual wickedness_; that
we may neither be corrupted by friends nor vanquished by enemies.

This summary account of the Epistle I offer you as the best which I
have in my power to give.

Farewell, my son; love me, for I also love you.

                            LETTER LXXVII.

  THIS letter dwells on the Gospel, as the true Inheritance, and
  on the contrast between the Jew, who by rejecting Christ made
  Moses in whom he believed his accuser, and the Christian, who
  received true liberty in Christ, while the Jew remained a slave.

                        AMBROSE TO HORONTIANUS.

1. NOT without reason have you thought fit to enquire into the nature
of the Divine inheritance; and why it should be so highly esteemed that
for its sake many should even offer up their lives. But if you will
consider that even in human affairs the advantage of inheriting worldly
goods gives an additional sanction to the laws of natural affection,
and that even on this account greater respect is shown to parents, for
fear, namely, lest the slighted love of a father may avenge itself by
disinheriting or renouncing the rebellious offspring, you will cease to
wonder why men so greatly desire a Divine inheritance.

  Sidenote: Isa. liv. 17.

  Sidenote: Gen. xxi. 10.

  Sidenote: Gal. iv. 24.

2. Now there is an inheritance offered to all Christians; for Isaiah
thus speaks, _There is an heritage for them that believe on the Lord_,
and this inheritance is hoped for by the promise, not by the Law. This
the history of the Old Testament proves, in the words of Sarah, _Cast
out this bond-woman and her son, for the son of the bond-woman shall
not be heir with my son, even with Isaac_. The son of Sarah was Isaac,
the son of the bond-woman was Ishmael; and these were before the Law,
wherefore the promise was older than the Law. We are after Isaac sons
by the promise, the Jews are the sons of the bond-woman after the flesh.
We have a free mother, which bore not, but afterwards, according to the
promise, brought forth and produced a child; they have Agar for their
mother, _gendering to bondage_. He is free, to whom grace is promised,
he is a slave on whom the yoke of the Law is imposed, wherefore the
promise came to us before the Law came to them, and in the course of
nature liberty is more ancient than bondage. Liberty therefore comes
of the promise, bondage of the Law. But although the promise itself,
as we have said, is before the Law, and by the promise comes liberty,
and in liberty is love, still love is according to the Law, and love
is greater than liberty.

  Sidenote: Ps. cxxxiv. 1.

  Sidenote: Eph. vi. 6.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. vii. 22.

  Sidenote: Gal. v. 1.

3. Are we not then servants? and is it not written, _praise the Lord,
all ye servants_, or how does the Apostle say, _But as the servants of
God, doing the will of God from his heart_? But there is also a free
and voluntary service, whereof the Apostle says, _He that is called,
being free, is Christ’s servant_. And this service is from the heart,
not of necessity. Wherefore we are the servants of our Creator; but
we have a liberty which we have received through the grace of Christ,
born of the promise according to faith. Wherefore, being born of the
freedwoman, let us, signed in the forehead, offer the sacrifice of
liberty as becomes freemen; that we may rejoice and not be confounded,
being signed in the spirit and not in the flesh. For to us it is
rightly said, _Stand fast, and be not entangled again with the yoke
of bondage_. He does not say, Be not slaves, but _Be not entangled
with the yoke of bondage_, for the yoke of bondage is heavier than the
bondage itself.

  Sidenote: Gen. xxvii. 39, 40.

4. Isaac also says to his son Esau, when he sought his blessing,
_Behold thy dwelling shall be the fatness of the earth, and of the dew
of heaven from above; and by thy sword shalt thou live, and shalt serve
thy brother. But the time shall come when thou shalt have the dominion
and shalt break his yoke from off thy neck._ How then is this to be
reconciled, that although he shall break his brother’s yoke from off
his neck he shall still serve, unless we recognize the difference that
there is in servitude? Now in what this difference consists, let the
Scripture itself explain to us. Isaac signifies good, and he is good
to us, for after him we are born into liberty, and he is a good father
to both his sons. His love for them both he proved, in the one case by
affection, in the other by blessing, for he commanded his elder son to
bring him food, that he might receive his blessing; but while he makes
delay and seeks for wild venison from a distance, the younger brother
brings him home-food, from the sheep of the flock.

