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Works And Letters Of St Ambrose by St. Ambrose

Chapter X. The Arians openly take sides with the heathen in attacking the wordsà

The Arians openly take sides with the heathen in attacking the words: |He that believeth on Me, believeth not on Me,| etc. The true meaning of the passage is unfolded; and to prevent us from believing that the Lord forbade us to have faith in Him, it is shown how He spoke at one time as God, at another as Man. After bringing forward examples of various results of that faith, he shows that certain other passages also must be taken in the same way.

118. Last of all, to show that they are not Christians, they deny that we are to believe on Christ, saying that it is written: |He that believeth on Me, believeth not on Me, but on Him that sent Me.| I was awaiting this confession; why did you delude me with your quibbles? I knew I had to contend with heathens. Nay, they indeed are converted, but ye are not. If they believe, that the sacrament [of Baptism] is safe; ye have received it, and destroyed it, or perchance it has never been received, but was unreal from the first.

119. It is written, they say: |He that believeth on Me, believeth not on Me, but on Him that sent Me.| But see what follows, and see how the Son of God wishes to be seen; for it continues: |And he that seeth Me, seeth Him that sent Me,| for the Father is seen in the Son. Thus, He has explained what He had spoken earlier, that he who confesses the Father believes on the Son. For he who knows not the Son, neither knows the Father. For every one that denies the Son has not the Father, but he that confesses the Son has both the Father and the Son.

120. What, then, is the meaning of |Believeth not on Me|? That is, not on that which you can perceive in bodily form, nor merely on the man whom you see. For He has stated that we are to believe not merely on a man, but that thou mayest believe that Jesus Christ Himself is both God and Man. Wherefore, for both reasons He says: |I came not from Myself;| and again: |I am the beginning, of which also I speak to you.| As Man He came not from Himself; as Son of God He takes not His beginning from men; but |I am,| He says, |Myself the beginning of which also I speak to you.' Neither are the words which I speak human, but divine.|

121. Nor is it right to believe that He denied we were to believe on Him, since He Himself said: |That whosoever believeth on Me should not abide in darkness;| and in another place again: |For this is the will of My Father that sent Me, that every one that seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have eternal life;| and again: |Ye believe in God, believe also in Me.|

122. Let no one, therefore, receive the Son without the Father, because we read of the Son. The Son hath the Father, but not in a temporal sense, nor by reason of His passion, nor owing to His conception, nor by grace. I have read of His Generation, I have not read of His Conception. And the Father says: |I have begotten;| He does not say: |I have created.| And the Son calls not God His Creator in the eternity of His divine Generation, but Father.

123. He represents Himself also now in the character of man, now in the majesty of God; now claiming for Himself oneness of Godhead with the Father, now taking upon Him all the frailty of human flesh; now saying that He has not His own doctrine, and now that He seeks not His own will; now pointing out that His testimony is not true, and now that it is true. For He Himself has said: |If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true.| Later on He says: |If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is true.|

124. And how is Thy testimony, Lord Jesus, not true? Did not he who believed it, though he hung upon the cross, and paid the penalty for the crime he owned to, cast aside the deserts of the robber and gain the reward of the innocent?

125. Was Paul deceived, who received his sight, because he believed; which sight he had lost, before he believed?

126. And did Joshua, the son of Nun, err in recognizing the leader of the heavenly host? But after he believed, he forthwith conquered, being found worthy to triumph in the battle of faith. Again, he did not lead forth his armed ranks into the fight, nor did he overthrow the ramparts of the enemy's walls, with battering rams or other engines of war, but with the sound of the seven trumpets of the priests. Thus the blare of the trumpet and the badge of the priest brought a cruel war to an end.

127. A harlot saw this; and she who in the destruction of the city lost all hope of any means of safety, because her faith had conquered, bound a scarlet thread in her window, and thus uplifted a sign of her faith and the banner of the Lord's Passion; so that the semblance of the mystic blood, which should redeem the world, might be in memory. So, without, the name of Joshua was a sign of victory to those who fought; within, the semblance of the Lord's Passion was a sign of salvation to those in danger. Wherefore, because Rahab understood the heavenly mystery, the Lord says in the Psalm: |I will be mindful of Rahab and Babylon that know Me.|

128. How, then, is Thy testimony not true, O Lord, except it be given in accordance with the frailty of man? For |every man is a liar.|

129. Lastly, to prove that He spoke as man, He says: |The Father that sent Me, He beareth witness of Me.| But His testimony as God is true, as He Himself says: |My record is true: for I know whence I come, and whither I go, but ye know not whence I come, and whither I go. Ye judge after the flesh.| They judge then not after the Godhead but after the manhood, who think that Christ had not the power of bearing witness.

130. Therefore, when thou hearest: |He that believeth, believeth not on Me;| or: |The Father that sent Me, He gave Me a commandment;| thou hast now learnt whither thou oughtest to refer those words. Lastly, He shows what the commandment is, saying: |I lay down My life, that I may take it again. No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself.| Thou seest, then, what is said so as to show He had full power to lay down or to take up His life; as He also said: |I have power to lay it down, and I have power again to take it up. This commandment have I received of My Father.|

131. Whether, then, a command, or, as some Latin manuscripts have it, a direction was given, it was certainly not given to Him as God, but as incarnate man, with reference to the victory He should gain in undergoing His Passion.

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