Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. X:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Dogmatic Treatises, Ethical Works, and Sermons.: Chapter XI. The purpose and healing effects of the Incarnation. The profitableness of faith, whereby we know that Christ bore all infirmities for our sakes,--Christ, Whose Godhead revealed Itself in His Passion; whence we understand that the mission of the Son of God entailed no subservience, which belief we need not fear lest it displease the Father, Who declares Himself to be well pleased in His Son.
The purpose and healing effects of the Incarnation. The profitableness of faith, whereby we know that Christ bore all infirmities for our sakes,—Christ, Whose Godhead revealed Itself in His Passion; whence we understand that the mission of the Son of God entailed no subservience, which belief we need not fear lest it displease the Father, Who declares Himself to be well pleased in His Son.
89. Let us likewise deal kindly, let us persuade our adversaries of that which is to their profit, “let us worship and lament before the Lord our Maker.” 2033 For we would not overthrow, but rather heal; we lay no ambush for them, but warn them as in duty bound. Kindliness often bends those whom neither force nor argument will avail to overcome. Again, our Lord cured with oil and wine the man who, going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, fell among thieves; having forborne to treat him with the harsh remedies of the Law or the sternness of Prophecy.
90. To Him, therefore, let all come who would be made whole. Let them receive the medicine which He hath brought down from His Father and made in heaven, preparing it of the juices of those celestial fruits that wither not. This is of no earthly growth, for nature nowhere possesseth this compound. Of wondrous purpose took He our flesh, to the end that He might show that the law of the flesh had been subjected to the law of the mind. He was incarnate, that He, the Teacher of men, might overcome as man.
91. Of what profit would it have been to me, had He, as God, bared the arm of His power, and only displayed His Godhead inviolate? Why should He take human nature upon Him, but to suffer Himself to be tempted under the conditions of my nature and my weakness? It was right that He should be tempted, that He should suffer with me, to the end that I might know how to conquer when tempted, how p. 236 to escape when hard pressed. He overcame by force of continence, of contempt of riches, of faith; He trampled upon ambition, fled from intemperance, bade wantonness be far from Him.
92. This medicine Peter beheld, and left His nets, that is to say, the instruments and security of gain, renouncing the lust of the flesh as a leaky ship, that receives the bilge, as it were, of multitudinous passions. Truly a mighty remedy, that not only removed the scar of an old wound, but even cut the root and source of passion. O Faith, richer than all treasure-houses; O excellent remedy, healing our wounds and sins!
93. Let us bethink ourselves of the profitableness of right belief. It is profitable to me to know that for my sake Christ bore my infirmities, submitted to the affections of my body, that for me, that is to say, for every man, He was made sin, and a curse, 2034 that for me and in me was He humbled and made subject, that for me He is the Lamb, the Vine, the Rock, 2035 the Servant, the Son of an handmaid, 2036 knowing not the day of judgment, for my sake ignorant of the day and the hour. 2037
94. For how could He, Who hath made days and times, be ignorant of the day? How could He not know the day, Who hath declared both the season of Judgment to come, and the cause? 2038 A curse, then, He was made not in respect of His Godhead, but of His flesh; for it is written: “Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” 2039 In and after the flesh, therefore, He hung, and for this cause He, Who bore our curses, became a curse. 2040 He wept that thou, man, mightest not weep long. He endured insult, that thou mightest not grieve over the wrong done to thee. 2041
95. A glorious remedy—to have consolation of Christ! For He bore these things with surpassing patience for our sakes—and we forsooth cannot bear them with common patience for the glory of His Name! Who may not learn to forgive, when assailed, seeing that Christ, even on the Cross, prayed,—yea, for them that persecuted Him? See you not that those weaknesses, as you please to call them, of Christs are your strength? 2042 Why question Him in the matter of remedies for us? His tears wash us, His weeping cleanses us,—and there is strength in this doubt, at least, that if you begin to doubt, you will despair. The greater the insult, the greater is the gratitude due.
