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St. Ambrose of Milan, Letters (1881). pp. 1-67. Letters 1-10.



It is in answer to this that Letter I was written by S. Ambrose. It was written by the Emperor Gratian in his 20th year, four years after his succession to the. Empire in partnership with his Uncle Valens and his younger brother Valentinian the 2nd, on the death of their father Valentinian the first, 375 A. D. Tillemont (Hist. des Emp. vol. v. p. 158.) calls it 'une lettre toute pleine de piete et d'humilite, et d'ailleurs mesme ecrite avec beaucoup d'esprit et d'elegance.'


1. GREAT is my desire that as I remember you though far away, and in spirit am present, with you, so I may be with you in bodily presence also. Hasten then, holy Bishop 1 of God ; come and teach me, who am already a sincere believer; not that I am eager for controversy, or seek to apprehend God in words rather than with my mind, but that the revelation of His Godhead may sink more deeply into an enlightened breast.

2. For He will teach me, He Whom I deny not, but confess to be my God and my Lord, not cavilling at that created 2 nature in Him, which I see also in myself. That I can add nothing to Christ I acknowledge, hut I am desirous by declaring the Son to commend |2 myself to the Father also; for in God I can fear no jealousy; nor will I suppose myself such an eulogist as that I can exalt His divinity by my words. Weak and frail, I proclaim Him according to my power, not according to His Majesty.

3. I beg you to bestow upon me the Treatise 3 you gave me before, adding to it an orthodox discussion on the Holy Spirit: prove, I beseech you, both by Scripture and reason, that He is God. God keep you for many years, my father, servant of the eternal God, Whom we worship, even Jesus Christ.

LETTER I. [A.D.379]

IN this letter S. Ambrose replies to the preceding. He apologises for not coming at once to Gratian, and, after praising his humility and faith, promises to come before long, and meanwhile sends him the two books (duos libellos) of the Treatise De Fide, which he had before composed at Gratian's request, begging for time to write on the subject of the Holy Spirit.


1. IT was not lack of affection, most Christian Prince, (for I can give you no title more true or more illustrious than this,) it was not, I repeat, lack of affection, but modesty which put a restraint upon that affection, and hindered my coming to meet your Grace. But if I did not meet you on your return in person, I did so in spirit, and with my prayers, wherein the duties of a priest more especially lie. Meet, did I say ? Nay, when was I absent? I who followed you with an entire affection, who clung to you in thought and heart; and surely it is by our souls that we are present to one other most intimately. I studied your route day by day; transported by my solicitude to your camp by night and day, I shielded it with my watchful prayers, prayers, if not of prevailing merit, yet of unremitting affection. |3 

2. And in offering these for your safety we benefited ourselves. This I say without flattery, which you require not, and I deem unbefitting my office, but with the greatest regard to the favour you have shewn me. Our Judge Himself, Whom you acknowledge and in Whom you devoutly believe, knoweth that my heart is refreshed by your faith, your safety, your glory, and that not only my public duty but my personal affection leads me to offer these prayers. For you have restored to me quiet in the Church, you have stopped the mouths (would that you had stopped the hearts) of the traitors, and this you have done not less by the authority of your faith than of your power.

3. What shall I say of your late letter? the whole is written with your own hand, so that the very characters tell of your faith and devotion. Thus Abraham of old, when ministering entertainment to his guests, slew a calf with his own hand, and had not, in this sacred service, the assistance of others. But he, a private man, ministered to the Lord and His Angels, or to the Lord in His Angels, you, the Emperor, honour with your royal condescension the lowest of Bishops. And yet the Lord is served when His minister is honoured; for He hath said, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, ye have done it unto Me.4

4. But is it only this lofty humility which I praise in the Emperor, and not rather that faith, which you have rightly expressed with a rnind conscious of your desert, or which He Whom you deny not hath taught you? For who but He could have taught you not to cavil at that created nature in Him which you see in yourself? Nothing could have been said more pious or more accurate; for to call Christ a creature savours of a contemptuous cavil, not of a reverent confession. Again, what could be more unworthy, than to suppose Him to be like as we ourselves are? Thus you have instructed me, from whom you profess your wish to learn, for I never read nor heard anything better.

5. Again, how pious, how admirable that expression, that you fear no jealousy in God! From the Father you anticipate a recompense for your love of the Son, yet you acknowledge that your praise of the Son can add nothing to |4 Him, only you wish by praising the Son to commend yourself to the Father also. This He alone hath taught you, Who hath said, He that loveth Me, shall be loved of My Father.5

6. You go on to say that you, weak and frail as you are, do not suppose yourself such an eulogist as that you can exalt His divinity by your words, but that you preach Him according to your power, not according to His Majesty. This weakness is mighty in Christ, as the Apostle has said, When I am weak, then I am strong. This humility excludes frailty.

7. Certainly I will come, and that speedily, as you command, that I may be present with you and hear and read these things, as they are newly spoken by you. But I have sent two small volumes, for which, approved as they have been by your grace, I shall have no fears; I must plead for time to write on the Spirit, knowing as I do what a judge I shall have of my treatise.

8. Meanwhile however your sentiments and belief concerning our Lord and Saviour, transferred from the Son, form an abundant assertion to express our faith in the everlasting Godhead of the Holy Spirit, in that you cavil not at that created nature in Him which you find in yourself, and suppose not that God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, can be jealous of His own Spirit. For that which is separated from communion with the creature is divine.

9. If the Lord will, I will in this also comply with your Majesty's wishes; that as you have received the grace of the Holy Spirit, so also you may know that He, holding so high a place in the Divine glory, has in His own Name a right to our veneration.

10. May Almighty God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, vouchsafe, my Lord the Emperor, chosen by Divine providence, most glorious Sovereign, may He vouchsafe to keep your majesty in all happiness and prosperity to an advanced age, and establish your kingdom in perfect glory and in perpetual peace. |5 

LETTER II. [A.D.379.]

WE gather from the letter itself that Constantius, to whom it is addressed was a newly appointed Bishop, but of what see does not appear. In § 27 S. Ambrose commends to his care the see of Forum Cornelii, which was vacant at the time, as being in his neighbourhood. The grounds on which the Benedictine Editors fix the date seem rather vague. Its interest however is not historical: it is simply hortatory, urging on Constantius the fulfilment of the duties of his new office, and setting before him the chief subjects to which his preaching should be addressed. From S. Ambrose calling him 'my son' (§ 27) it would seem that he was either one of his own clergy, or had been in some way under his guidance. It is interesting as shewing how a great Bishop of that age dwelt upon the relations of the Episcopate, not merely to the Clergy under him as their superior, but to the laity of his diocese as their chief teacher.


1. You have undertaken the office of a Bishop, and now, seated in the stern of the Church, you are steering it in the teeth of the waves. Hold fast the rudder of faith, that you may not be shaken by the heavy storms of this world. The sea indeed is vast and deep, but fear not, for He hath founded it upon the seas, and prepared it upon the floods.6 Rightly then the Church of the Lord, amid all the seas of the world, stands immoveable, built as it were, upon the Apostolic rock; and her foundation remains unshaken by all the force of the raging surge. The waves lash but do not shake it; and although this world's elements often break against it with a mighty sound, still it offers a secure harbour of safety to receive the distressed.

2. Yet although it is tossed on the sea, it rides upon the floods; and perhaps chiefly on those floods of which it is said, The floods have lift up their voice. For there are rivers, which shall flow out of his belly, who has received to drink from Christ, and partaken of the Spirit of God. These rivers then, when they overflow with spiritual grace, lift up their voice. There is a river too, which runs down upon His saints like a torrent.7 And there are the rivers of the |6 flood, which make glad the peaceful and tranquil soul. He that receives, as did John the Evangelist, as did Peter and Paul, the fulness of this stream, lifts up his voice; and like as the Apostles loudly heralded forth to the farthest limits of the globe the Evangelic message, so he also begins to preach the Lord Jesus. Receive to drink therefore of Christ, that your sound may also go forth.

3. The Divine Scripture is a sea, containing in it deep meanings, and an abyss of prophetic mysteries; and into this sea enter many rivers. There are Sweet and transparent streams, cool 8 fountains too there are, springing up into life eternal, and pleasant words as an honey-comb.9 Agreeable sentences too there are, refreshing the minds of the hearers, if I may say so, with spiritual drink, and soothing them with, the sweetness of their moral precepts. Various then are the streams of the sacred Scriptures. There is in them a first draught for you, a second, and a last.

4. Gather the water of Christ, that which praises the Lord.10 Gather from many sources that water which the prophetic clouds pour forth.11 He that gathers water from the hills and draws it to himself from the fountains, he also drops down dew like the clouds. Fill then the bosom of your mind, that your ground may be moistened and watered by domestic springs. He who needs and apprehends much is filled, he who hath been filled waters others, and therefore Scripture saith, If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth.12

5. Let your discourses then be flowing, let them be clear and lucid; pour the sweetness of your moral arguments into the ears of the people, and sooth them with the charm of your words, that so they may willingly follow your guidance. But if there be any contumacy or transgression in the people or individuals, let your sermons be of such a character as shall move your audience, and prick the evil conscience, for the words of the wise are as goads.13 The Lord Jesus too pricked Saul, when he was a persecutor. And think how salutary the goad was which from a |7 persecutor made him an Apostle, by simply saying, It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.14

6. There are discourses too like milk, such as Paul fed the Corinthians with; for they who cannot digest stronger food, must have their infant minds nourished with the juice of milk.15

7. Let your addresses be full of understanding. As Solomon says, The 16 lips of the wise are the weapons of the understanding, and in another place, Let your lips be bound up with sense,17 that is, let your discourses be clear and bright, let them flash with intelligence like lightning: let not your address or arguments stand in need of enforcement from without, but let your discourse defend itself, so to speak, with its own weapons, and let no vain or unmeaning word issue out of your mouth. For there is a bandage to bind up the wounds of the soul, and if any one cast it aside, he shews that his recovery is desperate. Wherefore to those who are afflicted with a grievous ulcer administer the oil of your discourse to soften the hardness of their heart, apply an emollient, bind on the ligature of salutary precepts; beware lest by any means you suffer men who are unstable and vacillating in faith or in the observance of discipline, to perish with minds unbraced and vigour relaxed.

8. Wherefore admonish and entreat the people of God that they abound in good works, that they renounce iniquity, that they kindle not the fires of lust, (I say not on the Sabbath only, but never,) lest they set on fire their own bodies; that there be no fornication or uncleanness in the servants of God,18 for we serve the immaculate Son of God. Let every man know himself, and possess his own vessel,19 that, having, so to say, broken up the fallow ground of his body, he may expect fruit in due season, and it may not bring forth thorns and thistles,20 but he too may say, Our land hath given her increase;21 and on this once wild thicket of the passions a graft of virtue may flourish.

9. Teach moreover and train the people to do what is |8 good and that no one fail to perform works which shall be approved, whether he be seen of many, or be without witness, for the conscience is a witness abundantly sufficient unto itself.

10. And let them avoid shameful deeds, even though they believe they cannot be detected. For though a man be shut up within walls, and covered with darkness, without witness and without accomplice, still he has a Judge of his acts, Whom nothing ever deceives, and to Whom all things cry aloud. To Him the voice of blood cried from the ground.22 Every man has in himself and his own conscience a strict judge, an avenger of his wickedness and of his crimes. Cain wandered about in fear and trembling, suffering the punishment of his unnatural deed; so that death was to him a refuge, relieving the wandering outcast from that terror of death which he felt at every moment. Let no man then either alone or in company commit any shameful or wicked act. Though he be alone, let him be abashed before himself more than before others, for to himself is his greatest reverence due.

11. Nor let him covet many things, for even few things are to him as many; for poverty and wealth are words implying want and sufficiency. He is not rich who needs any thing, nor he poor who needs not. And let no man despise a widow, circumvent a ward, defraud his neighbour. Woe unto him, whose substance has been collected by guile, and who buildeth a town, that is his own soul, with blood.23 For this it is, which is built as a city;24 and this city avarice builds not but destroys, lust builds not but sets on fire and consumes. Wouldest thou build this city well? Better is little with the fear of the Lord, than great treasure without that fear.25 A man's riches ought to avail to the ransom of his soul, not to its destruction. And a treasure is a ransom, if a man use it well; on the other hand it is a snare, if a man know not how to use it. What is a man's money to him but a provision for his journey? Much is a burthen, a little is useful. We are wayfarers in this life; many walk, but it is needful that we walk aright, for then is the Lord Jesus with us, as we read, When thou passest through the waters I will be with thee, and through |9 the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire thou shalt not be burned.26 But if a man take fire in his bosom, the fire of lust, the fire of immoderate desire he walketh not through,27 but burns this clothing of his soul. A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour than silver and gold!28 Faith is sufficient for itself, and in its own possession is rich enough. And to the wise man nothing is foreign, but what is contrary to virtue; wherever he goes, he finds all things to be his own. All the world is his possession, for he uses it all as if it were his own.

12. Why then is our brother circumvented, why is our hired servant defrauded? Little it is said, is gained by the wages of an harlot, that is to say, of frailty so delusive.29 This harlot is not an individual, but something general; not one woman, but every idle lust. All perfidy, all deceit is this harlot; not she alone who offers her body to defilement; but every soul that barters away its hope, and seeks a dishonourable profit, and an unworthy reward. And we are hired servants, in that we labour for hire, and look for the reward of this our work from our Lord and God. If any one would know how we are hired servants, let him listen to the words, How many hired servants of my father have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger,30 and again, Make me as one of thy hired servants.31 All are hired servants, all are labourers; and let him, who looks for the reward of his labour, remember that if he defraud another of the wages due to him, he also will be defrauded of his own. Such conduct offends Him Who has lent to us, and He will repay it hereafter in more abundant measure. He therefore who could not lose what is eternal, let him not deprive others of what is temporal.

13. And let no one speak deceitfully with his neighbour. There is a snare in our mouths,32 and not seldom is it that a man is entangled rather than cleared by his words. The mouth of the evil-minded is a deep pit:33 great is the fall of innocence, but greater that of iniquity. The simple, by giving too easy credit, quickly falls, but when fallen he rises again; but the evil-speaker is so cast down by his own acts that he never can recover himself and escape. |10 Therefore let every man weigh his words, not with deceit and guile, for a false balance is abomination to the Lord.34 I do not mean that balance which weighs the wares of others, (though even in lesser matters deceit often costs dear,) but that balance of words is hateful to the Lord, which wears the mask of the weight of sober gravity, and yet practises the artifices of cunning. Great is God's anger, if a man deceive his neighbour by flattering promises, and by treacherous subtlety oppress his debtor, a craft which will not benefit himself. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the riches of the whole world, and yet defraud his own soul of the wages of eternal life?35

14. There is another balance which pious minds ought to consider, wherein the actions of individuals are weighed, and wherein for the most part sin inclines the scale towards judgement, or outweighs good deeds with crimes. Woe unto me, if my offences go before,36 and with a fatal weight incline to the judgement of death! More terrible will it be if they follow after, though they all be manifest to God, even before judgement; neither can things good be secret, nor things full of scandal be concealed.

