Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume V/On Nature and Grace/Chapter 75
Chapter 75.—Augustin Adduces in Reply Some Other Passages of Ambrose.
I, too, will quote a passage out of this very work of St. Ambrose, from which our opponent has taken the statement which he deemed favourable for citation: “‘It seemed good to me,’” he says; “but what he declares seemed good to him cannot have seemed good to him alone. For it is not simply to his human will that it seemed good, but also as it pleased Him, even Christ, who, says he, speaketh in me, who it is that causes that which is good in itself to seem good to ourselves also. For him on whom He has mercy He also calls. He, therefore, who follows Christ, when asked why he wished to be a Christian, can answer: ‘It seemed good to me.’ In saying this he does not deny that it also pleased God; for from God proceeds the preparation of man’s will inasmuch as it is by God’s grace that God is honoured by His saint.” See now what your author must learn, if he takes pleasure in the words of Ambrose, how that man’s will is prepared by God, and that it is of no importance, or, at any rate, does not much matter, by what means or at what time the preparation is accomplished, provided no doubt is raised as to whether the thing itself be capable of accomplishment without the grace of Christ. Then, again, how important it was that he should observe one line from the words of Ambrose which he quoted! For after that holy man had said, “Inasmuch as the Church has been gathered out of the world, that is, out of sinful men, how can it be unpolluted when composed of such polluted material, except that, in the first place, it be washed of sins by the grace of Christ, and then, in the next place, abstain from sins through its nature of avoiding sin?”—he added the following sentence, which your author has refused to quote for a self-evident reason; for [Ambrose] says: “It was not from the first unpolluted, for that was impossible for human nature: but it is through God’s grace and nature that because it no longer sins, it comes to pass that it seems unpolluted.” Now who does not understand the reason why your author declined adding these words? It is, of course, so contrived in the discipline of the present life, that the holy Church shall arrive at last at that condition of most immaculate purity which all holy men desire; and that it may in the world to come, and in a state unmixed with anything of evil men, and undisturbed by any law of sin resisting the law of the mind, lead the purest life in a divine eternity. Still he should well observe what Bishop Ambrose says,—and his statement exactly tallies with the Scriptures: “It was not from the first unpolluted, for that condition was impossible for human nature.” By his phrase, “from the first,” he means indeed from the time of our being born of Adam. Adam no doubt was himself created immaculate; in the case, however, of those who are by nature children of wrath, deriving from him what in him was corrupted, he distinctly averred that it was an impossibility in human nature that they should be immaculate from the first.
- Ambrose on Luke i. 3.
- Ambrose on Luke i. 6.