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On the Gospel

St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor
Translated by M.F. Toale, D.D.
(PL 15, Expos. in Lucam Lib. VII, 91-5.)
Every kingdom divided against itself, shall be brought to desolation, and house upon house shall fall. 

The cause of this saying was because our Lord was accused of casting out devils by the power of Beelzebub, the prince of devils; so that He might show that His own kingdom is one and everlasting.  And rightly did He also answer Pilate: My kingdom is not of this world (Jn. xviii. 36).  And so He tells them that those who do not place their trust in Christ, and who believe that He casts out devils through the power of the prince of the devils, do not belong to His eternal kingdom.  And this refers to the Jewish people who, in afflictions of this kind, seek the help of the devil to cast out the devil. 

For how can a kingdom remain undivided when its faith is destroyed? For, since the Jewish people is subject to the Law, and Christ also as man was born under the Law, how can the kingdom of the Jews, which derives from the Law, endure when this same people divided the law into parts; when Christ Who was promised under the Law was rejected by the people of the law? So in part the faith of the Jewish people turns against itself, and so turning becomes divided, and by being divided it is brought to nothing.  And therefore the kingdom of the Church shall endure for ever; for being one faith, it is one body: For there is One Lord, one faith, one baptism; One God and Father of all, Who is above all, and through all, and in us all (Eph. iv. 5, 6). 

How great the foolishness of the impious belief, that though the Son of God had taken flesh to crush the unclean spirits, and take away the armour of the prince of this world, and had also given power to men to destroy the spirits of evil, distributing his spoils in sign of triumph, some should seek the help and protection of the power of the devil; since it is by the Finger of God, or as Matthew says, by the Spirit of God that devils are cast out? (Mt. xii. 28).  From this we are to understand that His kingdom is as it were the inseparable Body of the Divinity; since Christ is the right hand of God, and the Spirit, under the figure of a finger, seems to express to us the notion of the Oneness Being of the Divinity. 

Since His Body is One, shall His kingdom not seem to be one? For, as you have read, in him dwelleth all the fulness of the divinity corporally (Col. ii. 9).  And what you may not deny of the Father you ought not deny of the Spirit.  Nor should a certain part appear as the instrument of power, because of this comparison with our members; for there is no division of an indivisible thing, and because of this the use of the term finger is to be referred to the reality of their unity, not to a division of power.  For the Right Hand of God also says: I and the Father are one (Jn. x. 30).  Yet though divinity is undivided, the person is distinct and separate. 

When however the Spirit is called Finger operative power is signified; for the Holy Spirit, equally with the Father and the Son, is the holy Operator of the divine works.  For David says: I will behold thy heavens, the work of thy fingers (Ps. viii. 4).  And in the thirty-second psalm: And all the power of them by the spirit of his mouth.  And Paul says: But all these things one and the same spirit worketh, dividing to everyone according as he will (I Cor. xii. 11).  And when He says: 

But if I by the finger cast Out devils; doubtless the kingdom of God is come upon you, saying this He shows that there is a certain royal dominion of the Holy Spirit, which is the Kingdom of God.  We in whom the Spirit abides have also within us a royal dwelling.  So on a later occasion He says: The kingdom of God is within you (Lk. xvii. 21).  We must therefore consider the Holy Spirit as being an equal sharer of the Divinity, and of the Divine Power, and of the Divine Majesty; because the Lord is a Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty (II Cor. iii. 17.) 

When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through places without water, seeking rest, and not finding.  It cannot be doubted that this was said of the Jewish People, whom in the preceding words the Lord severed from His Kingdom.  And from this we are to understand that heretics and schismatics are also severed from the Kingdom of God, and from the Church.  And so He makes it clearly evident that every assembly of heretics and schismatics belongs, not to God, but to the unclean spirit.  Accordingly, the whole Jewish People is compared to a man from whom, through the Law, an unclean spirit has gone forth. 

But because he could find no resting place among the nations and Gentiles, because of their faith in Christ (for Christ is the undoing of the unclean spirits; for He has cooled the fiery darts of the enemy against the hearts of the Gentiles, which before were dry and hard, but which now have begun to be soft from the dew of the Holy Spirit in baptism) he returns to the Jewish People, which had been swept and garnished to a legalistic but superficial cleanness, yet remained ever more stained in its inward soul.  For it had not begun either to restrain or to cleanse its fierceness in the sacred stream of baptism.  And so not without reason did the unclean spirit return to it; bringing with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; for in this impious purpose he warred against the week of the Law, and the mystery of the eighth day. 

And as the grace of the sevenfold Spirit is multiplied on us, so on them is heaped every violence of the spirits of evil; for totality is often signified by this number; for it was on the seventh day that, having finished the work of creation, God rested (Gen. ii. 2).  Because of this we also have: Therefore the barren hath borne many (hepta), and she that had many children is weakened (I King ii. 5). 

Chap. 12: 10-12.  And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but to him that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him.  We understand that Christ is truly the Son of man, Who was conceived of the Holy Ghost, and born of the Virgin; that the Virgin is His sole earthly Parent.  Is the Holy Ghost then preferred before Christ, so that though sinning against Him we yet receive pardon, but if we sin against the Holy Spirit we shall not obtain pardon?  There is no question of comparison, no discussion of degree, where there is but oneness of power; for the Lord is great, and of his greatness there is no end (Ps. cxliv. 3).  If therefore we believe that Oneness belongs to the Trinity, then so does indivisible might, and undivided action; which is seen from what follows.  For since it was elsewhere said: The Father will give to you what you shall say, here we have added: For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what you must say.  So if action relates to this Unity, so does offence.  But let us return to what we proposed. 

Here it seems to some that we are to understand that the same Christ is both Son of man and Holy Spirit: saving the distinction of Persons and their Oneness of Nature; for One and the Same Spirit is both God and the Man Christ, as we find written: The breath of our mouth Christ the Lord (Lam. iv. 20).  The Same is Holy; for as the Father is God, and the Son is God, and the Father is Lord, and Lord also is the Son, so also Holy is the Father, Holy the Son, Holy the Spirit.  Accordingly, the Cherubim and Seraphim with unwearying voices exclaim: Holy, Holy, Holy, that by this threefold name the Trinity may be signified. 

If then Christ is both, what is the reason for the distinction, unless that we may know that it is not lawful for us to deny the Divinity of Christ? And what was it that was demanded of us in the persecutions but that we should deny that Christ was God? And so whosoever does not confess that God is in Christ, and that Christ is in God and from God, will not be deserving of pardon.  And whosoever does not also confess that Christ came in the flesh is not of God; for he who has denied the Man has denied the God: because God is in the Man, and Christ as Man is in God.  Amen.