15. How blessed is he who can extirpate avarice, the root of all evil! he truly need not fear this balance. For avarice is wont to deaden man's senses, and pervert his judgement, so that he counts godliness a source of gain, and money the reward of prudence.37 But great is the reward of piety, and the gain of sobriety to have enough for use. For what do superfluous riches profit in this world, when you find in them neither a succour in birth nor a defence against death? For without a covering are we born into the world, without provision we depart hence, and in the grave we have no inheritance.

16. The deserts of each one of us are suspended in the balance, which a little weight either of good works or of degenerate conduct sways this way or that; if the evil preponderate, woe is me! if the good, pardon is at hand. For no man is free from sin; but where good preponderates, the evil flies up, is overshadowed, and covered. Wherefore in the Day of judgement our works will either succour us, or will sink us into the deep, weighed down as |11 with a millstone. For iniquity is heavy, supported as by a talent of lead;38 avarice is intolerable, and all pride is foul dishonesty. Wherefore exhort the people of God to trust rather in the Lord, to abound in the riches of simplicity, wherein they may walk without snare and without hindrance.

17. For the sincerity of a pure speech is good, and rich in the sight of God, although it walk among snares; yet, because it is innocent of laying wait or enthralling others, it escapes itself.

18. A great thing too it is if you can persuade them to know how to be abased, to know the true garb and nature of humility. Many possess the shew of humility, but not its power; many possess it abroad, but oppose it at home; colourably they pretend it, but in truth they renounce it, in regard of grace they deny it. For there is one that humbleth himself wickedly and his inward parts are full of deceit. And there is one that submitteth himself exceedingly with a great lowliness.39 There is no true humility then but such as is without colour and pretence. Such humility is that which hath a pious sincerity of mind. Great is its virtue. Finally by one man's disobedience death entered,40 and by the obedience of our Lord Jesus Christ came the redemption of all.

19. Holy Joseph knew how to be abased, who, when he was sold into bondage by his brethren, and purchased by merchants, whose feet as the Scripture saith, 'they hurt in the stocks'41 learned the virtue of humility and laid aside all weakness. For when he was bought by the royal servant, officer of the household, the memory of his noble descent as one of the seed of Abraham did not cause him to disdain servile offices or scorn his mean condition. On the contrary he was diligent and faithful in his master's service, knowing in his prudence that it matters not in what station a man renders himself approved, but that the object of good men is to merit approbation in whatever station they are placed; and the point of importance is that their character should dignify their station rather than their station their character. In proportion as the station is low the merit becomes illustrious. And such attention |12 did Joseph exhibit that his lord entrusted to him his whole house, and committed to him all that he had.

20. And so his wife cast her eyes upon Joseph, captivated by the beauty of his form. Now we are not in fault, if either our age or our beauty becomes an object of desire to wanton eyes; let it be artless, and no blame attaches to beauty; if enticement be away, seemliness and grace of form is innocent. But this woman, fired with love, addresses the youth, and at the instigation of lust, overpowered by the force of passion confesses her crime. But he rejects the crime, saying that to defile another man's bed was consonant neither with the customs nor the laws of the Hebrews, whose care it was to protect modesty, and to provide chaste spouses for chaste virgins, avoiding all unlawful intercourse, And that it were an impious deed for him, intoxicated by impure passion, and regardless of his master's kindness, to inflict a deadly injury on one to whom he owed obedience.

21. Nor did he disdain to call the despised Egyptian his master, and to confess himself his servant. And when the woman courted him, urging him by the fear of betrayal, or shedding passionate tears to force his compliance, neither was he moved by compassion to consent to iniquity, nor constrained by fear, but he resisted her entreaties and yielded not to her threats, preferring a perilous virtue to rewards, and chastity to a disgraceful recompense. Again she assailed him with greater temptations, yet she found him inflexible, yea for the second time immoveable; yet her furious and shameless passion gave her strength, and she caught the youth by his robe and drew him to her couch, offering to embrace him, nay, she would have done so, had not Joseph put off his robe; he put it off, that he might not put off the robe of humility, the covering of modesty.

22. He then knew how to be abased, for he was degraded even to the dungeon; and thus unjustly treated, he chose rather to bear a false accusation than to bring the true one. He knew how to be abased, I say, for he was abased for virtue's sake. He was abased as a type of Him Who was to abase Himself even to death, the death of the cross, |13 Who was to come to raise our life from sleep, and to teach that our human life is but a dream: its vicissitudes reel past us as it were, with nothing in them firm or stable, but like men in a trance seeing we see not, hearing we hear not, eating we are not filled, congratulating we joy not, running we attain not. Vain are men's hopes in this world, idly pursuing the things that are not as though they were; and so, as in a dream, the empty forms of things come and go, appear and vanish; they hover around us, and we seem to grasp yet grasp them not. But when a man has heard Him that saith Awake, thou that sleepest,42 and rises up from the sleep of this world, then he perceives that all these things are false; he is now awake, and the dream is fled, and with it is fled ambition, and the care of wealth, and beauty of form, and the pursuit of honours. For these things are dreams which affect not those whose hearts wake, but affect only them that slumber.

23. And holy Joseph certifies this my assertion, that the things of this world are not perpetual or lasting, for he, noble by birth and with a rich inheritance, suddenly becomes a despised servant, and (what enhances the bitterness of servitude) a slave bought for a price by an unworthy master. For to serve the free is esteemed less disgraceful, but to be the servant of servants is a double slavery. Thus from being nobly born he became a slave, from having a wealthy father he became poor, from love he fell into hate, from favour into punishment. Again, he is raised from the prison to the court, from the bar to the judgement-seat. But he is neither depressed by adversity nor elated by prosperity.

24. The frequently changing condition of holy David also testifies how fleeting are the vicissitudes of life. He, overlooked by his father, but precious in the sight of God, exalted by his success, thrust down by envy, summoned to the service of the king and chosen to be his son-in-law, then again disguised in face and appearance, banished from the kingdom, flying from death at his own son's hands, weeping for his own offences, atoning for those of others, nobler in winning back the affection of the heir to his throne, than if he had disgraced him. Having thus tried |14 every condition he says well, It is good for me that I have been humbled.43

25. This sentence however might well also be referred to Him Who being in the form of God, and able to bow the heavens, yet came down, and taking upon Him the form of a servant, bore our infirmities.44 He, foreseeing that His saints would not think it a prize to claim the honour that belonged to them, but would give place to their equals and prefer others to themselves, said, It is good for me that I have been humbled; it is good for me that I have subjected myself, that all things may be subject unto me, and God may be all in all.45 Instil this humility into the minds of all, and shew yourself an example to all saying, Be ye followers of me, even as I am also of Christ.46

26. Let them learn to seek the wealth of good wishes, and to be rich in holiness; the beauty of wealth consists not in the possession of money-bags, but in the maintenance of the poor. It is in the sick and needy that riches shine most. Wherefore let the wealthy learn to seek not their own things, but the things of Jesus Christ, that Christ also may seek them, and recompense to them what is their own. He spent for them His blood, He pours forth on them His Spirit, He offers to them His kingdom. What more shall He give, Who gave Himself, or what shall not the Father give, Who delivered up His Only Son to die for our sakes? Admonish them therefore to serve the Lord soberly and with grace, to lift their eyes with all diligence to heaven, to count nothing gain but what appertains to eternal life; for all this worldly gain is the loss of souls. He who desired to win Christ, suffered the loss of all things,47 which saying, marvellous as it is, falls short of what he had received, for he speaks of external things only, whereas Christ hath said, If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself;48 let him lose himself so that Christ be gained. Fleeting are all things here, they bring loss and not gain; that only is gain, where enjoyment is perpetual, where eternal rest is our reward.

27. I commend to your care, my son, the Church which is at Forum Cornelii 49; Being nigh thereunto, visit it |15 frequently until a Bishop for it be ordained; I myself, engaged with the approaching season of Lent, cannot go to such a distance.

28. There you will find certain Illyrians imbued with the false doctrines of Arius; take heed of their tares, let them not come near the faithful, nor scatter their spurious seed. Let them remember what their perfidy has brought upon them 50, let them be quiet and follow the true faith. Difficult indeed it is for minds imbued with the poison of unbelief to rid themselves of this impiety, for it cleaves to them; and if the fatal venom has grown inveterate in them, you must not readily give them credence. For the very sinews and strength of wisdom lie in not giving credence too readily, especially in the matter of faith, which in men is seldom perfect.

20. Yet if any one, whose frailty is suspected and inclination dubious, desire nevertheless to clear himself of suspicion; suffer him to believe that he has made satisfaction, show him some indulgence, for if a man be cut off from reconciliation his mind is estranged. Thus skilful physicians, when they observe what they deem to be well-known diseases, do not apply a remedy, but wait their time, attending upon the sick man, and administering to him such soothing appliance as they can, to the intent that the disease may neither be aggravated by neglect or despair, nor may reject the medicine applied too early, for if an inexperienced physician touch it prematurely, it will never come to a head, just as even an apple, if shaken from the tree while yet unripe, soon withers.

30. Enjoin them too (as I have borrowed a figure from agriculture) to preserve inviolate the laws of common boundary, and to guard those paternal landmarks which the law protects.51 The affection of a neighbour often exceeds the love of a brother, for the one is often afar off, the other nigh at hand; the witness of your whole life, and judge of your conduct. Allow his cattle to stray at large over the neighbouring bounds, and to rest securely on the green herbage. |16 

31. Let the master too temper with moderation his lawful rule over his servants, seeing that in soul they are brethren. For he is called the father of the family, that he may govern them as sons; for he himself also is God's servant, and calls the Lord of heaven, the Source of all power, his Father.

Farewell; continue to love me, as I do you.

LETTER III. [A.D.380.]

THIS graceful little letter, written in a tone of playful affectionateness, is addressed to Felix, who was, as the next letter shews, Bishop of Comum. It tells its own story.


1. I HAVE received your present of mushrooms; they were of an extraordinary size, so large as to excite admiration. I did not like to keep them hidden, as the saying is, in my bosom, but preferred shewing them to others also. Therefore I gave part to my friends, part I reserved for myself.

2. An agreeable present, but not of weight enough to repress my just complaint against you for never visiting one who has so long loved you. And take heed lest you hereafter have to bear yet heavier fungus-growths52 of sorrow; for such things have a double signification; sent as gifts they are agreeable, in the body or the mind they are irksome. Prevail with yourself to cause me less sorrow by your absence, for my longing for you is the cause of my distress: make yourself, if you can, less necessary to me.

3. I have made my statement, proved my case. I am forced to assail you with that expression; no ordinary weapon, but one which will hit home 53. You certainly |17 shewed alarm; but see now that I am not so much grieved but that I can be playful about it. Hereafter however you must not excuse yourself, though your present excuse is to be a profitable one to me. Yet it were an ill judgment of you, and of me no better, to suppose that your absence is to be compensated by presents, or that I am to be bought off by them. Farewell: love me, as I do you.

LETTER IV. [A.D. 380.]

FELIX having replied to the preceding letter, S. Ambrose responds in the same affectionate style, rejoicing in the prospect of their meeting, asking meanwhile the prayers of Felix, and promising his own. He ends by praising Felix for 'fighting the good fight of faith,' and assures him of help and blessing.


1. ALTHOUGH not in a good state of bodily health, I derived no little alleviation from the perusal of words from a heart so congenial to my own, being refreshed by your discourse as by some soothing potion 54; and also by your announcement that the day memorable for us both was at hand, that whereon you took on yourself the office of the high-priesthood; of which I was just then speaking with my brother Bassianus 55. For having begun to speak of the dedication of the Church which he had built in the name of the Apostles, we were led to the subject, for he said that he earnestly desired the company of your Holiness.

2. Wherefore I introduced the mention of your birthday 56, as being on the first of November, and that it was (if I mistook not) close at hand, and to be celebrated on the following day, so that after that it would yield you no excuse. So I made a promise on your behalf; for you too have liberty to do the same as regards me: I made a promise to him, |18 and exacted one for myself: for I feel assured you will be present, because you ought to be. It will not therefore be so much my promise that will bind you, as your own purpose, having resolved to do that which you ought. You see then it was rather my knowledge of you, than any rash confidence which induced me to give this pledge to my brother. Come then, lest you put two bishops to shame; yourself for not coming, me for having promised unadvisedly.

3. But we will remember your birthday in our prayers, and do you not forget us in yours. Our spirit shall accompany you; do you also, when you enter the second Tabernacle, which is called the Holy of Holies, do as we do, and carry us also in with you.

When in spirit you burn incense on the golden censer, forget us not; for it is the one which is in the second Tabernacle, and from which your prayer, full of wisdom, is directed to heaven as incense.

4. There is the Ark of the Covenant overlaid round about with gold;57 that is, the doctrine of Christ, the doctrine of the Wisdom of God. There is the golden pot that had manna, the depository, namely, of spiritual nutriment, and the store-place of divine knowledge. There is the rod of Aaron, the symbol of priestly grace. Before, it had withered, but it budded again in Christ. There are the Cherubim over the tables of the Covenant, that is, the knowledge of the sacred Lessons. There is the Mercy-seat, over which on high is God the Word, the Image of the invisible God, Who says to thee, I will commune with thee from above the Mercy-seat, between the two Cherubim,58 for He speaks thus with us, that we may understand His saying, or because He speaks things not earthly but spiritual, as He saith, I will open My mouth in a parable.59 For where Christ is, there are all things, there is His doctrine, there the remission of sins, there grace, there the separation of the living and the dead.

5. Aaron indeed once stood in the midst, interposing himself to prevent death passing over to the hosts of the living from the carcases of the dead.60 But He, as the Word, ever stands within each of us, although we see Him not, and separates the faculties of our reason from the carcase of our deadly passions and pestilential thoughts. He standeth as |19 He Who came into the world to blunt the sting of death, to stop its devouring jaws, to give to the living an eternity of grace, to the dead a resurrection.

6. In His service you are warring a good warfare, His deposit you keep, His money you lend out at interest, as it is written, Thou shall lend unto many nations;61 the good interest of spiritual grace, which the Lord when He comes will exact with usury; and when He finds that you have dispensed it well, He will give you for few things, many things. Then shall I reap most delightful fruit, in that my judgment of you is approved; the ordination which you received by the imposition of my hands and the benediction in the Name of the Lord Jesus will not be blamed. Work therefore a good work, that in that day you may receive a reward, and we may rest together, I in you and you in me.

7. Plenteous is the harvest of Christ, but the labourers few,62 and helpers are difficult to be found. So it was of old, but the Lord is powerful, Who will send labourers into His harvest. Without doubt among the ranks of the people of Comum 63 very many have already begun to believe by your ministry, and through your teaching have received the word of God. But He Who gave those who believe will also give them that will help: whereby all occasion will be removed for excusing yourself for your postponed visit, and thus also the grace of your presence will be more frequently shed around me.