  Sidenote: Gal. iii. 10.

  Sidenote: Deut. xxx. 14.
            Rom. x. 8.

5. Good food for all is Christ, good food too is faith, sweet food is
mercy, pleasant food is faith. These are the meats whereon are fed the
people of holy Church. Good food too is the Spirit of God, good food
is the remission of sins. But very hard food is the rigour of the Law,
and the terror of punishment; and very coarse food is that observance
of the letter which is preferred to the grace of pardon. The Jews again
are under a curse, we included in a blessing. A ready food too is faith:
_The word is nigh thee, in thy mouth and in thy heart_: the food of the
Law is more tardy. For while waiting for the Law the people fell into

  Sidenote: Gen. xxvii. 40.

  Sidenote: Ib.

6. Thus it was on the son who was diligent and faithful that the father
bestowed his blessing, but he reserved one, for he was a good father,
for his elder son also, in that he made him servant to his brother.
For he did this, not as wishing to subject his family to any unworthy
bondage, but because he who cannot rule and govern himself ought to
serve and be subject to one more prudent; that so he may be governed
by his counsel, and not fall through his own folly, nor stumble from
walking rashly. It is as a blessing then that such a state of service
is given. Moreover it is numbered among blessings, together with the
gift of the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above.
Having said, _By thy sword thou shalt live_, lest he should be harmed
by the confidence arising from strength or power, he added, _and thou
shalt serve thy brother_: that thou mayest thus obtain both the rich
fruits of the flesh, and the dew of Divine grace, and mayest follow him
who is able to direct and govern thee.

  Sidenote: Ib.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. ix. 17.

  Sidenote: Gal. v. 13.

  Sidenote: Ecclus. i. 14.

  Sidenote: Gal. v. 14.
            Rom. xiii. 8.

7. _But it shall come to pass, when thou shalt have broken his yoke
from off thy neck_, that thou shalt have the reward of thy willing
servitude, and not undergo the evils of a compulsory bondage. For that
kind of bondage is dishonourable which is the result of necessity, that
is honourable which is offered by piety. Hence the Apostle says, _For
if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward, but if against my will,
a dispensation is committed unto me_. Better then is it to reap a
reward, than to obey a dispensation. Wherefore let us not be restrained
by the yoke of bondage, but let us serve in the spirit of charity,
for the Apostle says, _By love serve one another_. The fear of the
Law becomes the love of the Gospel. Again, _To fear the Lord is the
beginning of wisdom_, but the fulness of the Law is charity. And the
Law itself says, _For all the Law is fulfilled in one word, even in
this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself_.

8. This therefore is what we asserted, for although bondage is by the
Law, liberty is by the Law also, for charity belongs to liberty, fear
to bondage. There is therefore both a charity of the Law, and a service
of charity, but the Law is the forerunner of charity, the charity of
the Gospel is the free giver of a pious service.

  Sidenote: Gal. iii. 24.

  Sidenote: Wisd. iv. 9.

  Sidenote: Gal. iii. 23.

  Sidenote: Rom. i. 17.

9. The Law then is not superfluous; for like a schoolmaster, it attends
upon the weak; and by weakness I mean weakness of character not of body;
for they are infants who know not how to declare the word of God, who
receive not His works. For if _an unspotted life is old age_, a life
full of stains is the time of youth. The Law then, that is, Νόμος, was
our schoolmaster, until faith came. _We were kept_, it is said, _under
the Law, as being weak, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards
be revealed_. But afterwards faith came; he does not say the Gospel,
but faith, for that only is faith which is in the Gospel. For although
the _righteousness of God is revealed therein_ which is _from faith to
faith_, still this of the Law is faith indeed when it attains to the
fulness thereof. Rightly therefore is this faith spoken of as single
and alone; because without it the former is not faith, and in it alone
it has its confirmation. Finally, when this faith came, fulness and
the adoption of sons came with it, infirmity ceased, infancy was at an
end, we grew into a perfect man, we put on Christ. How then can any one
be weak or childish, in whom Christ is the power of God? Thus we have
arrived at perfection, and have been instructed in its precepts.

