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Works And Letters Of St Ambrose by St. Ambrose

Chapter X. The Divinity of the Holy Spirit is supported by a passage of St.à

The Divinity of the Holy Spirit is supported by a passage of St. John. This passage was, indeed, erased by heretics, but it is a vain attempt, since their faithlessness could thereby more easily be convicted. The order of the context is considered in order that this passage may be shown to refer to the Spirit. He is born of the Spirit who is born again of the same Spirit, of Whom Christ Himself is believed to have been born and born again. Again, the Godhead of the Spirit is inferred from two testimonies of St. John; and lastly, it is explained how the Spirit, the water, and the blood are called witnesses.

59. Nor does the Scripture in this place alone bear witness to the theotes, that is, the Godhead of the Holy Spirit; but also the Lord Himself said in the Gospel: |The Spirit is God.| Which passage you, Arians, so expressly testify to be said concerning the Spirit, that you remove it from your copies, and would that it were from yours and not also from those of the Church! For at the time when Auxentius had seized the Church of Milan with the arms and forces of impious unbelief, the Church of Sirmium was attacked by Valens and Ursatius, when their priests [i.e. bishops] failed in faith; this falsehood and sacrilege of yours was found in the ecclesiastical books. And it may chance that you did the same in the past.

60. And you have indeed been able to blot out the letters, but could not remove the faith. That erasure betrayed you more, that erasure condemned you more; and you were not able to obliterate the truth, but that erasure blotted out your names from the book of life. Why was the passage removed, |For God is a Spirit,| if it did not pertain to the Spirit? For if you will have it that the expression is used of God the Father, you, who think it should be erased, deny, in consequence, God the Father. Choose which you will, in each the snare of your own impiety will bind you if you confess yourselves to be heathen by denying either the Father or the Spirit to be God. Therefore your confession wherein you have blotted out the Word of God remains, while you fear the original.

61. You have blotted it out, indeed, in your breasts and minds, but the Word of God is not blotted out, the Holy Spirit is not blotted out, but turns away from impious minds; not grace but iniquity is blotted out; for it is written: |I am He, I am He that blot out thine iniquities.| Lastly, Moses, making request for the people, says: |Blot me out of Thy book, if Thou sparest not this people.| And yet he was not blotted out, because he had no iniquity, but grace flowed forth.

62. You are, then, convicted by your own confession that you cannot say it was done with wisdom but with cunning. For by cunning you know that you are convicted by the evidence of that passage, and that your arguments cannot apply against that testimony. For whence else could the meaning of that place be derived, since the whole tenour of the passage is concerning the Spirit?

63. Nicodemus enquires about regeneration, and the Lord replies: |Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again by water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.| And that He might show that there is one birth according to the flesh, and another according to the Spirit, He added: |That which is born of the flesh is flesh, because it is born of the flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit, because the Spirit is God.| Follow out the whole course of the passage, and you will find that God has shut out your impiety by the fulness of His statement: |Marvel not,| says He, |that I said, Ye must be born again. The Spirit breatheth where He listeth, and thou hearest His voice, but knowest not whence He cometh or whither He goeth, so is every one who is born of the Spirit.|

64. Who is he who is born of the Spirit, and is made Spirit, but he who is renewed in the Spirit of his mind? This certainly is he who is regenerated by water and the Holy Spirit, since we receive the hope of eternal life through the laver of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit. And elsewhere the Apostle Peter says: |Ye shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.| For who is he that is baptized with the Holy Spirit but he who is born again through water and the Holy Spirit? Therefore the Lord said of the Holy Spirit, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again by water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. And therefore He declared that we are born of Him in the latter case, through Whom He said that we were born in the former. This is the sentence of the Lord; I rest on what is written, not on argument.

65. I ask, however, why, if there be no doubt that we are born again by the Holy Spirit, there should be any doubt that we are born of the Holy Spirit, since the Lord Jesus Himself was both born and born again of the Holy Spirit. And if you confess that He was born of the Holy Spirit, because you are not able to deny it, but deny that He was born again, it is great folly to confess what is peculiar to God, and deny what is common to men. And therefore that is well said to you which was said to the Jews: |If I told you earthly things and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell you heavenly things?|

66. And yet we find each passage so written in Greek, that He said not, through the Spirit, but of the Spirit. For it stands thus: amen, amen, lego soi, ean me tis gennethe ex hudatos kai Pneumatos, that is, of water and the Spirit. Therefore, since one ought not to doubt that |that which is born of the Spirit| is written of the Holy Spirit; there is no doubt but that the Holy Spirit also is God, according to that which is written, |the Spirit is God.|

67. But the same Evangelist, that he might make it plain that he wrote this concerning the Holy Spirit, says elsewhere: |Jesus Christ came by water and blood, not in the water only, but by water and blood. And the Spirit beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth; for there are three witnesses, the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three are one.|

68. Hear how they are witnesses: The Spirit renews the mind, the water is serviceable for the laver, and the blood refers to the price. For the Spirit made us children by adoption, the water of the sacred Font washed us, the blood of the Lord redeemed us. So we obtain one invisible and one visible testimony in a spiritual sacrament, for |the Spirit Himself beareth witness to our spirit.| Though the fulness of the sacrament be in each, yet there is a distinction of office; so where there is distinction of office, there certainly is not equality of witness.

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