Farewell: continue to love us, as you do.





[To complete the character of S. Ambrose as shewn in his Letters, these will be printed at the end of the volume, but, on account of their subject, in the original Latin.] |20 

LETTER VII. [before 381 A.D.]

THE Justus to whom this letter and the following are addressed is in all probability S. Justus Bishop of Lyons, who is mentioned below as one of the Bishops who took part in the Council of Aquileia: that he was a Bishop is implied by S. Ambrose addressing him as 'brother.' The letter contains a mystical interpretation of the half-shekel of redemption, (Exodus xxx. 12. sqq.) and of the didrachma and stater of our Lord's miracle of the piece of money in the fish's mouth, and of the penny of the tribute money. The date given in the margin depends on the truth of the hypothesis that Justus is the Bishop of Lyons. Of him it is recorded that he did not return to his See after the Council of Aquileia, but became a monk in the deserts of Egypt. See Newman's Fleury vol. 1 p. 25.


YOUR question, my brother, as to the meaning of that shekel, half of which the Hebrew is commanded to offer for the redemption of the soul, is an excellent admonition to us to direct our intercourse by letter and our converse while at a distance to the interpretation of the heavenly oracles. For what can more unite us than, to converse concerning the things of God?

2. Now the half of the shekel is a piece of silver, and the redemption of the soul is faith; faith therefore is that piece of silver which the woman in the Gospel, as we read, having lost, diligently seeks for, lighting a candle and sweeping the house; and when she finds it, she calls together her friends and neighbours, bidding them rejoice with her for that she has found the piece of silver which, she had lost.64 For great is the loss of the soul, if a man lose his faith, or that grace which by means of faith he had obtained to himself. Do thou therefore light thy candle. Thy light is thine eye;65 that is, the inward eye of the mind. Do thou light this candle, which is fed by spiritual oil, and gives light to thy whole house. Seek that piece of silver, the redemption of thy soul, which he that loses is troubled, he that finds rejoices.

3. Mercy too is the redemption of the soul; for the redemption of a man's soul are his riches, by which he shews mercy, and expending them, relieves the poor.66 Wherefore |21 faith, grace, and mercy, are the redemption of the soul, which is purchased by a piece of silver, that is, by the full price of a larger sum. For thus it is written in the words of the Lord to Moses: When thou takest the sum of the children of Israel after their number, then shall they give every man a ransom for his soul unto the Lord, when thou numberest them; that there be no plague among them when thou numberest them. This they shall give, every one that passeth among them that are numbered, half a shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary: (a shekel is twenty gerahs:) an half shekel shall be the offering of the Lord. Every one that passeth among them that are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering unto the Lord. The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, whcn they give an offering unto the Lord to make an atonement for your souls. And thou shalt take the atonement money of the children of Israel and thou shall appoint it for the service of the Tabernacle of the congregation, that it may be a memorial unto the children of Israel before the Lord, to make an atonement for your souls.67

4. Did then both the rich man who offered more, and the poor who had less, fail so much, if this half shekel consisted in money and had not hidden excellencies? Whence we are to understand that this half shekel is not material but spiritual, having to be paid by all and rated equally.

5. Again as to heavenly food (for the food and delight of heavenly nutriment is wisdom, whereon they feed in Paradise, the unfailing food of the soul, called in the Divine Word manna) the distribution of this was, we read, so made to each soul as to be equally divided. For they who gathered most and they who gathered least, all gathered according to the direction of Moses; and they made an omer the measure, and it did not exceed to him who gathered much nor fall short to him who gathered little. For each man, according to the number of souls who were with him in the tent, gathered for each an omer, that is, being interpreted, a measure of wine.68

6. Now this is the measure of wisdom, which if it be above measure is hurtful, as it is written, Make not thyself over-wise.69 And Paul has taught that the division of grace |22 is according to measure, saying, The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal, to one is given the word of wisdom, to another the word of knowledge, [to another the faith of wisdom by the spirit of knowledge] 70 by the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit,71 and that this grace is given according to the will of the Spirit. In that He divides, He shews His equity, in that He divides as He will, His power. Or He may will to bestow that upon each which He knows will be profitable.

7. An omer then is a measure, and a measure of wine, which maketh glad the heart of man.72 For what is the joy of the heart but the draughts of wisdom? This is that wine which Wisdom hath mingled in a cup, and given us to drink,73 that we may receive to ourselves temperance and prudence, that wine which should be so equally transfused through all the senses and thoughts and all the emotions which are within this our house, that we may know how to abound to all and to be wanting to none.

8. More fully also it may be understood of the Blood of Christ, to Whose grace nothing can be added nor taken away. Whether you take little or drink much, to all the measure of Redemption is perfect.

9. The Passover too of the Lord,74 that is, the lamb, the fathers are ordered so to eat, that it might be according to the number of their souls, neither more nor less; that more should not be given to some, and less to others, but that it should be according to the number of their souls, lest the stronger should take more and the weaker less. For the grace, the gift, the redemption is distributed equally to all. And there ought not to be too many, lest any go away defrauded of his hope and redemption. Now there are too many, when any are beyond the number, for the saints are all numbered, and the hairs of their heads; for the Lord knoweth them that are His.75 Neither can there be too few, lest any be too weak to receive the greatness of the grace.

10. Wherefore He hath commanded all to bring an equal faith and devotion to the Pasch of the Lord, that is, to the Passover. For it is the Pasch, when the mind lays down its senseless passion, and puts on good compassion, that |23 it may suffer together with Christ, and take His Passover into itself, so as that He may dwell in it, and walk in it, and may become its God.76 Thus grace is equal in all, but virtue is diverse in each. Let each then take that portion which fits his strength, that neither the stronger may lack nor the weaker be burthened.

11. This you have in the Gospel; for the same wages are paid to all the labourers in the vineyard;77 but few attain to the prize, to the reward; few say, There is laid up for me a crown of righteousness.78 For the gift of bounty and of grace is one thing; another the wages of virtue, the recompense of labour.

12. Therefore a shekel is our ransom, nay half a shekel. He has redeemed us from death, redeemed from slavery, that we may not be subject to the world, which we have renounced. Whence in the Gospel our Lord bids Peter go to the sea, and cast an hook, and take the stater which he will find in the fish's mouth, and give it to them79 who required of the Lord and of himself a shekel. This then is that shekel which was exacted by the Law, nevertheless it was not due from the King's Son, but from strangers. For why should Christ ransom Himself from this world, when He came to take away the sin of the world? 80 Why should He redeem Himself from sin, Who came down that He might remit to all their sins? Why should He redeem Himself from servitude, Who emptied Himself 81 that He might give liberty to all? Why should He redeem Himself from death, Who took flesh, that by His Death He might obtain for all a resurrection?

13. Truly the Redeemer of all had no need of a redemption; but as He received circumcision that He might fulfil the Law, and came to be baptized that He might fulfil righteousness,82 so also did He not refuse to pay those who required of Him the shekel, but straightway commanded the stater to be given as the tribute for Himself and Peter. For He chose rather to give beyond the Law than to deny the Law's due. At the same time He shews that the Jews acted contrary to the Law, in exacting a shekel from one person, whereas Moses had ordained that half a shekel should be required. On this account He commanded as |24 it were single pieces to be paid both for Himself and for Peter in the stater. Good is the tribute of Christ, which is paid by the stater, for justice is the balance 83, and justice is above the Law. Again, Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.84 This stater is found in the fish's mouth, of that fish which the fishers of men take, of that fish who weighs his words that they may be tried by the fire before they are uttered.85

14. This stater the Jews knew not, giving Him up to the betrayer. But the Law exacts half a shekel for the redemption of a soul, and devotes it to God, for she cannot claim the whole. For in the Jew scarcely a portion of devotion could be found. But he who is free indeed, a true Hebrew, belongs wholly to God, all that he has savours of liberty. He has nothing in common with him who refuses liberty, saying, I love my master, my wife, and my children, I will not go out free! 86 Which refers not only to his lord, but to the weakness of that man who shall have subjected himself to the world, in that he loves the world as his own soul, that is, his intelligence, the author of his will. Nor does it refer only to his wife, but also to that delight which cares for household not eternal things. This man's ear therefore his lord nails to his door or threshold, that he may remember these words whereby he chose servitude.

15. This man therefore, O Christian, imitate not; for thou art not commanded to offer half a shekel, but, if thou wouldest be perfect, to sell all thou hast, and give to the poor.87 Thou art not to reserve a part of thy service for the world, but to deny thyself altogether, and to take up thy Lord's cross and follow Him.

16. Now we have learned that the half-shekel was required by the Law, because the other half was reserved for the generation of this world, that is, for secular life, and domestic use, and for posterity, to whom it was necessary that a portion out of the original inheritance should be transmitted. Wherefore our Lord answered the Pharisees, when they tempted Him by the crafty question whether He would advise that tribute should be paid to Caesar, Why tempt ye Me, ye hypocrites, shew Me the tribute money.88 |25 And they brought Him a penny on which was Caesar's image. He saith to them, Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's; shewing that they who thought themselves perfect were imperfect in that they paid to Caesar before God. They with whom the world was their first care would first pay that which appertained to the world; wherefore He says Render, that is, render ye, the things which are Caesar's----ye, among whom the image and likeness of Caesar is found.

17. Wherefore those Hebrew youths, Ananias, Azarias, Misael, and that wiser Daniel, who would not worship the image of the king, who received it not, nor any thing from the king's table, were not bound to pay tribute. For they possessed nothing that was under the power of an earthly king.89 And so their followers, they whose portion is God, pay no tribute. And so the Lord says, Render, that is, Do ye render, who have brought forth the image of Caesar, with whom it is found, but I owe nothing to Caesar, because I have nothing in this world. The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me.90 Peter owes nothing, nor the Apostles, because they are not of this world though they are in this world. I have sent them into this world, but now they are not of this world, because with Me they are above the world.91

18. So that which belongs to the Divine Law, not to Caesar, is that which is commanded to be paid. Yet even this He that was perfect, that is, the preacher of the Gospel, no longer owed, for He had preached more. The Son of God owed it not, nor did Peter who was by grace an adopted son of the Father. Notwithstanding, says He, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast a hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up, and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money, that take, and give unto them for Me and thee.92 O great mystery! He gives that half-shekel which the Law commanded, He refuses not what is of the Law, for He was made of a woman, made under the Law.93 'Made,' I say, as regards His incarnation; 'of a woman,' as regards the sex; woman is the sex, virgin the species; the sex relates to her nature, the virgin to her integrity. For wherein He came under the |26 Law, therein He was made of a woman, that is, in the body. On this account He commands a shekel to be paid for Him and Peter, for both were born under the Law. He commands it to be paid then according to the Law, that He might redeem those who are under the Law.

19. And yet He commands a stater to be paid that they might have their mouths closed, and so not commit sin by excess of talking. And He bids that to be given which was found in the mouth of the fish, that they might acknowledge the Word. For why was it that they who exacted what was of the Law, knew not what was the Law? For they ought not to have been ignorant of the Word of God; for it is written, The Word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart.94 He therefore paid the whole shekel to God, who reserved no part for the world. For it is to God that righteousness, which is the moderation of the mind, is paid; to God is paid the keeping of the tongue, which is the moderation in speech. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.95

20. The half-shekel may also be understood of the Old Testament, the whole shekel for the price of both Testaments, for according to the Law every one was redeemed by the Law, but he who is redeemed according to the Gospel, pays the half-shekel according to the Law, he is redeemed by the Blood of Christ according to grace, having a double redemption both of devotion and of Blood. For not even faith alone is sufficient for perfection, unless the redeemed also obtain the grace of Baptism, and receive the Blood of Christ. Good then is that half-shekel which is paid to God.

21. The half-shekel is not a penny96, but is different. Again, in the penny is the image of Caesar, in the half-shekel the image of God, for it is of one God, and formed after God Himself. Beginning from One it is infinitely diffused, and again, from the Infinite all things come back to one, as their end, for God is both the beginning and the end of all things. Wherefore arithmeticians have not called 'one' a number, but an element of number. And this we have said because it is written, I am Alpha and |27 Omega, the beginning and the ending;97 and, Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is One Lord.98

22. Be thou then, after the likeness of God, one and the same; not sober to-day, drunken to-morrow; to-day pacific, to-morrow quarrelsome; to-day frugal, to-morrow immoderate; for each person is changed by diversity of manners and becomes another man, in whom that which he was is not recognized, while he begins to be that which he was not, degenerate from himself. It is a grievous thing to be changed for the worse. Be then as the image on the half-shekel, immutable, keeping daily the same deportment. Seeing the half-shekel, observe the image, that is, seeing the Law, observe in the Law Christ the Image of God; for He is the Image of the invisible and incorruptible God; let Him be displayed before thee as in the mirror of the Law. Confess Him in the Law, that thou mayest know Him again in the Gospel. If thou hast known Him in His precepts, acknowledge Him in works. Farewell, and if you do not think that this shekel has been committed to me unprofitably, doubt not to commit to me a second time whatever you may have to communicate.


S. AMBROSE in this letter answers the objections raised against the Scriptures, that they were not written according to the rules of art, and illustrates his argument with various passages.


1. VERY many deny that the Sacred writers wrote according to the rules of art. Nor do we contend for the contrary; for they wrote not according to art, but according to grace, which is above all art; for they wrote that which the Spirit gave them to speak.99 And yet they who wrote on art made use of their writings from which to frame their art, and to compose its comments and rules.

2. Again, in art there are principally required, a cause, |28 a subject, and an end. When then we read that holy Isaac said to his father, Behold the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering,100 which of these is wanting? For he who asks, doubts, he who answers the query pronounces and solves the doubt. Behold the fire, that is the cause, and the wood, that is u#lh, which in Latin is 'materia,' what third thing remains but the end, which the son asked for, saying, Where is the lamb for a burnt-offering, and the father replied, My son, God will provide Himself a lamb for a burnt offering? 101

3. Let us discuss for a little while the mystery. God shewed a ram hanging by his horns. Now the ram is the Word, full of tranquillity, moderation, and patience; whereby is shewn that Wisdom is a good sacrifice, and that He was well skilled in the mode of meritorious propitiation. Wherefore the Prophet also says, Offer the sacrifice of righteousness.102 And so it is a sacrifice both of righteousness and of wisdom.

4. Here then is a mind fervent and glowing as fire which worketh; here is the thing to be understood, that is the subject-matter, where is the third, the understanding? Behold the colour, where is the seeing? behold the object of sense, where is the sense itself? For matter is not seen by all, and therefore God gives the gift of understanding, and feeling, and seeing.

5. The Word of God then is the end or completion; that is, the determination and completion of the discussion, which is communicated to the more prudent, and confirms things doubtful. Well do even they who believed not in the Coming of Christ refute themselves, so that they confess what they think to deny. For they say that the ram is the Word of God, and yet believe not the mystery of the Passion, whereas in that mystery is the Word of God, in Whom the Sacrifice was fulfilled.