  Sidenote: S. John v. 30.

  Sidenote: Ib. 45.

  Sidenote: Ib. 31.

10. You heard read to-day, _Of Mine own Self I can do nothing, as
I hear, I judge_. You heard read, _I accuse you not, I judge not_.
I accuse you not, _it is Moses that accuseth you, in whom ye trust_.
You heard read, _If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true_.
Thus I have learnt what kind of judge, what kind of witness I ought
to be. For it is not as being weak that He says, _Of Mine own self I
can do nothing_, he rather is weak who so understands it. The Father
does nothing without the Son, for between them there is a community
of operation and an unity of power; but in this place He speaks as
Judge, that we men may learn that, when we judge, we ought to form our
sentence equitably and not according to our mere will and power.

11. When a criminal is set before him proved guilty and convicted of
crime, who does not frame for himself pleas of defence, but prays for
pardon, and prostrates himself at the knees of his judge, the judge
answers him, Of myself I can do nothing, it is my justice not my power
which I exercise in judgment. It is not I but your own deeds that judge
you, they accuse, and they condemn you. The Laws are your tribunal,
and I as judge do not alter but keep the Laws. Of myself I originate
nothing, but the judicial sentence against you proceeds from yourself.
I judge as I hear, not as I will, and my judgment is true because I
consult what is agreeable to equity not to my own will.

  Sidenote: S. John v. 30.

  Sidenote: Ib. xix. 10.

  Sidenote: Ib. v. 30.

  Sidenote: Prov. xxvii. 2.

12. Let us next consider what is the Divine rule of judgment. The Lord
of heaven and earth and the Judge of all says, _of Mine own self I can
do nothing, as I hear I judge_; and man says to his Lord, _Knowest Thou
not that I have power to crucify Thee, and have power to release Thee?_
But why is not the Lord able? Because, He says, _My judgment is just,
because I seek not Mine own will, but the will of the Father Who hath
sent Me_, that is, not the will of man, whom ye see, not the will
of man, whom ye only judge as man, not the will of the flesh, (for
_the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak_,) but the Divine will,
which is the Origin of law, and the Rule of judgment. So likewise that
witness is true, who bears witness not to himself but to another, for
it is written, _Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth_.

  Sidenote: Ezek. xviii. 23.

13. In a mystical sense it is well said to the Jews: I judge you not,
that is, I, the universal Saviour, I, who am the Remission of sins,
judge you not, for ye have not received Me. I judge you not, I freely
pardon you. I, who by My Blood redeem sinners, judge you not. I judge
you not, for I would not the death but the life of a sinner. I judge
you not, for I condemn not but justify those who confess their sins.
Moses accuses you, he in whom you trust convicts you. He can accuse
you, he cannot judge you, this is reserved to his Creator. He then in
whom ye trust accuses you, He in Whom ye would not trust absolves you.

14. O great folly of the Jews! Rightly are they accused of their
crimes, for they have chosen one who accuses them, and have rejected
a merciful Judge; and therefore they are without absolution, but not
without punishment.

  Sidenote: Hab. ii. 4.
            Rom. i. 17.

15. Well therefore, my son, have you begun by the Law, and been
confirmed in the Gospel, _from faith to faith, as it is written, The
just shall live by faith_.

Farewell; love me for I also love you.

                            LETTER LXXVIII.

  IN this letter S. Ambrose shews, that we, like Abraham, are
  justified by faith, through which we are sons of the freewoman;
  that circumcision derived all its efficacy from Christ, and was
  abolished, after He had undergone it in His own person, by Him.
  Righteousness is therefore only to be looked for from faith,
  which if it be perfect, is never destitute of charity.

                        AMBROSE TO HORONTIANUS.

  Sidenote: Gal. iii. 6.

  Sidenote: Ib. iv. 22.

  Sidenote: Ib. iii. 24.

