St. Ambrose – Bk 5 – Prologue

peterpaulWho is a faithful and wise servant? His reward is pointed out in the case of Peter, as also in the case of Paul. Ambrose, being anxious to follow Paul’s guidance, wished this book to be added to the others, for it could not be included in the preceding one. The subject for discussion is then stated, and the reason for such a discussion given. He must needs be pardoned, for usury is to be demanded from every servant for the money which has been entrusted to him. Their faithfulness is the usury desired in his own case. He will be happy if he may hope for a reward; but he does not look so much for the recompense of the saints, as for exemption from punishment. He urges all to seek to merit this.

1. Who, then, is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord has made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he comes shall find so doing. Matthew 24:45-46 Not worthless is this servant: some great one ought he to be. Let us think who he may be.

2. It is Peter, chosen by the Lord Himself to feed His flock, who merits thrice to hear the words: Feed My little lambs; feed My lambs; feed My sheep. And so, by feeding well the flock of Christ with the food of faith, he effaced the sin of his former fall. For this reason is he thrice admonished to feed the flock; thrice is he asked whether he loves the Lord, in order that he may thrice confess Him, Whom he had thrice denied before His Crucifixion.

3. Blessed also is that servant who can say: I have fed you with milk and not with meat; for hitherto you were not able to bear it. 1 Corinthians 3:2 For he knewhow to feed them. Who of us can do this? Who of us can truly say: To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak? 1 Corinthians 9:22

4. Yet he, being so great a man, and chosen by Christ for the care of His flock, so as to strengthen the weak and to heal the sick—he, I say, rejects immediately after one admonition Titus 3:10 a heretic from the fold entrusted to him, for fear that the taint of one erring sheep might infect the whole flock with a spreading sore. He further bids that foolish questions and contentions be avoided. Titus 3:9

5. How, then, shall we act, being but ignorant dwellers set among these fresh tares in the old-standing harvest field? Matthew 13:25 If we are silent, we shall seem to be giving way; and if we contend against them, there is the fear that we too shall be held to be carnal. For it is written of matters of this sort, which beget strife: The servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle unto all, apt to teach, patient, with moderation instructing those that oppose themselves.2 Timothy 2:24-25 And in another place: If any man is contentious, we have no such custom, neither the Church of God. 1 Corinthians 11:16 For this reason it was our intention to write somewhat, in order that our writings might without any din answer the impiety of heretics on our behalf.

6. And so we prepare to commence this our Fifth Book, O Emperor Augustus. For it was but right that the Fourth Book should end with our discussion on the Vine, lest otherwise we should seem to have overloaded that book with a tumultuous mass of subjects, rather than to have filled it with the fruit of the spiritualvineyard. On the other hand, it was not seemly that the gathering of the vintage of the faith should be left unfinished, while there was still all abundance of such great matters for discussion.

7. In the Fifth Book, therefore, we speak of the indivisible Godhead of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost (omitting, however, a full discussion on the Holy Ghost), being urged by the teaching of the Gospel to let out on interest to human minds the five talents of the faith entrusted to these five books being as it were the principal; lest perhaps when the Lord comes, and finds His money hidden in the earth, He may say to me: Thou wicked and slothful servant, you knew that I reap where I do not sow; and gather where I have not scattered; you ought therefore to have put My money to the exchangers, that at My coming I might have received Mine Own, Matthew 25:26-27 or as it stands in another book: And I, it says, at My coming might have received it with usury. Luke 19:23

8. I pray those to pardon me, whom the boldness of such a lengthy address displeases. The thought of my office compels me to entrust to others what I have received. We are stewards of the heavenly mysteries. 1 Corinthians 4:1 We are ministers, but not all alike. But, it says, even as the Lord gave to every man, I have planted; Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. 1 Corinthians 3:5-6 Let each one then strive that be may be able to receive a reward according to his labour. For we are labourers together with God, as the Apostle said; we are God’s husbandry, God’s building. 1 Corinthians 3:9 Blessed therefore is he who sees such usury on his principal; blessed too is he who beholds the fruit of his work; blessed again is he who builds upon the foundation of faith, gold, silver, precious stones. 1 Corinthians 3:12

9. You who hear or read these words are all things to us. You are the usury of the money-lender,— the usury on speech, not on money; you are the return given to the husbandman; you are the gold, the silver, the precious stones of the builder. In your merits lie the chief results of the labours of the priest; in your soulsshines forth the fruit of a bishop’s work; in your progress glitters the gold of the Lord; the silver is increased if you hold fast the divine words. The words of theLord are pure words, as silver tried in the fire; proved on the earth, purified seven times. You therefore will make the lender rich, the husbandman to abound in produce; you will prove the master-builder to be skilful. I do not speak boastfully; for I do not desire so much my own advantage as yours.

10. Oh that I might safely say of you at that time: Lord, You gave me five talents, behold I have gained five other talents; Matthew 25:20 and that I might show the precious talents of your virtues! For we have a treasure in earthen vessels. 2 Corinthians 4:7 These are the talents which the Lord bids us spiritually to trade with, or the two coins of the New and the Old Testament, which that Samaritan in the Gospel left for the man robbed by the thieves, for the purpose of getting his wounds healed. Luke 10:35

11. Neither do I, my brethren, with greedy desires, long for this, so that I may be set over many things; the recompense I get from the fact of your advance is enough for me. Oh that I may not be found unworthy of that which I have received! Let those things which are too great for me be assigned to better men. I demand them not! Yet may Thou say, O Lord: I will give unto this last, even as unto you. Matthew 20:14 Let the man that deserves it receive authority over ten cities. Luke 19:17

12. Let him be such an one as was Moses, who wrote the Ten Words of the Law. Let him be as Joshua, the son of Nun, who subdued five kings, and brought theGibeonites into subjection, that he might be the figure of a Man of his own name Who was to come, by Whose power all fleshly lust should be overcome, and theGentiles should be converted, so that they might follow the faith of Jesus Christ rather than their former pursuits and desires. Let him be as David, whom the young maidens came to meet with songs, saying: Saul has triumphed over thousands, David over ten thousands. 1 Samuel 18:7

13. It is enough for me, if I am not thrust out into the outer darkness, as he was, who hid the talent entrusted to him in the earth so to speak, of his own flesh. This the ruler of the synagogue did, and the other rulers of the Jews; for they employed , the words of the Lord, which had been entrusted to them, on the ground as it were of their bodies; and, delighting in the pleasures of the flesh, sunk the heavenly trust as though into the pit of an overweening heart.

14. Let us then not keep the Lord’s money buried and hidden in the flesh; nor let us hide our one talent in a napkin; Luke 19:20 but like good money-changers let us ever weigh it out with labour of mind and body, with an even and ready will, that the word may be near, even in your mouth and in your heart.Deuteronomy 30:14

15. This is the word of the Lord, this is the precious talent, whereby you are redeemed. This money must often be seen on the tables of souls, in order that by constant trading the sound of the good coins may be able to go forth into every land, by the means of which eternal life is purchased. This is eternal life, which Thou, Almighty Father, givest freely, that we may know You the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom You have sent. John 17:3

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