6. Wherefore let us first kindle within us the fire of the mind, that it may work within us. Let us seek for the subject-matter, what it is that nourishes the mind, as if we were looking for it in darkness. For neither did the Fathers know what manna was: they found manna, it is said, declaring it to be the Discourse and word of God,103 from Whom |29 all instruction as from a perennial fountain flows and is derived.

7. This is that heavenly food. And it is signified by the Person of the Speaker, Behold I will rain bread from heaven for you.104 The 'cause' then we have in the operation of God, Who waters our minds with the dew of wisdom; the 'subject-matter' we have in that the minds which see and taste it are delighted, and inquire whence comes this which is brighter than light, sweeter than honey. They have their answer from the text of Scripture: This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat;105 and this is the Word of God, Which God appointed and ordained, whereby the minds of the prudent are fed and comforted, which is white and sweet, enlightening the minds of the hearers with the splendour of truth, and soothing them with the sweetness of virtue.

8. The Prophet had learned in himself what was the 'cause' of the thing to be completed. For when he was sent to the king of Egypt to deliver the people of God, he says, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and deliver my people from the king's power? the Lord answers, I will be with thee. Moses asked again, What shall I say unto them, if they ask, Who is the Lord that hath sent thee, and what is His Name? The Lord said, I am that I am, thou shalt say, I AM hath sent me unto you.106 This is the true Name of God----Eternity. Wherefore the Apostle also says of Christ, For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, Who was preached among you by us, by me and Silvanus and Timotheus, was not Yea and Nay, but in Him was Yea.107 Moses answered, But behold they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice, for they will say, The Lord hath not appeared unto thee.108 Then He gave him power to work miracles, that it might be believed that he was sent by God, A third time Moses says, I am not eloquent, but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue; how shall Pharaoh hear me? 109 the Lord answers, Go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.110

9. These intermingled questions and answers contain the seeds and science of wisdom. The 'end' or 'completion' too is good, for He says, I will be with thee! And although |30 He had given him power to work miracles, yet as he was still doubtful, that we might know that signs are for them that believe not, but the promise for believers, the weakness of his deserts or of his purpose receives this answer, I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say! 111 Thus a perfect 'end' is preserved.

10. This you have also in the Gospel, Ask, and it shall be given you, seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.112 Ask from the 'cause,' that is, from the Author. You have as your subject-matter things spiritual which cause you to seek; knock, and God the Word opens to you. That which asks is the mind, which works like fire; it is in things spiritual that the glow of the mind works, as fire on wood; God the Word opens unto you, this is the 'end.' We have also in another part of the Gospel these words of our Lord, But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak, for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.113

11. These words too of Isaac you have in Genesis, How is it that thou hast found it so quickly, my son? And he said, Because the Lord thy God brought it to me.114 The Lord is the end. He who seeks in the Lord finds. And thus Laban who sought not in the Lord, for he sought idols, found not.115

12. And he has well observed the rules 116 and distinctions as they are called. The first is Go and take me some venison, that I may eat.117 He excites and inflames his mind with the fire, as it were, of his exhortation, that he may labour and seek. The second is, How is it that thou hast found it so quickly? This is in the form of a question; the third is an answer, Because the Lord thy God brought it to me. The 'end' is God, Who concludes and perfects all things, of Whom we are not to doubt.

13. And there is a 'distinction' too as to spontaneous things; If you sow not, you shall not reap 118; for although culture calls forth seeds, yet nature by a certain spontaneous impulse, worketh in them that they spring up. |31 

14. Wherefore the Apostle says, I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth, but God That giveth the increase!119 God gives to you in the spirit, and the Lord sows in your heart. Take care then that He breathe life and sow in you, that you may reap; for if you sow not, neither shall you reap. This is a sort of admonition to you to sow. If you sow not you shall not reap, is a proverb. The end agrees with the beginning; the seed is the beginning, the harvest the end.

15. Learn, he says, of me; nature aids the learner, and God is the Author of nature. It is of God too that we learn well, for it is a natural gift to learn well; the hard of heart learn not. Nature, which is preserved by the Divine bounty, gives the increase. The final consummation God giveth, that is, the most excellent and Divine Nature and Essence of the Trinity.

Farewell: love us, as you do, for we love you.


THE official Record of the Proceeding's of this Council seems to be inserted among S. Ambrose's Letters, partly because S. Ambrose took the leading part in them, and partly because they form the subject of the next series of letters, directly of the four first, and more indirectly of the two next, all of which, though written in the name of the Bishops of Italy, we may presume to have been S. Ambrose's composition. The Council was held in the year 381 A.D., the same year in which the Second General Council was held at Constantinople. It will be remembered that that Council, being summoned by Theodosius, then Emperor of the East, consisted of Eastern Bishops only. At this time Arianism, though rife in the East, seems not to have been prevalent in the West. S. Ambrose says, (Letter xi. 1) 'as regards the West, two individuals only have been found to dare to oppose the Council with profane and impious words, men who had previously disturbed a mere corner of Dacia Ripensis.' These two men were Palladius and Secundianus. Palladius appears to have applied to Gratian to call a General Council, on the plea that he was falsely accused of Arianism, in 379 A.D. Gratian granted his request, but afterwards, as we learn from his letter read at the Council, on the representation of S. Ambrose that such a question as the soundness or heresy of two Bishops might be settled by a Council of the Bishops of the Diocese of Italy, he so far altered his original order |32 as to summon only these, giving permission for others to attend if they pleased. This reconsideration, and perhaps also the troubles that prevailed in the Empire at the time, (Tillemont Vie de S. Ambr. ch. xxiii.) caused such delay that it was not till towards the end of 381 A.D. that the Council assembled under the presidency of S. Valerian Bishop of Aquileia. The Bishops of Italy, with deputies from Gaul, Africa, and Illyria, to the number of thirty two or thirty three (see note r) met at Aquileia at the beginning of September. The discussion recorded in the 'Gesta' took place probably on Septr. 3rd (see note a) but S. Ambrose's words in § 2 imply that previous discussions had been held of which no Record had been taken, (diu citra acta tractavimus.)

The proceedings commence by the reading of the Emperor's Mandate. Palladius then raises objections on the ground of the absence of the Bishops from the East, and charges S. Ambrose with having tricked the Emperor into summoning only a small Council, and declines to take part in a Council which is not General. After some discussion on this point S. Ambrose proposes that Arius' letter from Nicomedia to S. Alexander should be read in detail, and Palladius called upon to condemn each heretical proposition. Palladius argues upon each, but eventually returns to his refusal to answer except in a General Council. In the end all the Bishops pronounce their decisions one by one, all agreeing that Palladius' doctrine was heretical and that he should be deposed. Secundianus is then more briefly dealt with in the same way. It would seem that the Record is incomplete, as the number of Bishops who give their decision is only 25, and the account of Secundianus' case ends abruptly without recording any decision. It may he from the same cause that the Record itself is in one or two places seemingly defective, and the sense confused.

Secundianus is not mentioned again in History. Of Palladius it is said by Vigilius, Bishop of Thapsus in Africa, who lived in the latter part of the 5th Century, that after S. Ambrose's death he wrote a reply to his writings against Arianism, which Vigilius himself answered (Tillemont Vie de S. Ambr. xxvi).

The genuineness of the Gesta has been disputed by Père Chifflet, who maintained that they were a forgery of the Vigilius mentioned above: his arguments however are satisfactorily refuted by Tillemont in an elaborate note. (Vol. x. p. 738. note 15. on S. Ambr. Life.)


2. ' We have long been dealing with the matter without any Records 122, and now, since our ears are assailed with such sacrilegious words on the part of Palladius and Secundianus, that one can scarce believe that they could have so openly blasphemed, and that they may not attempt hereafter by any subtlety to deny their own words, though the testimony of such eminent Bishops does not admit of doubt, still as it is the pleasure of all the Bishops, let Records be made, that no one may be able to deny his own profession. Do you therefore, holy men, declare what is your pleasure.'

All the Bishops said, 'It is our pleasure.'

Ambrose, Bishop, said, 'Our discussions must be confirmed by the Emperor's Letter, as the subject requires, so that they may be quoted.'

3. The Letter is read by Sabinianus a Deacon;

"Desirous to make our earliest efforts to prevent dissension among Bishops from uncertainty what doctrines they should reverence, we had ordered the Bishops to come together into the city of Aquileia, out of the diocese 123 which |34 has been confided to the merits of your Excellency. For controversies of dubious import could not be better disentangled than by our constituting the Bishops themselves expounders of the dispute that has arisen, so that the same persons from whom come forth the instructions of doctrine may solve the contradictions of discordant teaching.

4. "Nor is our present order different from our last: we do not alter the tenour of our command, but we correct the superfluous numbers that would have assembled. For as Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, eminent both for the merits of his life and the favour of God, suggests that there is no occasion for numbers in a case in which the truth, though in the hands of a few supporters, would not suffer from many antagonists, and that he and the Bishops of the adjoining cities of Italy would be more than sufficient to meet the assertions of the opposite party, we have judged it right to refrain from troubling venerable men by bringing into strange lands any one who was either loaded with years, or disabled with bodily weakness, or in the slender circumstances of honourable poverty;124 etc."

5. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; 'This is what a Christian Emperor has ordained. He has not thought fit to do an injury to the Bishops: he has constituted the Bishops themselves Judges. And therefore since we sit together in a Council of Bishops, answer to what is proposed to you. Arius's letter has been read: it shall be recited now again, if you think proper. It contains blasphemies from the beginning; it says that the Father alone is eternal. If you think that the Son of God is not everlasting, support this doctrine in what manner you please: if you think it is a doctrine to be condemned, condemn it. Here is the Gospel, and the Apostle 125: all the Scriptures are at hand. Support it from what quarter you please, if you think that the Son of God is not everlasting.' |35 

6. PALLADIUS said: 'You have contrived, as appears by the sacred document 126 which you have brought forward, that this should not be a full and General Council: in the absence of our Colleagues we cannot answer.'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'Who are your colleagues?'

Palladius said; 'The Eastern Bishops.'

7. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; 'Inasmuch as in former times the usage of Councils has been that the Eastern Bishops should be appointed to hold them in the East, and the Western Bishops in the West, we, having our place in the West, are come together to the city of Aquileia according to the Emperor's command. Moreover, the Prefect of Italy has issued letters, that if the Eastern Bishops chose to meet, they should be allowed to do so; but inasmuch as they know that the custom is that the Council of the Eastern Bishops should be in the East and of the Western in the West, they have therefore thought fit not to come.'

8. PALLADIUS said; 'Our Emperor Gratian commanded the Eastern Bishops to come: do you deny that he did so? the Emperor himself told us that he had commanded the Eastern Bishops to come.'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'He certainly commanded them, in that he did not forbid them to come hither.'

Palladius said; 'But your prayer has prevented their coming: under a pretence of benevolence you have obtained this, and so put the Council off.'

9. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; 'There is no occasion to wander any longer from the subject: answer now. Did Arius say rightly that the Father alone is eternal? and did he say this in agreement with the Scriptures or not?'

Palladius said; 'I do not answer you.'

Constantius, Bishop, said; ' Do not you answer when you have so long blasphemed?'

Eusebius, Bishop, said; 'But you are under an obligation to express frankly the faith you claim the right to hold. If a heathen were to ask of you in what way you believe in Christ, you would be bound not to be ashamed to confess.'

10. SABINUS, Bishop, said; 'It was your own request that we would answer: we are come together this day |36 according to your wish, and upon your own solicitation, and we have not waited for our other brethren, who might have come. It is therefore not open to you to wander from the subject. Do you say that Christ was created? or do you say that the Son of God is everlasting?'

Palladius said; ' I have told you already: we said we would come and prove that you have not done well to take advantage of the Emperor.'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'Let Palladius's letter be read to shew whether he sent us this message, and it will appear that even now he is deceiving.'

Palladius said; 'Let it be read by all means.'

The Bishops said: 'When you saw the Emperor at Sirmium, did you address him, or was it he that pressed you?' And they added: 'What do you answer to this?'

Palladius answered; 'He said to me, "Go." We said: "Are the Eastern Bishops summoned to attend?" He said, "They are." Should we have come if the Eastern Bishops had not been summoned?'

11. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; 'Let the matter of the Eastern Bishops stand over. I enquire at present into your sentiments. Arius's letter has been read to you: you are in the habit of denying that you are an Arian. Either condemn Arius now, or defend him.'

Palladius said; 'It is not within the compass of your authority to ask this of me.'

Eusebius, Bishop, said; 'We do not believe that the religious Emperor said other than he wrote. He has ordered the Bishops to meet: it is impossible that he said to you and no one else contrary to his own letter, that the case was not to be discussed without the presence of the Eastern Bishops.'

Palladius said; 'He did, if the Italian Bishops alone were ordered to assemble.'

Evagrius, Presbyter and deputy, said; 127 [It is plain] 'that he promised to appear within four and even within two days. What then were you waiting for? was it, as you say, that you considered the opinion of your colleagues, the |37 Eastern Bishops was to be waited for? Then you ought to have said so in your message, and not to have pledged yourself to discussion.'

Palladius said; 'I had come, believing it to be a General Council, but I saw that my colleagues had not assembled. I decided however 128 to come, in accordance with the summons, to bid you to do nothing to the prejudice of a future Council.'

12. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; 'You yourself required that we should sit to-day, moreover, even this very day you have said yourself 'we come as Christians to Christians.' You have therefore acknowledged us for Christians. You promised that you would engage in discussion: you promised that you would either assign your own reasons or accept ours. We therefore willingly accepted your opening, we wished that you should come as a Christian. I offered you the letter of Arius, which that Arius wrote, from whose name you say that you often suffer wrong. You say that you do not follow Arius. To-day your sentiments must be made clear; either condemn him, or support him by whatever passage you will.'

He went on; 'Then according to Arius's letter Christ the Son of God is not everlasting?'

Palladius said; 'We said that we would prove ourselves Christians, but in a full Council. We do not answer you at all to the prejudice of a future Council.'

Eusebius, Bishop, said; 'You ought to state your profession of faith straightforwardly.'

Palladius said; 'And what do we reserve for the Council?'

13. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; 'He has been unanimously condemned who denies the Eternity of the Son of God. Arius denied it, Palladius, who will not condemn Arius, follows him. Consider then, whether his opinion is approved of; it is easy to perceive whether he speaks according to the Scriptures, or against the Scriptures. For we read: God's eternal Power and Godhead.129 Christ is the Power of God. If then the Power of God is everlasting, Christ surely is everlasting; for Christ is the Power of God' 130 |38 

Eusebius, Bishop, said; ' This is our faith: this is the Catholic doctrine; who says not this, let him be anathema.' All the Bishops said; 'Anathema.'

14. EUSEBIUS, Bishop, said; 'He says specifically that the Father alone is everlasting, and that the Son at some time began to be.'

Palladius said; 'I have neither seen Arius, nor do I know who he is.'

Eusebius, Bishop, said; ' The blasphemy of Arius has been produced, in which he denies that the Son of God is everlasting. Do you condemn this wickedness and its author, or do you support it?'

