Tuesday, March 12, 2013

St. Ambrose on Law and Gospel

The following are quotes from St. Ambrose's treatise On Jacob and the Happy Life. This can be found in vol. 65 of CUA Press's The Fathers of the Church series.

"For the man who has been redeemed as a slave has his freedom, and as for the man who has been called as a free man, it is good for him to know that he is a slave of Christ, under whom servitude is safe and freedom secure...For in truth we are all freedmen of Christ, but no one is a free man; we have all been procreated in servitude...Don't you know that the guilt of Adam and Eve sold you into servitude? Don't you know that Christ did not buy you, but bought you back?" (Jacob and the Happy Life Book One, 3.12)

"What do you possess, moreover, that the Lord has not given you? He gave the law; He added His grace. The law denounced sin but in a hazardous situation could not entirely restrain it. For I became aware of sin that I did not know; I became aware that concupiscence was sin, and from the opportunity afforded by this knowledge the wages of sin have piled up. Sin, which before seemed dead by reason of my ignorance, gained a new life in me; but I died under the wound of sin, because the very knowledge of guilt that would help me, so it seemed, did me harm--I knew sin, but could not avoid it. For the knowledge revealed the sin, and, through the good which was that proclamation, it multiplied the malevolence of sin itself. And so I committed sin beyond measure, because it was multiplied by the proclamation of the commandment; guilt grows when it is revealed and precautions are not taken against it. How then is the commandment good, which for me is death? And how is it not death for me? For through the commandment's revealing the good which it symbolizes, sin has worked death in me. Indeed, it is certain that death came to me as long as I knew the sin that I did, just as the Lord Himself says, 'If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin.'"(Jacob and the Happy Life Book One, 4.13)

"In this danger the one remedy is that the grace of God should free the man whom the law could not." (4.16)

"Yet for me it is not death, for I readily flee to Christ, through whom we are freed from every danger of death. Therefore the second proposition has also been settled, because the commandment of the law is not death for me, even though it works death. For we are troubled by reason of frailty, but we escape by reason of Christ." (4.16)

"The Lord Jesus comes to fix our passions to His cross and to forgive our sins. In His death we have been justified, so that the whole world might be made clean by His blood. Indeed, in His death we have been baptized. If, then, sins are forgiven us in His death, let the passions of our sins die in His death, let them be held fast by the nails of His cross. If we have died in His death, why are we called back again to worldly things as if we were alive to them? What have we to do with elements of the world, with desires, with luxury and wanton behavior? We have died to these in Christ. But if we have died in Christ, we have arisen in Christ; therefore let us dwell with Christ, let us seek with Christ the things that are above, not those that are earthly and corruptible. Christ, rising from the dead, left the old man fixed to the cross, but He raised up the new man." (5.17)

"We have died in the flesh, we have been renewed in the spirit. Let us walk in the spirit, because we have received the spirit of Christ. If then Christ is in us, let our flesh be dead by reason of sin, but let our spirit live by reason of justification." (5.17)

"The law did not prevail because it did not mortify the flesh; it passed by like a shadow, because it did not enlighten; it shaded us from the Sun of Justice, because it piled up offenses--therefore it was a hindrance." (5.17)

"We did not keep it; why was the other added to it, when the flesh could not have gained justification in the works of the other? A bond was acquired, not a release; there was added the recognition of sin, but not the forgiveness of it. We all sinned; we were able to present an excuse by way of ignorance--everyone's mouth has been blocked up." (6.20)

"Nevertheless, the law was of help to me. I began to confess what I used to deny, I began to know my sin and not to cover over my injustice. I began to proclaim my injustice to the Lord against myself, and you forgave the iniquities of my heart. But this too is of help to me, that we are not justified by works of the law. Thus I do not have the wherewithal to boast of myself, and so I will glory in Christ. I will not glory because I have been redeemed. I will not glory because I am free of sins, but because sins have been forgiven me. I will not glory because I am profitable or because anyone is profitable to me, but because Christ is an advocate in my behalf with the Father, because the blood of Christ has been poured out in my behalf. My guilt became for me the price of redemption, through which Christ came to me. On account of me, Christ tasted death." (6.21)

"You have died to sin, O man; thus the law is not a hindrance any more. You rise again through grace, and so the law was of help to me because it won grace. You have received also the pledge of the love of Christ, because Christ, who has died for you, is an advocate for you and is saving up the reward gained by His blood. He has reconciled the sinner to the Father." (6.21)

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