96. Even in the very hour of mockery and insult, acknowledge His Godhead. He hung upon the Cross, and all the elements did Him homage. 2043 The sun withdrew his rays, the daylight vanished, darkness came down and covered the land, the earth trembled; yet He Who hung there trembled not. What was it that these signs betokened, but reverence for the Creator? That He hangs upon the Cross—this, thou Arian, thou regardest; that He gives the kingdom of God—this, thou regardest not. That He tasted of death, thou readest, but that He also invited the robber into paradise, 2044 to this thou givest no heed. Thou dost gaze at the women weeping by the tomb, but not upon the angels keeping watch by it. 2045 What He said, thou readest: what He did, thou dost not read. Thou sayest that the Lord said to the Canaanitish woman: “I am not sent, but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” 2046 thou dost not say that He did what He was besought by her to do.
97. Thou shouldst hereby understand that His being “sent” means not that He was compelled, at the command of another, but that He acted, of free will, according to His own judgment, otherwise thou dost accuse Him of despising His Father. For if, according to thine expounding, Christ had come into Jewry, as one executing the Fathers commands, to relieve the inhabitants of Jewry, and none besides, and yet before that was accomplished, set free the Canaanitish womans daughter from her complaint, surely He was not only the executor of anothers instruction, but was free to exercise His own judgment. But where there is freedom to act as one will, there can be no transgressing the terms of ones mission.
98. Fear not that the Sons act displeased the Father, seeing that the Son Himself p. 237 saith: “Whatsoever things are His good pleasure, I do always,” and “The works that I do, He Himself doeth.” 2047 How, then, could the Father be displeased with that which He Himself did through the Son? For it is One God, Who, as it is written, “hath justified circumcision in consequence of faith, and uncircumcision through faith.” 2048
99. Read all the Scriptures, mark all diligently, you will then find that Christ so manifested Himself that God might be discerned in man. Misunderstand not maliciously the Sons exultation in the Father, when you hear the Father declaring His pleasure in the Son.
Ps. xcv. 6. St. Ambrose follows the LXX.236:2034
2 Cor. 5:21, Gal. 3:13.236:2035
S. John 1:29, 36, John 15:1, 1 Cor. 10:4.236:2036
Mark 10:45, John 13:4, 5, Ps. 86:16, Ps. 116:14, Luke 1:38.236:2037
S. Matt. xxiv. 36. On this place Hurter observes: “We must certainly believe that Christ, as man, knew, through His human understanding, the day and the hour of judgment—though not by virtue of the natural power of that human understanding. Accordingly, unless we are without sufficient reason to charge the holy Doctor with erroneous views, these words must be explained as meaning that Christ behaved Himself as though He knew not the day of judgment, and as though He were a servant, though in reality He was not a servant but the Son of God. And truly Christ did for my sake—i.e. in order to set me an example—conceal many titles and powers which He really possessed: thus, for thirty years He did no miracle.” Cf. Bk. V. § 53. “He feigns ignorance, that He may make the ignorant wise.”236:2038
See S. Matt. 24:22, 29, Ps. 96:13, Ps. 98:10.236:2039
Deut. 21:23, Gal. 3:13.236:2040
This it is that has constituted the “offence of the Cross.”—Gal. 5:11, 1 Cor. 1:22.236:2041
i.e. the sorrows met with during our passage through the world, by reason of human unkindness. Or perhaps the possessive adjective may be taken as equivalent to a subj. genitive, and we should render by “the wrong that thou hast done.”236:2042
2 Cor. 12:9, 2 Cor. 13:4, 1 Pet. 2:24, 1 Pet. 4:13.236:2043
S. Matt. xxvii. 51.236:2044
S. Luke xxiii. 43.236:2045
S. John 20:11, 12.236:2046
S. Matt. xv. 24.237:2047
S. John 8:29, John 14:12.237:2048
Rom. iii. 30.
Next: Chapter XII. Do the Catholics or the Arians take the better course to assure themselves of the favour of Christ as their Judge? An objection grounded on Ps. cx. 1 is disposed of, it being shown that when the Son is invited by the Father to sit at His right hand, no subjection is intended to be signified--nor yet any preferment, in that the Son sits at the Father's right hand. The truth of the Trinity of Persons in God, and of the Unity of their Nature, is shown to be proved by the angelic Trisagion.
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