Palladius said; 'When there is not the authority of a full Council, I do not speak.'

15. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; 'Do you hesitate after the divine judgements to condemn Arius, when he has burst asunder in the midst?' 131 and he added; 'Let the holy men too, the deputies of the Gauls, speak.'

Constantius, Bishop and deputy of the Gauls, said; 'This impiety of that man we always have condemned, and we now condemn not only Arius, but also whoever does not say that the Son of God is everlasting.'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'What says also my Lord Justus?'

Justus, Bishop and deputy of the Gauls, said; 'He who does not confess that the Son of God is co-eternal with the Father, let him be accounted Anathema.'

All the Bishops said; 'Anathema.'

16. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; 'Let the deputies of the Africans speak too, who have brought hither the sentiments of all their countrymen.'

Felix, Bishop and deputy, said; ' If any man denies that the Son of God is everlasting, and that He is co-eternal with the Father, not only do I the deputy of the whole province of Africa condemn him, but also the whole priestly company, which sent me to this most holy assembly, has itself also already condemned him.'

Anemius, Bishop, said; 'There is no capital of Illyricum 132 |39 but Sirmium: I am its Bishop. The person who does not confess the Son of God to be eternal and co-eternal with the Father, that is, everlasting, I call anathema; and I also say anathema to those who do not make the same confession.'

17. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; 'Hear what follows.' Then it was read; "Alone eternal, alone without beginning, alone true, Who alone has immortality."

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'In this also condemn him who denies that the Son is very God. For since He Himself is the Truth, how is He not very God?' And he added; 'What say you to this?'

Palladius said; 'Who denies that He is very Son?' Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'Arius denied it.' Palladius said; ' When the Apostle says that Christ is God over all, can any one deny that He is the very Son of God?'

18. Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'That you may see with how much simplicity we seek the truth, lo, I say as you say: but I have then only half the truth. For by speaking thus, you appear to deny that He is very God; if however you confess simply that the Son of God is very God, state it in the order in which I propose it to you.'

Palladius said; 'I speak to you according to the Scriptures: I call the Lord the very Son of God.'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'Do you call the Son of God very Lord?'

Palladius said; 'When I call Him very Son, what more is wanted?'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'I do not ask only that you |40 should call Him very Son, but that you should call the Son of God very Lord.'

19. EUSEBIUS, Bishop, said; 'Is Christ very God, according to the faith of all and to the Catholic profession?'

Palladius said; 'He is the very Son of God.'

Eusebius, Bishop, said; 'We also are by adoption sons; He is Son according to the property of His Divine Generation.' And he added; 'Do you confess that the very Son of God is very Lord by His Birth and essentially?'

Palladius said; 'I call Him the very Son of God, only-begotten.'

Eusebius, Bishop, said; 'Do you then think it is against the Scriptures, for Christ to be called very God?'

20. PALLADIUS being silent, Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'He who says only that he is the very Son of God, and will not say that He is very Lord, appears to deny it. Let Palladius then, if he does confess it, confess it in this order, and let him say whether he calls the Son of God very Lord.'

Palladius said; 'When the Son says, That they might know Thee the only true God and Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent,133 is it by way of feeling only, or in truth?'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'John said in his epistle; This is the true God.134 Deny this.'

Palladius said; 'When I tell you that He is true Son, I acknowledge also a true Godhead.'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'In this also there is evasion; for you art wont to speak of one only and true Godhead in such manner as to say that it is the divinity of the Father only, and not that of the Son also, which is one only and true. If then you wish to speak plainly, as you refer me to the Scriptures, say what the Evangelist John said; This is the true God, or deny that he hath said it.'

Palladius said; 'Besides the Son there is none other that is begotten.'

21. EUSEBIUS, Bishop, said; 'Is Christ very God, according to the faith of all and to the Catholic profession, or in your opinion is He not very God?'

Palladius said; 'He is the Power of our God.'

Ambrose, Bishop said; 'You do not speak frankly; and |41 so anathema to him who does not confess that the Son of God is very Lord.'

All the Bishops said; ' Let him be accounted anathema, who will not call Christ, the Son of God, very Lord.'

22. The reader continued; "Alone true, Who alone hath immortality."

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ' Has the Son of God immortality, or has He it not, in respect of His Godhead?'

Palladius said; 'Do you accept or no the words of the Apostle, The King of kings Who alone hath immortality?'  135

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'What say you of Christ the Son of God?'

Palladius said; 'Is Christ a divine Name or a human?'

23. EUSEBIUS, Bishop, said; 'He is called Christ indeed according to the mystery of His Incarnation, but He is both God and Man.'

Palladius said; 'Christ is a name of the flesh: Christ is a man's name: do you answer me.'

Eusebius, Bishop, said; 'Why do you dwell upon useless topics? When Arms' impious words were read, who says of the Father that He alone hath immortality, you cited a testimony in confirmation of Arius' impiety, quoting from the Apostle, Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto. But if you understand it, he has expressed by the Name of God the dignity of the whole Nature, inasmuch as in the Name of God, both Father and Son are signified.'

Palladius said; 'You also have not chosen to answer what I have asked.'

24. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; 'I ask you to give your opinion plainly, has the Son of God immortality according to His divine generation, or has He not?'

Palladius said; 'In respect of His divine generation He is incorruptible; and by means of His Incarnation He died.'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'His divinity died not, but His flesh died.'

Palladius said; 'Do you answer me first.'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ' Has the Son of God immortality in respect of His Godhead or has He it not? But have you not even now betrayed your fraudulent and insidious |42 meaning according to Arms' profession?' and he added; 'He who denies that the Son of God has immortality, what think you of him?' All the Bishops said; 'Let him be accounted anathema.'

25. PALLADIUS said; 'A divine offspring is immortal.' 

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'This also have you said evasively, to avoid expressing anything clearly about the Son of God. I say to you, the Son hath immortality in respect of His Godhead, or do you deny it and say that He has not.'

Palladius said; 'Did Christ die or not?'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ' In respect of the flesh He did: our soul does not die: for it is written, Fear not them who kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul;136 seeing then that our soul cannot die, do you think Christ died in respect of His Godhead?'

Palladius said; ' Why do you shrink from the name of death?'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'Nay, I do not shrink from it, but I confess it in respect of my flesh: for there is One by Whom I arn released from the chains of death.'

Palladius said; 'Death is caused by separation of the spirit (from the flesh), for Christ the Son of God took upon Him flesh, and by means of flesh he died.'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'It is written that Christ suffered: He suffered then in respect of His flesh: in respect of His Godhead He has immortality. He who denies this, is a devil.'

Palladius said; 'I know not Arius.'

26. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; 'Then Arius said ill, since the Son of God also has immortality in respect of his Godhead.' And he added, 'Did he then say well or ill?'

Palladius said; 'I do not agree.'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'With whom do not you agree? Anathema to him, who does not frankly unfold his faith.'

All the Bishops said; 'Anathema.'

Palladius said; ' Say what you please; His Godhead is immortal.'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'Whose? the Father's or the Son5s?' And he added: 'Arius heaped together many impieties. But let us pass to other points.' |43 

27. Then was recited; "Alone wise."

Palladius said; 'The Father is wise of himself, but the Son is not wise.'

Ambrose, Bishop said; 'Is then the Son not wise, when He Himself is Wisdom? For we also say that the Son is begotten of the Father.'

Eusebius, Bishop, said; 'Is there anything as impious and profane as this which he said, that the Son of God is not wise?'

Palladius said; 'He is called Wisdom, who can deny that he is Wisdom?'

Ambrose, Bishop said; 'Is He wise or not?'

Palladius said; 'He is Wisdom.'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'Then He is wise, if He is Wisdom.'

Palladius said; 'We answer you according to the Scriptures.'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'Palladius, as far as I can see, has attempted to deny also that the Son of God is wise.'

Eusebius, Bishop, said; 'He who denies that the Son of God is wise, let him be anathema.'

All the Bishops said; 'Anathema.'

28. Eusebius, Bishop, said; 'Let Secundianus also answer to this.'

Secundianus being silent,

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'He who is silent wishes to reserve his judgement.' And he added, 'When he says that the Father alone is good, did he confess the Son or deny Him?'

Palladius said; ' We read, I am the good Shepherd,137 and do we deny it? Who would not say that the Son of God is good?'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'Then is Christ good?'

Palladius said; 'He is good.'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'Arius then was wrong in asserting it of the Father alone, since the Son of God also is a good 138 God.' |44 

Palladius said; 'He who says that Christ is not good, says ill.'

29. EUSEBIUS, Bishop, said; 'Do you confess that Christ is a good God? For I also am good. He has said to me; Well done, thou good servant; and, A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good?  139

Palladius said; 'I have already said, I do not answer you until there is a full Council.'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'The Jews said He is a good man;140 and Arius denies that the Son of God is good.'

Palladius said; 'Who can deny it?'

Eusebius, Bishop, said; 'Then the Son of God is a good God.'

Palladius said; 'The good Father begat a good Son.'

30. AMBROSE, Bishop said; 'We also are begotten of Him and are good, but not in respect of Godhead. Do you call the Son of God a good God?'

Palladius said; 'The Son of God is good.' Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'You see then that you call him a good Christ, a good Son, not a good God; which is what is asked of you.' And he added; 'He who does not confess that the Son of God is a good God, Anathema to him.' All the Bishops said; 'Anathema.'

31. The reader likewise continued; "Alone mighty." Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'Is the Son of God mighty or not?'

Palladius said; 'He Who made all things, is He not mighty? He Who made all things, is He deficient in might?'

Ambrose, Bishop, said: 'Then Arius said ill.' And he added; 'Do you even in this condemn Arius?'

Palladius said; ' How do I know who he is? I answer you for myself.'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'Is the Son of God the mighty God?'

Palladius said; 'He is mighty.'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'Is the Son of God the mighty God?'

Palladius said; 'I have already said that the only-begotten Son of God is mighty.'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'The mighty Lord.' |45 

Palladius said; 'The mighty Son of God.'

32. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; 'Men also are mighty; for it is written, Why boastest thou thyself in mischief, thou mighty man? 141 and in another place, When I am weak, then am I strong.142 I ask you to confess that Christ the Son of God is the mighty Lord; or if you deny it, support your denial. For I speak of one Power of the Father and of the Son, and I call the Son of God mighty in the same way as the Father. Do you hesitate then to confess that the Son of God is the mighty Lord?'

Palladius said; 'I have already said, we answer you in discussion as we can; for you wish to be sole judges, and at the same time parties to the case. We do not answer you now, but we will answer you in a General and full Council.'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'Anathema to him who denies that Christ is the mighty Lord.'

All the Bishops said; 'Anathema.'

33. It was likewise recited; "Alone mighty, Judge of all." 

Palladius said; 'the Son of God, the Judge of all. There is Who gives, there is who receives.'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'Did He give by grace or nature? Men also have judgement given them.'

Palladius said; 'Do you call the Father greater or not?'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'I will answer you afterwards.'

Palladius said; ' I do not answer you, if you do not answer me.'

Eusebius, Bishop, said; 'Unless you condemn in order the impiety of Arius, we will give you no power of asking questions.'

Palladius said; ' I do not answer you.'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'Is the Son of God, as has been read, Judge or not?'

Palladius said; 'If you do not answer me, I do not answer you, as being an impious person.'

34. AMBROSE, Bishop said; 'You have my profession, whereby I will answer you. In the mean time, let Arius' letter be read through.' And he added: 'In that letter you will find that sacrilegious argument also which you are endeavouring at.'

Palladius said; 'When I ask, do you not answer?' |46 

Eusebius, Bishop, said; 'We call the Son of God equal God.'

Palladius said: 'You are Judge: your note-takers are here.'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'Let any of yours write, who please.'

35. PALLADIUS said; 'Is the Father greater or not?' 

Eusebius, Bishop, said; ' In respect of His Godhead the Son is equal to the Father. You have it in the Gospel that the Jews persecuted Him because He not only broke the sabbath, but also called God His Father, making Himself equal with God;143 what then impious men confessed while they persecuted, we who believe cannot deny.'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'And in another place you have: Who being in the form of God thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but emptied himself 144 and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men; and became obedient unto death.145 You see that in the form of God He is equal to God. And he took, S. Paul says, the form of a servant. In what then is He less? In respect surely of His form of a servant, not of the form of God?'

Eusebius, Bishop, said; 'Just as, being established in the form of a servant, He was not less than a servant; so being established in the form of God, He could not be less than God.'

36. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; ' Or say that in respect of Godhead the Son of God is less.'

Palladius said; 'The Father is greater.' 

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ' In respect of the flesh.' 

Palladius said; 'He who sent me, is greater than I.146 Was the flesh sent by God or was the Son of God sent?'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'We prove this day that the holy Scriptures are falsely cited by you, for thus it is written: Peace I leave unto you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid: If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father, for my Father is greater than I.147 He did not say, He Who sent me is greater than I.'

Palladius said; 'The Father is greater.' |47 

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'Anathema to him, who adds to or takes from the holy Scriptures.' All the Bishops said; 'Anathema.'

37. PALLADIUS said; 'The Father is greater than the Son.'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'In respect of the flesh the Son is less than the Father: in respect of Godhead He is equal to the Father: I read therefore that the Son of God is equal to the Father, as also the instances that have been adduced testify. But why should you wonder that He is less in respect of the flesh, when He has called Himself a servant, a stone, a worm, when He has said that He is less than the angels, for it is written: Thou madest him a little lower than the angels? 148

Palladius said; ' I see that you make impious assertions. We do not answer you without arbiters.'

Sabinus, Bishop, said; 'Let no one ask for an opinion from him who has blasphemed in such countless opinions.'

Palladius said; 'We do not answer you.'

38. SABINUS Bishop, said; 'Palladius has now been condemned by all. The blasphemies of Arius are much lighter than those of Palladius.'

And when Palladius rose, as if he wished to go out, he said; 'Palladius has risen, because he sees that he is to be convicted by manifest testimonies of the Scriptures, as indeed he has been already convicted: for thus it has been read, that in respect of Godhead the Son is equal to the Father. Let him admit that in respect of His Godhead the Son of God has no greater: it is written: When God made promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no greater, he swear by himself.149 You see therefore the Scripture, that He could swear by no greater. But it is the Son of Whom this is said, since it was He Who appeared to Abraham, whence also He says, He saw my day and was glad.' 150

Palladius said; 'The Father is greater.'

Eusebius, Bishop, said; 'When He spake as God, He had no greater; when He spake as man, He had one greater.'

39. PALLADIUS said; 'The Father begat the Son; the Father sent the Son.'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'Anathema to him, who denies |48 that in respect of His Godhead the Son is equal to the Father.'

All the Bishops said; 'Anathema.'

Palladius said; ' The Son is subject to the Father; the Son keeps the commands of the Father.'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; ' He is subject in respect of His Incarnation. But even you yourself remember that you have read; No man can come unto me, except the Father draw him.' 151 

Sabinus, Bishop, said; 'Let him say whether the Son is subject to the Father in respect of His Godhead, or in respect of His Incarnation.'

