In order to forearm the orthodox against the stratagems of the Arians, St. Ambrose discloses some of the deceitful confessions used by the latter, and shows by various arguments, that though they sometimes call the Son
God, it is not enough, unless they also admit His equality with the Father.
129. Let none fear, let none tremble; he who threatens gives the advantage to the faithful. The soothing balms of deceitful men arepoisoned— then must we be on our guard against them, when they pretend to preach that they do deny. Thus were those aforetime, who lightly trusted to them, deceived, so that they fell into the snares of treachery, when they thought all was good faith.
Let him be accursed, say they,
who says that Christ is a creature, after the manner of the rest of created beings. Plain folkshave heard this, and put faith in it, for, as it is written,
the simple man believes every word. Proverbs 14:15 Thus have they heard andbelieved, being taken in by the first sound thereof, and, like birds, eager for the bait of faith, have not noted the net spread for them, and so, pursuing after faith, have caught the hook of ungodly deceit. Wherefore
be wise as serpents, says the Lord,
and harmless as doves. Matthew 10:16 Wisdom is put foremost, in order that harmlessness may be unharmed.
131. For those are serpents, such as the Gospel intends, who put off old habits, in order to put on new manners:
Putting off the old man, together with his acts, and putting on the new man, made in the image of Him Who created him. Colossians 3:9-10 Let us learn then, the ways of those whom the Gospel calls the serpents, throwing off the slough of the old man, that so, like serpents, we may knowhow to preserve our life and beware of fraud.
132. It would have been sufficient to say,
Accursed be he who says that Christ is a created being. Why, then, Arian, do you mingle poison with the good that is in your confession, and so defile the whole body of it? For by addition of
after the manner of the rest ofcreated beings, you deny not that Christ is a being created, but that He is a created being like [all] others— for created being you do entitle Him, albeit you assign to Him dignity transcending the rest of creation. Furthermore, Arius, the first teacher of this ungodlydoctrine, said that the Son of God was a perfect created being, and not as the rest of created beings. See you, then, how that you have adopted language bequeathed you from your father. To deny that Christ is a being created is enough: why add
but not as the rest of beings created? Cut away the gangrened part, lest the contagion spread— it is poisonous, deadly.
133. Again, you say sometimes that Christ is God. Nay, but so call Him true God, as meaning, that you acknowledge Him to possess the fullness of the Father’s Godhead— for there are gods, so called, alike in heaven or upon earth. The name
God, then, is not to be used as a mere manner of address and mention, but with the understanding that you affirm, of the Son, that same Godhead which the Father has, as it is written:
For as the Father has life in Himself, so has He given to the Son also to have life in Himself; John 5:26 that is to say, He has given it to Him, as to His Son, through begetting Him— not by grace, as to one indigent.
And He has given Him power to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. John 5:27 Note well this addition, that you may not take occasion, upon a word, to preach falsehood. You read that He is the Son of Man; do you therefore deny that He accepts [the power given]? Deny God, then, if all things proper to God are not given to the Son, for whereas He has said,
All things that the Father has are Mine, John 16:15 why not acknowledge that all the properties and attributes of Divinity are in the Son [as they are in the Father]? For He who says,
All things that the Father has are Mine, what does He except as having not?
135. Why is it that you recount
with insistence and in such sincere language, Christ’s raising the dead to life, walking upon the waters, healing the sicknesses of men? These powers, indeed, He has given to His bondmen to display as well as Himself. They do the more arouse my wonder when seen present in men, forasmuch as God has given them power so great. I would hear somewhat concerningChrist that is His distinctly and peculiarly, and cannot be held in common with Him by created beings, now that He is begotten, the onlySon of God, very God of very God, sitting at the Father’s right hand.
136. Wheresoever I read of the Father and Son sitting side by side, I find the Son always upon the right hand. Is that because the Son is above the Father? Nay, we say not so; but He Whom God’s love honours is dishonoured by man’s ungodliness. The Father knew thatdoubts as concerning the Son must needs be sown, and He has given us an example of reverence for us to follow after, lest we dishonour the Son.