Part 4
Chapter 4—Of Efficacious  Grace

Section 18—Ambrosius Mediolanensis. A.D. 380.

Ambrose of Milain frequently suggests, that every thing that is good is from God, as good thoughts, virtues, faith and obedience. “There is none”, says he,[1] “who has not some sort of image, that is, either of holiness or sin; we walk in the image of God, quando cogitationes bonae quae nobis a Deo insitae sunt, when good thoughts, which are put into us by God, remain in us, and lead us on to good works.” In another place citing John 3:21, he makes this observation[2] Lo here we read, that the works of men are wrought in God, and yet we cannot refer them to the divine substance; but we know, either that they are made by him, according to Colossians 1:16, 17, or as the reading of the present testimony teaches, we ought to reckon that those virtues through which the fruit of eternal life is obtained, are made in or by God, as charity, piety, religion, faith, and others of the like kind, which are wrought in or by the will of God; therefore as in or by the will and power of God the Father, so likewise of Christ, they are made, according to Ephesians 2:10. And elsewhere speaking of the faith of the centurion, he says,[3] this is not of man, sed potestate Dei, but by the power of God. Again, discoursing of Eve's subjection to her husband, he makes this remark,[4] in which I evidently perceive, says he, the mystery of Christ and the church; for the future conversion of the church to Christ, and that religious servitude subject to the word of God, which is much better than the liberty of this world, are designed. Moreover it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve; haec igitur servitus Dei donum est, wherefore this servitude is the gift of God. Regeneration, from whence spiritual obedience springs, of which faith and other graces are parts, is often referred by this pious father, to the Spirit, grace, and power of God. That we are according to grace, born again of the Spirit, he observes,[5] the Lord himself witnesses, John 3:6 8, wherefore it is clear, that the Holy Spirit is the author also of spiritual regeneration, because we are created after God that we may be the sons of God; therefore when he shall take us to his own kingdom by the adoption of holy regeneration, do we deny him what is his own? he hath made us heirs of regeneration which is from above, we claim the inheritance, do we disprove the author? But the benefit cannot remain when the author is excluded; neither is the author without the gift, nor the gift without the author; if you claim the grace, believe the power; if you disprove the power, do not seek after the grace. And a little after, The more excellent regeneration, Sancti Spiritus opus est, is the work of the Holy Spirit; and the Spirit is the author of the new man which is created after the image of God. And in another place he says,[6] There is no carnal man in Christ; but if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: non naturae novitate formatus, sed gratiae, not formed by newness of nature, but of grace. And this grace to which he frequently ascribes the new creation and formation of man, is all from the Spirit of God; for, as he observes,[7] How can there be grace, sine Spiritu, without the Spirit, since all divine grace is in the Spirit? Wherefore in the same work he says[8] We cannot call to the Father or the Son without the Spirit, for no man calls Jesus Lord, but in the Holy Ghost: upon which account he elsewhere says;[9] To pray to God is spiritual grace. And again,[10] This common life does not keep the heavenly command, but that which is supported by the eternal gift, through the operation of spiritual grace. Moreover, he observes,[11] that to whomsoever the Spit of grace is present, nothing is wanting; and in whom the Holy Ghost is infused, there is a fullness of great virtues; all which he represents as the effect of almighty power, and as flowing from the sovereign will and pleasure of God. What, says he,[12] is impossible by human desires, that can be possible per divinam gratiam solam, by divine grace alone, for, as he expresses himself elsewhere,[13] Who can change nature, but he who hath created nature? to put off the bridles of lusts from minds infected with vices, says he,[14] and amend, is not only of perfect virtue, but also of heavenly grace; for to amend things to come, is of human attention; but to damn things past, is of divine power; which power is put forth by the Lord as he pleases,[15] for God, whom he thinks fit, he calls, et quem vult religiosum facit, and whom he pleases he makes religious; and could, if he would, of persons not devoted to him, make them devoted; and so he does when it seems good in his sight. Thus Ambrose, speaking of the Spirit of God, says,[16] who, when he pleases, into whom he pleases, and as many as he pleases, and as much as he pleases, he inspires by his own proper will; therefore he fills with his grace whom he pleases, and as much as he pleases; he himself is not filled; he gives, he does not receive perfection; he sanctifies, but he himself is not sanctified. And in another place he says,[17] The grace of the Lord is given, not as from merit of reward, sed quasi ex voluntate, but as of will, according to 1 Corinthians 12:11, as he will, he says, not as is due; wherefore there is no room nor reason for boasting in the creature. Let no man, says Ambrose,[18] boast that he has a pure heart; but he that glories, let him glory in the Lord, qui sanctis suis cor mundum creare dignatus est, who vouchsafes to create a clean heart in his saints. And, as is elsewhere observed by him,[19] Whether thou art numbered among the angels, thou oughtest always to speak in justification of God; and the glory which thou hast obtained, thou shouldest not arrogate to thine own merits, sed divinae misericordiae semper ascribes, but always ascribe it to divine mercy; lest it should be said to thee, as in 1 Corinthians 4:7, for every creature, whatsoever good things it hath, it receives from Christ, who is the author of the whole creation.


[1] In Symbol. Apost. c. 16, p. 99.

[2] De Fide, 1. 3, c. 3, p. 150.

[3] In Luc. 1. 5, p. 91.

[4] De Aaradiso, c. 14, p. 130.

[5] De Spiritu Sancto, 1.3. e. 9, p. 242.

[6] Epist. 1. 8, ep. 61, p. 327; vide etiam Enarr. in Psalm 119. Jod, p. 959; et in Luc. 1.10. p. 217.

[7] De Spiritu Sancto, 1. 1, c. 11, p. 227.

[8] Ibid. c. 10.

[9] Expos. Isaiah apud Aug. contr, duas Epist. Pelag. 1. 4, c. 11.

[10] Enarr. in Psalm 119. Mem. p. 974.

[11] -- In Luc. 1. 1, p. 13.

[12] In Psalm 119. Heth, p. 935.

[13] Epist. 1. 5, ep. 37, p. 284.

[14] In Psalm 119. Tau, p. 1080.

[15] In Luc. 1. 7, p. 125.

[16] In Symbol. Apost. c. 4, p. 90.

[17] De Exhort. ad Virgin. p, 437.

[18] In Psalm 119. Jod, 966.

[19] Io. Samech, 1012, 1013.