40. PALLADIUS said; 'Then the Father is greater.' Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'In another place also it is written; God is faithful, by Whom ye were called unto the fellowship of His Son.152 I say that the Father is greater in respect of the assumption of the flesh, which the Son of God took upon Him, not in respect of the Son's Godhead.

Palladius said; 'What then is the comparison of the Son of God? And can flesh say, God is greater than I? Did the flesh speak or the Godhead because the flesh was there?'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'The flesh does not speak without the soul.'

Eusebius, Bishop, said; 'God in the flesh spoke according to the flesh, when He said, Why do ye persecute153 me, a man? 154 Who said this?'

Palladius said; 'The Son of God.'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'Then the Son of God is God in respect of His Godhead and is man in respect of His flesh.'

Palladius said; 'He took flesh upon Him.'

Eusebius, Bishop, said; 'Accordingly He made use of human words.'

Palladius said; 'He took man's flesh upon Him.'

41. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; 'Let him say that the Apostle did not call Him subject in respect of His Godhead, but in respect of His flesh; for it is written, He humbled himself and became obedient unto death. In what then did He taste death?'

Palladius said; 'In that He humbled Himself.' Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'Not His Godhead but His flesh |49 was humbled and subject.' And he added; ' Did Arius well or ill in calling him a perfect creature?'

Palladius said; 'I do not answer you, for you have no authority.'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'Profess what you please.'

Palladius said; 'I do not answer you.'

42. SABINUS, Bishop, said; 'Do you not answer on behalf of Arius? do you not answer to what has been asked?'

Palladius said; 'I have not answered on behalf of Arius.' 

Sabinus, Bishop, said; 'You have answered so far as to deny that the Son of God is mighty, to deny that He is true God.'

Palladius said; 'I do not allow you to be my judge, whom I convict of impiety.'

Sabinus, Bishop, said; 'You yourself forced us to sit.' 

Palladius said; 'I gave in a request that you might sit, in order that I might convict you. Why have you practised upon the Emperor? You have gained by intrigue that the Council should not be a plenary one.'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'When Arius' impieties were read, your impiety also, which harmonized with his, was condemned equally. You have thought fit while the letter was in the midst of being read, to bring forward whatever passages you would: you were told in answer in what way the Son has said that the Father is greater, because in respect of His taking flesh upon Him, the Father is greater than He. You have urged also that the Son of God is subject; and on this head you were answered that the Son of God is subject in respect of His flesh, not in respect of His divinity. You have our profession. Now hear the rest. Since you have been answered, do you answer to what is read.'

43. PALLADIUS said; 'I do not answer you, because what I have said has not been recorded; only your words are recorded. I do not answer you.'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'You see that every thing is recorded. Moreover, what has been written is abundant for the proof of your impiety.' And he added; 'Do you say that Christ is a creature or do you deny it?'

Palladius said; 'I do not answer you.' |50 

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'An hour ago, when it was read that Arius called Christ a creature, you denied it: you had an opportunity offered you of condemning his perfidy; you would not. Say now at last whether Christ was begotten of the Father or created.'

Palladius said; 'If you please, let my reporters come and so let the whole be taken down.'

Sabinus, Bishop, said; 'Let him send for his reporters.'

Palladius said; 'We will answer you in a full Council.'

44. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; 'Attalus subscribed the formula 155 of the Council of Nicaea. Let him deny it, as he has come to our Council. Let him say to-day, whether he subscribed the formula of the Council of Nicaea or no?'

Attalus remaining silent,

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'Though the presbyter Attalus is an Arian, yet we give him permission to speak: let him frankly state whether he subscribed the formula of the Council of Nicaea under his Bishop Agrippinus, or no.'

Attalus said; 'You have already said that I have been several times condemned. I do not answer you.'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'Did you subscribe the formula of the Council of Nicaea or no?'

Attalus said; 'I do not answer you.'

45. PALLADIUS said; 'Do you now wish the formula to be regarded as general or no?'

Chromatius, presbyter, said; 'You have not denied that He is a creature, you have denied that He is mighty. You have denied every thing which the Catholic Faith professes.'

Sabinus, Bishop, said; 'We are witnesses that Attalus subscribed the Council of Niceea, and that he now refuses to answer. What is the opinion of all?'

As Attalus did not speak,

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'Let him say whether he subscribed the formula of the Council of Nicaea or no.'

46. PALLADIUS said; 'Let your reporter and ours stand forward and write down every thing.' |51 

Valerian, Bishop, said; 'What you have said and what you have denied is already all written.'

Palladius said; 'Say what you please.'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'Since Palladius who has been already many times condemned, wishes to be condemned still oftener, I am reading the letter of Arius which he has not chosen to condemn: do you state whether you approve of my doing so.'

All the Bishops said; 'Let it be read.'

Then the words were read. "But begotten not putatively," &c.

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'I have answered you on the Father's being greater: I have answered you also on the Son's being subject: do you yourself answer now.'

47. PALLADIUS said; 'I will not answer unless arbiters come after the Lord's day.'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'You were come with a view to discussion, but since I have charged you with its doctrines, you have seen the letter of Arius which you have not chosen to condemn and which you cannot support: you now therefore shrink back and cavil. I read it to you fully point by point. Tell me whether you believe Christ to have been created; whether there was a time when he was not; or whether the only begotten Son of God has always existed. When you have heard Arius' letter, either condemn it or approve of it.'

48. PALLADIUS said; 'Since I convict you of impiety, I will not have you for judge. You are a transgressor.'

Sabinus, Bishop, said; 'Say, what impieties you object to our brother and fellow-bishop Ambrose.'

Palladius said; 'I have already told you, I will answer in a full Council, and with arbiters present.'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'I desire to be confuted and convicted in the assembly of my brethren. Say then what I have said impiously; but I appear impious to you because I support piety.'

Sabinus, Bishop, said; 'Does then he seem impious to you, who censures the blasphemies of Arius?'

49. PALLADIUS said; 'I have not denied that the Son of God is good.' |52 

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'Do you say that Christ is a good God?'

Palladius said; 'I do not answer you.'

Valerian, Bishop, said; 'Do not press Palladius so much: he cannot confess our truths with simplicity. For his conscience is confused with a twofold blasphemy: he was ordained by the Photinians and was condemned with them, and now he shall be condemned more fully.'

Palladius said; 'Prove it.'

Sabinus, Bishop, said; 'He would not have denied that Christ is true if he were not following his own teachers.'

50. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; 'You have objected to me that I am impious: prove it.'

Palladius said; 'We will bring forward our statement, and when we have brought it, then the discussion shall be held.'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'Condemn the impiety of Arius.'

Palladius being silent,

Eusebius, Bishop, said; 'He dwells upon useless subjects. There are so many impieties of Arius, which Palladius has not chosen to condemn, nay rather has confessed by supporting. He who does not condemn Arius is like him, and is rightly to be called a heretic.'

All the Bishops said; 'On the part of us all let Palladius be anathema.'

51. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; 'Do you consent, Palladius, that the other statements of Arius be read?'

Palladius said; 'Give us arbiters: let reporters come on both sides. You cannot be judges unless we have arbitrators and unless persons come on both sides to arbitrate, we do not answer you.'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'What arbitrators do you wish for?'

Palladius said; 'There are here many men of high rank.'

Sabinus, Bishop, said; 'After such a number of blasphemies do you wish for arbitrators?'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'Bishops ought to judge of laymen: not laymen of Bishops. But tell me what judges you wish for.' |53 

Palladius said; 'Let arbitrators attend.'

Chromatius, the Presbyter, said; 'Without prejudice to condemnation by the Bishops, let those also who are of Palladius' party be heard at full length.'

52. PALLADIUS said; 'They are not allowed to speak. Let arbitrators attend and reporters on both sides, and then they will answer you in a General Council.'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'Though he has been convicted of many impieties, yet we should blush that a person who claims the priesthood for himself should seem to have been condemned by laymen, and on this very ground and in this very point he deserves condemnation because he looks to the sentence of laymen, when priests ought rather to be the judges of laymen. Looking to what we have this day heard Palladius professing and to what he has refused to condemn, I pronounce him unworthy of the priesthood, and I judge that he should be deprived 156 thereof in order that a Catholic may be ordained in his place.'

All the Bishops said; 'Anathema to Palladius.'

53. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; 'The most gracious and Christian Emperor has committed the cause to the judgement of the Bishops and has constituted them arbitrators of the dispute 157. Since therefore the decision appears to have been made over to us, so that we are the interpreters of the Scriptures, let us condemn Palladius, who has not chosen to condemn the sentiments of the impious Arius, and because he has himself denied the Son of God to be everlasting, and made the other statements which appear in our proceedings. Let him therefore be accounted Anathema.'

All the Bishops said; 'We all condemn him; let him be accounted anathema.'

54. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; 'Since all who are met here |54 are Christian men, brethren approved of God, and our fellow-bishops, let each individual say, what he thinks.'

Valerian, Bishop, said; 'My sentence is that he who defends Arius is an Arian; that he who does not condemn His blasphemies is himself a blasphemer; and therefore I judge that such a man is alien from the fellowship of Bishops.'

Palladius said; 'You have begun to play; play on. Without an Eastern Council we answer you not.'

55. ANEMIUS, Bishop of Sirmium said; 'Whoever does not condemn the heresies of Arius must of necessity be an Arian. Him therefore I judge to be alien from our communion, and to be without place in the assembly of Bishops.'

Constantius, Bishop of Orange, said; 'As Palladius is a disciple of Arius, whose impieties have been long since condemned by our Fathers in the Council of Nice, but have this day severally, when recited, been approved of by Palladius, inasmuch as he was not disturbed at his acknowledging that the Son of God was not of the same Nature with God the Father, and at his calling Him a creature, and saying that He began to be in time, and denying Him to be true Lord, on these grounds, I judge that he should be condemned for ever.'

56. JUSTUS, Bishop, said; 'Palladius who has refused to condemn the blasphemies of Arius, and who seems rather to acknowledge them, can in my judgement no longer be called a Priest or be reckoned among Bishops.'

Eventius, Bishop of Ticinum, said; 'I think that Palladius who has refused to condemn the impieties of Arius, is removed for ever from the fellowship of Bishops.'

57. ABUNDANTIUS, Bishop of Trent, said; 'Since Palladius maintains evident blasphemies, let him know that he is condemned by the Council of Aquileia.'

Eusebius, Bishop of Bologna, said; 'Inasmuch as Palladius has not only refused to condemn the impieties of Arius, impieties written with the pen of the devil, and which it is not lawful so much as to listen to, but has also appeared as the maintainer of them by denying that the Son of God is true Lord, is good Lord, is wise Lord, is everlasting Lord; both by my sentence, and by the |55 judgement of all Catholics I think that he is rightly condemned and excluded from the assembly of Bishops.'

58. SABINUS, Bishop of Placentia, said; 'Since it has been proved to all that Palladius supports the Arian perfidy and maintains its impiety that was counter to the Evangelical and apostolical institutions, a just sentence of the whole Council has been passed upon him, and humble individual as I am, let him by my judgement be deprived once more of the priesthood and banished justly from this most holy assembly.'

Felix and Numidius, deputies of Africa said; 'Anathema to the Sect of the Arian heresy to which by the Synod of Aquileia Palladius is pronounced to belong. But we condemn also those, who contradict the truth of the Nicene Synod.'

59. LIMENIUS, Bishop of Vercellae, said; 'It is manifest that the Arian doctrine has been often condemned: and therefore, inasmuch as Palladius having been appealed to in this holy Synod of Aquileia has refused to correct and amend himself, and has rather proved himself worthy of blame and defiled himself with the perfidy which he has publicly professed himself to hold, I too by my judgement declare that he is to be deprived of the fellowship of the Bishops.'

Maximus, Bishop of Emona, said; 'That Palladius, who would not condemn, but has rather himself acknowledged, the blasphemies of Arius, is justly and deservedly condemned God knows, and the conscience of the faithful has condemned him.'

60. EXUPERANTIUS, Bishop of Dertona, said; 'As the rest of my Colleagues have condemned Palladius who has refused to condemn the sect and doctrine of Arius, and on the contrary has defended them, I also likewise condemn him.'

Bassianus, Bishop of Lodi, said; 'I have heard along with the rest of my Colleagues the impieties of Arius, which Palladius not only has not condemned but has confirmed. Let him be anathema and be deprived of the priesthood.'

61. PHILASTER, Bishop of Brescia, said: 'The blasphemies and iniquity of Palladius, who follows and defends the Arian doctrine I in company with all have condemned.' |56 

Constantius, Bishop of Sciscia, said; 'As the rest of my brother Bishops, I also think that Palladius is to be condemned, who has refused to condemn the blasphemies and impieties of Arius.'

Heliodorus, Bishop of Altinum, said; 'The man who maintains the perfidy of Arius, and of all the heretics with whom Palladius is partner, whose heart is foolish, and who has not confessed the truth; together with the rest of my brother Bishops I condemn.'

62. FELIX, Bishop of Jadera, said; 'I also in like manner unite with all in condemning Palladius, who speaks blasphemies against the Son of God as Arius did.'

Theodoras, Bishop of Octodorum, said; 'We judge Palladius, who has denied Christ to be true God, co-eternal with the Father, to be in no wise either a Christian or a priest.'

Domninus, Bishop of Grenoble, said; 'As Palladius adheres to the perfidy of Arius, I also judge that he is to be condemned for ever, as my brethren also have condemned him.'

63. PROCULUS, Bishop of Marseilles, said; 'Palladius, who by a kind of impious succession to the blasphemies of Arius has defended them in that he does not condemn them, as he has been already designated a blasphemer by the sentence of many venerable Bishops, and pronounced alien from the priesthood, so by my sentence also is marked out in the same manner as condemned for ever.'

Diogenes, Bishop of Genoa, said; 'Palladius who while he does not confess has even denied Christ to be true Lord and God, like and equal to the Father, I together with the rest of my brethren and fellow Bishops adjudge to have the lot of condemnation.'

64. AMANTIUS, Bishop of Nice, said; 'Palladius, who has refused to pull down the sect of Arius, according to the judgement of my brother Bishops, I also condemn.'

Januarius, Bishop, said; 'As all my brother Bishops have condemned Palladius so also do I think that he ought to be condemned by a similar judgement 158.' |57 

65. SECUNDIANUS having withdrawn for a while, and then returned to the Council 159,

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'You have heard, Secundianus, what sort of sentence the impious Palladius has received, having been condemned by the Council of Bishops: and though we have been displeased that you have not shrunk from his madness, I nevertheless make some special enquiries of you. Do you say that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is or is not very God?'

Secundianus said; 'He who denies the Father of our Lord and God Jesus Christ to be true God is not a Christian, nor is he who denies that the Lord is the very Son of God.'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'Do you confess that the Son of God is very God?'

Secundianus said; 'I say that He is the very Son of God, the very only begotten Son of God.'

66. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; 'Do you call Him very Lord?' 

Secundianus said; 'I call Him the very only-begotten Son of God. Who denies that He is the very Son of God?

Eusebius, Bishop, said; 'It is not enough that you confess Him to be the only-begotten Son of God, for all confess this. But what influences us is that Arius said that the Father alone is Lord, alone is true, and denied that the Son of God is very Lord. Do you confess simply that the Son of God is very God?'

Secundianus said; 'Who Arius was, I know not; what he said, I know not. You speak with me, living man with living man. I say what Christ said: The only begotten Son Which is in the bosom of the Father.160 Therefore He asserts Himself to be the only-begotten Son of the Father: the only-begotten Son is then the very Son of God.'  

67. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; 'Is the very Son of God also very God? It is written in the divine books: he that sweareth on the earth, shall swear by the true God,161 and that this applies to Christ there is no doubt. We |58 therefore profess the true God, and this is our faith and profession, that the only-begotten Son of the Father is very God. Do you then say 'of very God,' and then that the Son is very God.'

Secundianus said; 'Of very God.'

68. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; 'Is the Son of God very God?'

Secundianus said; 'Then would he be a liar.' Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'In this you practise an evasion to avoid saying very God, but instead thereof, God, very only-begotten, and therefore say simply, The only-begotten Son of God is very God.'

Secundianus said; 'I called Him the only-begotten Son of God.'

69. EUSEBIUS, Bishop, said; 'This Photinus does not deny, this Sabellus confesses.'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'And he who does not confess this is justly condemned, and on this point I appeal to you many times though by cavilling you have denied the truth. I do not ask you to call Him merely the very only-begotten Son of God, but to call Him also very God.'

Secundianus said; 'I profess myself the servant of truth. What I say is not taken down and what you say is taken down. I say that Christ is the true Son of God. Who denies that He is the true Son of God?'

70. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; 'He who denies that the only-begotten Son of God is very God, let him be anathema.'

Secundianus said; 'The only-begotten Son of God, very God! why do you state to me what is not written?'

Ambrose, Bishop, said: 'It is plain sacrilege, that Arius denied Christ the Son of God to be very God.'

Secundianus said; 'Forasmuch as Christ is called the Son of God, I call the Son of God very Son 162; but that He is very God is not written.'

71. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; 'Have you not yet recovered your senses?' And he added; 'Lest it should appear that he has been unfairly treated, let him state his opinion. Let him then say that Christ the only-begotten Son of God is very God.' |59 

Secundianus said; 'I have already said. What more would you wring from me?'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'What have you said? certainly if you had said so great truths, what is said gloriously, may well be often repeated.'

Secundianus said; 'It is written, Let your conversation be yea, yea, nay, nay.' 163

72. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; 'He who says that the Father Himself is the Son, is sacrilegious. This I ask of you that you would say that the Son of God is begotten very God of very God.'

Secundianus said; 'I say that the Son is begotten of God, as He says Himself I have begotten Thee, 164 and that He confesses Himself to be begotten.'

73. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; 'Is He very God of very God?'

Secundianus said; 'When you add to the Name and call Him very [God], do you understand what the character of your own faith is, and are you a Christian ?'

Eusebius, Bishop, said; 'Who has denied that He is very God? Arius and Palladius have denied it. If you believe Him to be very God, you should simply express it.'

74. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; 'If you will not say that He is very God begotten of very God, you have denied Christ.'

Secundianus said; 'When asked about the Son, I answered you: I have answered as to the manner in which I ought to make my profession. We have your statement: we will bring it forward; let it be read.'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'You should have brought it forward to-day, but you are attempting a subterfuge. You demand a profession of me and I demand a profession of you. Is the Son of God very God ?'

Secundianus said; 'The Son of God is God only-begotten. I also ask him : Is He only-begotten ?'

75. AMBROSE, Bishop, said; 'Let reason move us: let us be moved too by your impiety and folly. When you speak of God very only-begotten, you do not apply the 'very' to 'God,' but to 'only-begotten.' And therefore |60 to remove this question answer me this: Is He very God of very God?'

Secundianus said; 'Did then God not beget God? He Who is very God begat What He is; He begat one true only-begotten Son.'

Ambrose, Bishop, said; 'You do not confess Him very God but you would call Him very only-begotten. I too call Him only-begotten, but also very God.'

Secundianus said; 'I say that he was begotten of the Father, I say to all that he was very begotten 165.'


The Names of the Bishops and Presbyters who were present at the Council.

VALERIAN, Bishop of Aquileia 166.
AMBROSE, Bishop of Milan.
EUSEBIUS, Bishop of Bologna.
LIMENIUS, Bishop of Vercellae.
ANEMIUS, Bishop of Sirmium in Illyricum.
SABINUS, Bishop of Placentia.
ABUNDANTIUS, Bishop of Brescia.
CONSTANTIUS, Bishop of Orange, Deputy of the Gauls.
THEODORUS, Bishop of Octodurus.
DOMNINUS, Bishop of Grenoble.
AMANTIUS, Bishop of Nice.
MAXIMUS, Bishop of Emona.
BASSIANUS, Bishop of Lodi.
PROCULUS, Bishop of Marseilles, Deputy of the Gauls.
HELIODORUS, Bishop of Altinum.
FELIX, Bishop of Jadera.
EVENTIUS, Bishop of Ticinum 167. |61 
EXSUPERANTIUS, Bishop of Dertona.
DIOGENES, Bishop of Genoa.
CONSTANTIUS, Bishop of Sciscia.
JUSTUS, Bishop of Lyons, also Deputy of the Gauls.
FELIX, Deputy of Africa.
NUMIDIUS, Deputy of Africa.
EVAGRIUS, Presbyter and Deputy.

LETTER IX. [A.D.381.]

A FORMAL letter from the Italian Bishops assembled at Aquileia, thanking the Bishops of the three Provinces for the presence of their deputies, and announcing officially the condemnation of Palladius and Secundianus.


1. WE return thanks to your holy unanimity that in the persons of our Lords and brethren Constantius and Proculus you have given us the presence of you all, and at the same time following the directions of former times, have added not a little weight to our judgement, with which the profession of your holinesses also is in agreement, Lords and brethren most beloved. Therefore, as we received with gladness the above mentioned holy men of your order and ours, so do we also dismiss them with an abundant offering of thanks.

2. But how necessary the meeting was will be plain from the mere facts, since the adversaries and enemies of God, the defenders of the Arian sect and heresy, Palladius and |62 Secundianus, the only two who dared to come to the meeting of the Council, received in person their due sentence, being convicted of impiety. Farewell. May our Almighty God keep you safe and prosperous, Lords and brethren most beloved. Amen.

LETTER X. [A.D.381.]

IN this letter, addressed formally to the three Emperors, but really to Gratian, the Council offer their thanks for the summoning of the Council, and announce its results, requesting that they may be enforced by the imperial authority. They also request the removal of Julius Valens from Italy, and that the Photinians may be forbidden to hold assemblies, which they were doing at Sirmium.


1. BLESSED be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has given you the Roman empire, and blessed be our Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, Who guards your reign with His loving-kindness, before Whom we return you thanks, most gracious Princes, that you have both proved the earnestness of your own faith in that you were zealous to assemble the Council of Bishops for the removal of disputes, and that in your condescension you reserved for the Bishops the honourable privilege that no one should be absent who wished to attend, and none should be constrained to attend against his will.

2. Therefore according to the directions of your Graces we have met together without the odium of large numbers and with zeal for discussion, nor were any of the Bishops found to be heretics, except Palladius and Secundianus, names of ancient perfidy, on whose account people from the farthest portions of the Roman world demanded that a Council should be summoned. None however, loaded with the years of a long life, whose gray hairs alone would be entitled to reverence, was compelled to come from the |63 most distant recesses of the Ocean: and yet nothing was lacking to the Council: no one dragging a feeble frame, weighed down by his campaigns of fasting, was forced by the hardships of his journey to lament the inconvenience of his loss of strength; no one finally, being without the means of coming, had to mourn over a poverty honourable to a Bishop. So that what the divine Scripture has praised was fulfilled in you, most merciful of Princes, Gratian, Blessed is he that considereth the poor and needy. 169

3. But what a hardship would it have been that on account of two Bishops only, who are rotten in perfidy, the Churches over the whole world should be left destitute of their Bishops. But though owing to the distance of the journey they could not come personally, nearly all from all the western provinces were present by the sending of deputies, and proved by manifest attestations that they hold what we assert and that they agree in the formula of the Council of Nicaea, as the documents hereto attached declare. Therefore the prayers of the nations are now in concert every where on behalf of your Empire, and yet assertors of the Faith have not been wanting to your decision. For though the directions of our predecessors, from which it is impious and sacrilegious to deviate, were plain enough, still we gave them the opportunity of discussion.

4. And in the first instance we examined the very beginning of the question which had arisen, and we thought fit to hear recited the letter of Arius, who is found to be the author of the Arian heresy, from whom also the heresy received its name, the arrangement being thus far even favourable to them, that since they had been in the habit of denying that they were Arians they might either by censure condemn the blasphemies of Arius, or by argument maintain them, or at least not refuse the name of the person, whose impiety and perfidy they followed. But inasmuch as they could not condemn and were unwilling to support their Founder, after they had themselves, three days before, challenged us to a discussion, fixing place and time, and gone forth to it without waiting to be summoned, on a sudden the very individuals, who had said that they would easily prove that they were Christians, (which we |64 heard with pleasure, and hoped that they would prove,) began to shrink from the engagement on the spot and to decline the discussion.

5. Yet had we much discourse with them: the divine Scriptures were set forth in the midst; and they had the offer made to them of a patient discussion from sun-rise to the seventh hour of the day. And would that they had said little, or that we could cancel what we heard. For when Arius by saying in sacrilegious words that the Father was alone eternal, alone good, alone true God, alone possessing immortality, alone wise and alone powerful, had intended that the Son by an impious inference should be understood to be without these attributes, these men have preferred following Arius to confessing that the Son of God is everlasting God and very God, and good God and wise and powerful and possessing immortality. We spent several hours to no purpose. Their impiety waxed greater and could in no wise be corrected.

6. At last when they saw that they were pressed by the sacrileges of Arius' letter, (which we have appended in order that even your Graces might shrink from it) they started away in the middle of the reading of the letter, and asked us to answer what they proposed. Though it lay not within either order or reason that we should interrupt the plan laid down, and though we had already answered that they were to condemn the impieties of Arius and then we would answer about whatever proposals of theirs they pleased, preserving order and plan, we notwithstanding acceded to their unreasonable wish: on which, falsifying the scriptures of the Gospel, they stated to us that our Lord said, He that sent Me is greater than I: whereas the course of the Scriptures teaches us that it is written otherwise.

7. They were convicted of the falsehood even to confession: they were not however corrected by reason. For when we said that the Son is called less than the Father in respect to his taking flesh upon Him, but is proved according to the testimonies of the Scriptures to be like and equal to the Father in respect of His Godhead, and that there could not be degrees of any distinction or greatness, |65 when there was unity of power; they not only would not correct their error; but began to carry their madness further, so as even to say that the Son is subject in respect of His divinity, as if there could be any subjection of God in respect of His Divinity and Majesty. In short they refer His death not to the mystery of our salvation, but to some infirmity of His Godhead.

8. We shudder, most gracious Princes, at such dire sacrileges, and such wicked teachers, and that they might not any longer deceive the people of whom they had a hold, we j udged that they should be degraded from the Priesthood, since they agreed with the impieties of the book put before them. For it is not reasonable that they should claim to themselves the Priesthood of Him Whom they have denied. We appeal to your faith and your glory that you would shew the respect of your government to Him Who is the author of it, and judge that the assertors of impiety and debauchers of the truth be kept away from the threshold of the Church, by an order of your Graces issued to the competent authorities, and that Holy Bishops be put into the place of the condemned ones by deputies of our humble appointment.

9. The Presbyter Attalus 170 too who avows his error and adheres to the sacrilegious doctrines of Palladius is included under a similar sentence. For why should we speak of his master Julianus Valens 171? who although he was close at hand shunned coming to the Council of Bishops for fear he should be compelled to account to the Bishops for the ruin of his country, and his treason to his countrymen: a man, who, polluted with the impiety of the Goths, presumed, as is asserted, to go forth in the sight of a Roman army, wearing like a Pagan a collar and bracelet: which is unquestionably a sacrilege not only in a Bishop, but also |66 in any Christian whatever: for it is alien to the Roman customs. It may be that the idolatrous priests of the Goths commonly go forth in such guise.

10. Let your piety be moved by the title of Bishop, which that sacrilegious person dishonours, convicted as he is of atrocious crime even by the voice of his own people, if indeed any of his own people can still survive. Let him at least return to his own home, and cease to contaminate the most flourishing cities of Italy; at present by unlawful ordinations he is associating with himself persons like himself, and he endeavours by help of all abandoned individuals to leave behind him a seed-plot of his own impiety and perfidy: whereas he has not so much as begun to be a Bishop. For, to begin with, at Petavio he was put in the place of the holy Marcus, a Bishop whose memory is highly esteemed: but, having been disgracefully degraded by the people, unable to remain at Petavio, he has been riding in state at Milan, after the overthrow, say rather the betrayal, of his country.

11. Deign then, most pious princes, to deal with all these matters, lest we should appear to have met to no purpose, when we obeyed your Graces' injunctions: for care must be taken that not only our decisions but yours also be saved from dishonour. We must request therefore that your Graces would be pleased to listen indulgently to the deputies of the Council, Holy men, and bid them to return speedily with accomplishment of what we ask for, that you may receive a reward from Christ our Lord and God, Whose Church you have cleansed from all stain of sacrilegious persons.

12. With respect to the Photinians also, whom by a former law you forbad forming assemblies, revoking at the same time the law which had been passed for the assembling of a Council of Bishops 172, we request of your Graces, that as we have ascertained that they are attempting to hold assemblies in the town of Sirmium, you would by now again interdicting their meetings, cause respect to be paid, |67 in the first place to the Catholic Church, and next to your own laws, that with God for your Patron you may be triumphant, while you provide for the peace and tranquillity of the Church.

[Footnotes and marginalia moved to the end and numbered]

1. a The word in the original is Sacerdos. It is constantly used by S. Ambrose and other writers of his time for Bishops, though they sometimes add a qualifying epithet, 'Summus Sacerdos.' But even alone it is used where the writer is clearly speaking of Bishops, and of Bishops qua Bishops. Thus it occurs frequently in the Proceedings of the Council of Aquileia, which is itself styled 'Sacerdotale Concilium.' See the Article 'Bishop' by Mr. Haddan in Dict. of Chr. Ant. Vol. 1 p. 210 b., who refers also to Bp. Taylor, Episc. Assert. § 27. It has therefore been rendered 'Bishop' throughout this volume, wherever it is plain that the reference is to Bishops, and 'Priest' wherever it is used in a more general way.

2. creaturam.