1. IF _Abraham believed God, and it was accounted unto him for
righteousness_, and that which is accounted for righteousness passes
from unbelief to faith, then are we justified by faith, not by the
works of the Law. Now Abraham himself had two sons, Ishmael and Isaac,
one of the bondwoman, the other of the freewoman; and it was told him
that he should cast out the bondwoman and the son of the bondwoman, for
that the son of the bondwoman should not be his heir. We therefore are
children not of the bondwoman but of the free woman, in that liberty
wherewith Christ has made us free. Hence it follows that they are
specially Abraham’s sons, who are so by faith, for the heirs of faith
excel heirs by natural birth. The Law is our schoolmaster, faith is
free; let us therefore cast away the works of bondage, let us preserve
the grace of liberty, let us leave the shade, and follow the Sun, let
us desert Jewish rites.

  Sidenote: Ib. v. 2.

2. The circumcision of one member is of no avail. For the Apostle says,
_Behold I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised Christ shall
profit you nothing_, not because He cannot, but because He judges those
unworthy of His benefits who desert His ways.

  Sidenote: Exod. iv. 25.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. xiii. 10.

3. And Zipporah of old had circumcised her child, and driven off the
danger which hung over him; but then Christ profited while perfection
was still deferred. While the people of believers were small, the
Lord Jesus came, not as small, but as perfect in all things. He was
circumcised first, according to the Law, that He might not break the
Law, afterwards by the Cross, that He might fulfil the Law. Thus that
which is in part has ceased, because _that which is perfect has come_;
for in Christ the Cross has ♦circumcised not one member only, but the
superfluous pleasures of the whole body.

  Sidenote: 2 Cor. v. 21.

  Sidenote: Gal. iii. 13.

4. But perhaps it may still be asked why He Who had come to declare
to us perfect circumcision should choose to be circumcised in part.
Concerning this however we need not deliberate long. For if He was made
sin that He might expiate our sins, if He was made a curse for us that
He might annul the curses of the Law, for the same reason He was also
circumcised for us, that being about to bestow salvation by the Cross,
He might abolish the circumcision of the Law.

  Sidenote: Ib. v. 13.

  Sidenote: Ib. 6.

  Sidenote: Deut. vi. 5.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. xiii. 7.

5. The Apostle therefore declares that it is from faith that our
hope of righteousness in the spirit is to be derived, and that though
called to liberty we are not _to use our liberty for an occasion to the
flesh. For neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision;
but faith which worketh by love._ And therefore it is written, _Thou
shalt love the Lord thy God_. Now he who loves also believes, and in
believing each man begins to love. Abraham believed, and so began to
love, and he believed not in part, but entirely. For otherwise he would
not have perfect charity, for it is written, _Charity believeth all
things_. If it believe not all things, charity does not seem to be
perfect. Perfect charity then has all faith.

  Sidenote: Ib. 2.

  Sidenote: Ib. 13.

6. But I would not lightly assert that all faith has immediately
perfect charity, for the Apostle says, _Though I have all faith, so
that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing_.
A Christian man has three principal virtues, _faith hope and charity,
but the greatest of these is charity_.

  Sidenote: Ib. 2.

  Sidenote: 1 S. John v. 1.

  Sidenote: 1 S. John iii. 9.

  Sidenote: 1 S. Pet. iv. 8.

7. On the other hand I conceive the Apostle was led to say this by
the tenor of his argument, for I cannot see how _he who has all faith,
so that he could remove mountains_, can be destitute of charity; nor
how such can be the case with that man who _understands all mysteries
and all knowledge_; especially as John says, _Whosoever believeth that
Jesus is the Christ is born of God_, and the same Apostle had said
before, _Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin_. Whence we infer
that if he who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and
he who is born of God sins not, then he who believes that Jesus is
the Christ sins not. But if any man sin, he believes not, and he that
believes not loves not, and he that loves not is subject to sin. So
then he who sins loves not, _for charity shall cover the multitude of
sins_. But if charity exclude the desire of sin, it excludes also fear,
charity then is full of perfect faith.

  Sidenote: S. Luke xvii. 5.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. xiv. 31.