3. b This forms the two first books of the 'De Fide' still extant among the works of S. Ambrose. The other three books were added afterwards, as S. Ambrose explains at the beginning of Bk. iii, to maintain his statements against the attacks of heretical teachers. The Treatise, 'De Spiritu Sancto,' in 3 books, was sent afterwards in 381 A.D.

4. S. Matt. xxv. 40.

5. S. John xiv. 21.

6. Ps. xxiv. 2.

7. Ps. xciii. 4. S. John vii. 38. Isa. lxvi. 12. Ps. xlvi. 4.

8. a Nivei. This is the reading all MSS. Ed. Rom. has 'vivi,' which would agree better with the text of S. John.

9. Prov.xvi. 24.

10. Ps. cxlviii. 5.

11. Eccles. xi. 3.

12. Ib. 

13. Ib.xii.11.

14. Acts ix. 5.

15. 1 Cor. iii. 2.

16. b The Benedictine reference for the first of these texts is Prov. xiv. 3. The lips of the wise shall preserve them, with which the Sept. and Vulg. agree. In the second the English Vers. has The lips of the wise disperse knowledge. Here S. Ambr. agrees with the Sept.

17. Prov. xv. 7.

18. Eph. v. 3.

19. 1 Thess. iv. 4.

20. Gen. iii. 18.

21. Ps.lxxxv. 13.

22. Gen. iv. 10.

23. Hab. ii. 9-12.

24. Ps. cxxii. 3.

25. Prov. xv. 16.

26. Isa. xliii. 2.

27. Prov. vi. 27.

28. Ib. xxii. 1.

29. Prov. vi. 2:5. (not quoted ad verbum).

30. S. Luke xv. 17.

31. v. 19.

32. Prov. vi. 2.

33. Ib. xxii. 14 Sept. Ib. xiv. 15.

34. Prov. xi. 1.

35. S. Matt. xvi. 26.

36. 1 Tim. v. 24.

37. Ib. vi. 10.

38. Zech. v. 7.

39. Ecclus. xix. 23, 24. Vulg.

40. Rom. v. 19.

41. Ps. cv. 18.

42. Eph. v. 14.

43. Ps. cxix. 71.

44. Phil. ii. 6.7.

45. 1 Cor. xv. 28.

46. Ib. xi. 1.

47. Phil. iii. 8.

48. S. Luke ix. 23.

49. c Forum Cornelii was on the Via Aemilia, about 23 miles S.E. of Bononia. It was at this time in the Province Aemilia. The modern name is Imola.

50. d The Benedictine Fathers refer this to the ravages of the Goths after Valens' defeat at Hadrianople A.D. 375. It is on this that they found the date of the letter, but the reference is somewhat vague.

51. Deut. xix. 14.

52. 1 tubera

53. a Amentata illa non manipularis sententia. Ed. Ben. refers to Junius, Adagiorum Centuriae 3, 10, who says 'Amentatam sententiam dixit D. Am-brosius pro valida et haud vulgari firmisque argumentis roboratit. Est antem amentum lori genus quo hasta praeligata validius certiusque libratur evibraturque: hinc amentata senten-tia ea est quae neutiquam trivialis est et pedanea, cujusmodi manipularis vocatur, velut a gregario milite profecta, sed eximia et artificio vallata.' He quotes two passages from Cicero, De Orat. 1 57, 242. Brut. 78. 271, in both which places he uses 'amentatae hastae' of arguments, and also Tertull. adv. Marc. iv. ,33 where he says that our Lord amentavit [Phariseis] hanc sententiam, non potestis Deo servire et mammonae, where it plainly means, 'gave them this home-thrust.'

54. a puleium, lit. the herb penny royal.

55. b Bassianus is mentioned among the Bishops who took part in the Council of Aquileia, as Bishop of Laus Pompeia, now Lodi Vecchio, S. E. of Milan. The modern town of Lodi is about 5 miles from the site of the ancient one. 

56. c He means the day of his consecration as Bishop. So S. Ambr. speaks of his own consecration day as his birthday, Comm. in Luc. vii. 78.

57. Heb. ix. 4.

58. Col. i. 15.  Exod. xxv. 22.

59. Ps. lxxviii. 2.

60. Numb. xvi. 48.

61. Deut. xv. 8.

62. S. Luke x. 2.

63. d Comum is the modern Como, at the southern extremity of the Lake which takes its name from it.

64. S. Luke xv. 8, 9.

65. S. Matt. vi. 22.

66. Prov. xiii. 8.

67. Exod. xxx. 12 -15.

68. Ib. xvi. 17, 18.

69. E ccles. vii. 16.

70. 1 These words are added by S.Ambrose.

71. 1 Cor.xii. 7-9.

72. Ps. civ. 15.

73. Prov. ix. 2.

74. Exod. xii. 4.

75. S. Matt. x. 30.

76. 2 Cor. vi. 16.

77. S. Matt. xx. 10.

78. 2 Tim.iv. 8.

79. S. Matt. xvii. 27.

80. S. John i. 29.

81. Phil. ii. 7.

82. S. Matt. iii. 15.

83. 1 statera.

84. Rom. x. 4.

85. Ps. xii. 6.

86. Exod. xxi. 5.

87. S. Matt. xix. 21.

88. S. Matt. xxii. 18, 19.

89. Dan. iii. 18. and i. 8.

90. S.John xiv. 30.

91. S.John xvii. 11, 14, 18.

92. S. Matt. xvii. 27.

93. Gal. iv. 4.

94. Deut. xxx.14.

95. Rom. x. 10.

96. 1 denarius.

97. Rev. i. 8.

98. Deut. vi. 4.

99. Acts ii. 4.

100. ai1tion, u#lh, a)pote/lesma. Gen. xxii. 7.

101. Ib. 8. 

102.  Ps. iv. 5.

103. Exod. xvi. 15, 16.

104. Exod. xvi. 4.

105. Ib. 15.

106. Ib. iii. 11-14.

107. 2 Cor. i. 19.

108. Exod. iv 1.

109. Ib. 10. 

110. Ib. 12.

111. Exod. iii. 12,

112. S. Matt. vii. 7.

113. Ib. x. 19, 20.

114. Gen. xxvii. 20.

115. Ib. xxxi. 33.

116. 1 o#roi.

117. Ib. xxvii. 4.

118. a There is no text in Holy Scripture exactly corresponding to this. Lev. xxv, 11 which is referred to by Ed. Ben. is hardly to the point.

119. 1 Cor. iii. 6,7.

120. a There can be little doubt that the true date is iii. Non. Sept. i. e. the 8rd of Sept., and not Nonis, the 5th. For in 381 A. D. the 5th of Sept. was on a Sunday, and it is hardly likely that a Council would have sat from daybreak till one o' clock (Ep. 10. 5) in the Church on such a day, and moreover it would not have been natural for Palladius to say, as he does in § 47. Non respondebo nisi auditores veniant post Dominicam diem, if he were speaking on a Sunday.

121. b The reading of Ed. Rom. has been adopted, which omits the preposition 'cum.' If this were correct, it would imply that the consuls were themselves taking a leading part in the Council; whereas it is clear that they are mentioned solely as the ordinary way of fixing the year; nor had the consuls at this time any other than such ornamental functions. See Gibbon's description, ch. xvii. vol. ii. ed Smith p. 206-208.

122. c By 'acta' here are meant formal and official records taken down and published by authority. Thus Jul. Caesar ordered the 'Acta' of the Senate to be regularly published. Suet. Caes. 20.

123. d It is to be remembered that 'diocese' was then a civil and not an Ecclesiastical term. A 'diocesis' was an aggregate of provinces, under the charge of a Vicarius, who was subordinate to one of the four Praefecti Praetorio, each Praefectus having under him a number of dioceses. Thus the Vicarius Italiae, who was subordinate to the Praefectus Praetorio Italiae, had in his diocese fourteen provinces, including' both Liguria of which Milan was the capital, and Venetia in which Aquileia was situated. It is to be remembered also that Italia at this time meant only the north of Italy, the rest of Italy being now included in the Diocese of Rome, and under the Vicarius Urbis Romae. See the table given in Smith's Gibbon, vol. ii. p. 315. taken from Marquardt. When the word diocese came into Ecclesiastical use, it was applied, first to "an aggregate not merely of several districts, governed each by its own bishop, but of several provinces (e0parxi/ai) each presided over by a metropolitan. The diocese itself was under an Exarch or Patriarch." Dict. of Chr. Ant. sub voc. 'Credita' is here rend for ' creditam,' as required by the order of the words.

124. e It is not certain to whom the Emperor's letter was addressed. Some have thought that it was addressed to the Pretorian Prefect of Italy. Tillemont maintained that it was addressed to Valerian, Bishop of Aquileia, in whose see the Council was held. The language, though not decisive, seems in favour of the former supposition. In § 7. the Prefect of Italy is spoken of as issuing letters in pursuance of it. 

125. f i. e. a copy of S. Paul's Epistles.

126. g i. e. the Emperor's letter.

127. h The text here seems defective, nor is there any thing to guide us to supply the lacuna. What is given in the translation is no more than a guess at the meaning of the sentence. The general connection is however clear enough even if it be omitted.

128. i The reading of Ed. Rom. is here adopted, as alone furnishing a reasonable sense. The Benedictine text is unintelligible.

129. Rom. i. 20.

130. 1 Cor. i. 8.

131. Acts i. 18.

132. j By Illyricum is here meant Illyricum Occidentale, which at this time was under the jurisdiction of the Vicarius Italiae. (See the Table in Smith's Gibbon, referred to in note d. p. 33) Sirmium, which in the following Century was entirely destroyed by the Goths under Attila, was at this time a place of great importance both civil and ecclesiastical. It is spoken of by Justinian as capital of Illyricum both in civil and episcopal matters (Tillemont, note xv on the Life of S. Ambrose vol. x. p. 739). Its ecclesiastical importance is shewn by the contest in which S.Ambrose engaged with Justina, two years before the Council, 379 A.D, to bring about the election of Anemius as Bishop, when the Empress was using all her influence to cause an Arian Bishop to be appointed. Arianism had been rife there for some time, and Germinus a previous Bishop had been one of the leaders of that party. (Tillemont, S. Ambr. ch. xx.) Illyricum had been finally separated into two divisions, Orientale and Occidentale, by Gratian, in 379 A.D, who transferred the Eastern Division to Theodosius when he made him Emperor of the East, from which time it formed part of the Eastern Empire. (Tillemont, Hist. des Emp. vol. v. p. 716.)

133. S. John xvii. 3.

134. 1 S. John v. 20.

135. 1 Tim. vi. 16.

136. S. Matt.x. 28.

137. S. John x. 11.

138. k The context requires the reading 'bonus' for 'omnibus,' which is that of one MS. The same MS. also inserts 'Deum' in Eusebius' next speech, which is required by the argument.

139. S. Luke xix. 17.

140. S. John vii. 12.

141. Ps. lii. 1.

142. 2 Cor. xii. 10.

143. S. John v. 18.

144. 1 made Himself of no reputation E.T.

145. Phil. ii. 6-8. 

146. S. John xiv. 28.

147. Ib. 27,28.

148. Heb. ii. 7.

149. Ib. vi. 13.

150. S. John viii. 56.

151. S. John vi. 44.

152. 1 Cor. i. 8.

153. 2 But now ye seek to kill me, a man &c. E.V.  

154. S. John viii. 40.

155. 1 By 'tractatus concilii Nicaeni' is meant simply the Nicene Creed. This is established by S. Ambr. De Fide iii. 15. 125 (518 Ed. Ben.) where, speaking of the letter of Eusebius of Nicomedia read at the Council, in reference to the word o(moou&sioj, he says, Haec cum lecta esset epistola in Concilio Nicaeno, hoc verbum in tractatu fidei posuerunt Patres, etc.

156. m The reading in Ed. Ben. is 'carendum.' If it is genuine, the word must have acquired a sort of transitive sense and have come to mean 'to be deprived.' No traces of such an use is to be found in Facciolati or in Ducange. Ed. Ben. quotes a parallel use of 'abstinendus' but without any instances. Rom. reads 'privandum,' Chifflet 'curandum,' either of which give the required sense, but seem corrections without MS. authority.

157. n The text in this passage is defective and confused: but the general sense, as given here, may fairly be made out of it as it stands.

158. o It is to be noticed that the sentence of only twenty-five Bishops are here given out of thirty two or thirty three. It is probable therefore that the Record is defective, and that the sentences of the rest have been lost.

159. p Ed. Ben. here reads, Et cum Secundianus subripuisset. As subripuisset by itself could have no sense, the reading of Ed. Rom. has been adopted, Et cum Secundianus se paullulum subripuisset et postea convenisset. This is adopted in Tillemont's narrative, Il sortit mesme de l'assemblée, mais il revint quelque temps apres.

160. S. John i.18. 

161.  Isa. lxv. 16.

162. q This is according to the text of Ed. Rom.

163. S. Matt. v. 37.

164. Heb. i. 5.

165. r The abrupt termination of the discussion with Secundianus, without any account of a decision in his case, seems to point to the same conclusion as the incomplete list of Bishops who give sentence on Palladius, that the Record is defective. Moreover the unusual number of various reading's is generally a sign of a defective text. The force and cleverness of the evasions of Secundianus seem sometimes to be lost thereby.

166. s With regard to the names of the sees, those of which the modern name is as familiar or more familiar than the ancient have been rendered by the modern name, those of which the modern name would be unfamiliar to general readers have been left in their ancient form. It would be affectation to call S. Ambrose Bishop of Mediolanum: on the other hand nothing would be gained by calling Felix Bishop of Jadera, Bishop of Zara.

167. t This name is omitted in the list at the beginning, so that there are thirty three in this list, only thirty two in the other. The two presbyters were probably representatives of Bishops, but it is not stated of whom.

168. a It is probable that similar letters were addressed to the Bishops of the other Provinces of Gaul, who had sent Justus as their deputy, and to Africa and lllyricum, though no record of them remains. Possibly they were identical, except the address. Gaul had at this time been so subdivided, that the Vicariate or civil Diocese consisted of no less than seventeen provinces. See Marquardt's Table, as quoted above.

169. Ps. xli. 1. C.P.T.

170. b There is no mention of the condemnation of Attalus in the Records, another proof that they are not complete.

171. c Julianus Valens was Bishop of Petavio or Pettau on the Drave, into which See he had apparently been introduced in the place of the orthodox Bishop Marcus: for this is, according to Tillemont, the meaning of the word 'superpositus.' When Pannonia and Illyricum were overrun by the Goths after Valens' defeat at Hadrianople, (378 A.D.) he deserted his charge. The ravages of the Barbarians are described by S. Jerome ad cap i. Zephan. vol. iii. p. 1645. See Gibbon ch. 26. (from a note in Newman's Fleury, vol. 1 p. 38.)

172. d The reading here is uncertain. Ed. Rom. has 'prout jam et sacerdotum concilio sententia in eos lata est.' Nor is it certain to what laws allusion is made. A long note in Ed. Ben. does not seem to clear up the matter.

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