8. The Apostles too, who came to be His friends, said, _Increase our
faith_, begging the good Physician to strengthen their failing faith.
Their faith must indeed still have been weak, when even to Peter it
could be said, _O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?_
Thus faith as the herald of charity preoccupies the mind, and prepares
the ways of coming love. Thus where is the perfection of charity there
is also all faith.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. xiii. 7.

9. For this reason I conceive it is said that _charity believeth all
things_, that is, leads faith to believe them all, and that a soul of
this kind possesses all faith; and hence wherever is perfect charity
there is all faith. Moreover, as it believes all things so also it
is said to _hope all things_. And it is on this account the greatest,
because it includes the other two.

  Sidenote: 1 S. John iv. 18.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. xiii. 7.

  Sidenote: Gal. vi. 14.

10. He that has this charity fears nothing, for charity _casteth out
fear_; and fear being thus banished and thrown aside, charity _beareth
all things, endureth all things_. He who by charity endures all things,
cannot fear martyrdom; and so in another place he speaks as a conqueror
at the end of his course, _The world is crucified unto me, and I unto
the world_.

Farewell, my son; love me for I also love you.

                             LETTER LXXIX.

  S. AMBROSE here assures Bellicius, whose recovery from sickness
  had occurred just at the time when he professed himself a
  believer in Christ, that both his sickness and recovery were
  to be ascribed to his so doing, and exhorts him to endeavour to
  keep Christ near him, and to prepare himself with all diligence
  for the other Sacraments.


  Sidenote: Deut. xxxii. 39.

1. YOU have sent me word that while you were lying afflicted by
a severe sickness you believed in the Lord Jesus, and straightway
began to recover. This sickness therefore was unto salvation, bringing
greater pain than danger, for you had long deferred your promise.
This is the meaning of the text, _I wound, and I heal_. He wounded by
sickness, He healed by faith. For He saw that the inward affection of
your mind was not without pious desires, but that they were shaken and
unsettled by delays, and so He thought fit to admonish you, in a way
which while it did not injure your health, excited your devotion.

  Sidenote: S. Matt. viii. 7.

2. For how should He do an injury to health Who is wont to say, as
we read in the Gospel, _I will come and heal him_. Being invited
by your friends to visit your house He doubtless said, _I will come
and heal him_; Although you heard Him not, He, as God, spoke to you
imperceptibly, and although you saw Him not, still beyond doubt He
visited you in spirit.

  Sidenote: Acts xvii. 28.

3. But in truth you have seen Him, for you have believed in Him, you
have seen Him, for you have received Him into the dwelling of your mind,
you have seen Him in the Spirit, you have seen Him with your inward
eyes. Take care then not to let this new Guest depart, long expected,
late received, even Him _in Whom we live and move and have our being_.
You have tasted the first beginnings of faith, let not the word be
hidden in your heart. Herein lies all grace and every gift. For no man
judges of the secret recesses of a house by its entrance, since all
the fruit is within; nor is it the part of a wise man to look from the
window into the house, and it is folly for a man to listen at the door.

  Sidenote: 1 Cor. ii. 9.

  Sidenote: 1 S. Pet. i. 12.

  Sidenote: Exod. xvi. 15, 16.

  Sidenote: Numb. xxvii. 12.

4. The mysteries of the more perfect Sacraments are of one kind; for
the Scripture says, _Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath
entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for
them that love Him_. Of another kind are the things which the prophets
have announced concerning future glory, _unto whom it was revealed_,
and to whom the saints have preached the Gospel _with the Holy Ghost
sent down from heaven, which things the Angels desired to look into_.
Of another kind again are those mysteries wherein is the redemption
of the world, the remission of sins, the distribution of graces, the
participation of the Sacraments: when you receive these you will wonder
that a gift so transcendent should have been bestowed on man, as to
make the manna which we wonder should have been rained down from heaven
on the Jews seem to you to have possessed neither so much grace nor so
much efficacy towards salvation. For all who received this manna in the
wilderness died, save Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb, whereas he who
tastes this Sacrament shall never die.

May the Lord Jesus send you restoration. Farewell.

                             LETTER LXXX.

  S. AMBROSE here shews that the case of the ma