Ambrose, Chrysostom, Jerome and Augustine. Introduction.
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Ambrose, Chrysostom, Jerome and Augustine
The fourth century of the history of the Christian church is a very important time because there were so many great Christian leaders. There was not anything like the fourth century until we arrive at the sixteenth century with Calvin and Luther and John Knox and many great Christian leaders of the Reformation period. But prior to the sixteenth century, the fourth century is the time when in God’s providence there were many outstanding theologians, pastors, preachers, and Christian leaders.
Ambrose339 - 397
Born in Rome
Made his way as a politician or statesman and was appointed governor of northern Italy.
Baptized, ordained, and consecrated as bishop.
Church and Political condition
Time of Theodosius
Christianity as the only official religion
The state wants to interfere with the church and control it.
This is the beginning of a long history of tensions between the church and the state.
On several occasions Ambrose clashed with Theodosius, the emperor. Ambrose was not afraid to stand up to the emperor and say when he thought he was wrong. Sometimes Theodosius was indeed wrong. And there may have been occasions when the emperor was right and Ambrose was wrong. But at least he was an example of a church leader who stood up to the emperor and who wanted to assert the independence of the church from imperial control.
His influence on Augustine
Ambrose was an effective bishop and also an effective, eloquent preacher. Augustine went to Milan, he went to hear Ambrose preach. It was not because Augustine was interested in Christianity, but he was interested in eloquence. Before long, Augustine found himself listening to what Ambrose was actually saying, and that was a very important step along the way to Saint Augustine’s conversion.
Ambrose defended Christianity in his preaching against:
Neo-paganism - Paganism did not die out despite Christianity’s status as the official religion.
Arianism - it began to seep back in from the Barbarians in the north
Ambrose as a liturgist
He was very concerned that the worship of God be carried forth in a proper way, but also in a dramatic, public way. The great dramatic cathedral services with readings, liturgy, and music—particularly music—all take a large step forward in the work of Ambrose of Milan.
Augustine on the singing at Milan: “The tears flowed from me when I heard your hymns and canticles, for the sweet singing of your church moved me deeply. The music surged in my ears, truth seeped into my heart, and my feelings of devotion overflowed, so that the tears streamed down. But they were tears of gladness.”
Born in Dalmatia, Italy
from a very wealthy, prominent family
If you think of Ambrose as a pastor, preacher, and churchman, then you should think of Jerome as a scholar.
Three wishes of Jerome
One was to have seen Christ in the flesh.
Another was to have heard Christ preach.
And the third was to have seen Rome in its glory.
Jerome learned Latin, which was easy because it was a native language to him. And he also spoke Greek. And he also learned and spoke Hebrew, which was unusual at the time. It was not until the sixteenth century that Hebrew became a common study among pastors and Bible commentators. Jerome learned Hebrew, and as a translator and commentator of the Bible he set an important example for scholars of the future.
Jerome and the Latin Vulgate
The greatest thing that Jerome did as a scholar was translate the Bible into Latin known as the Vulgate. He completed his translation in 405 after working on it for 22 years.
Jerome and celibacy
As a monk, Jerome began to think and write more on celibacy. With Jerome, however, there is a shift to the view that there is something good about celibacy itself or even something better about it.
He says, “Is the sofa smooth? Is the pavement swept? Are the flowers in the vases? Is dinner ready? Tell me where amid all this is there room for the thought of God.” The idea is that if you get married and have a family you will not have time to think about God.
Born in Antioch
Bishop of Constantinople
Chrysostom means “golden mouth.”
Converted through the
influence of Basil
Chrysostom as a preacher
John Chrysostom became a preacher, and a great one. His language is vivid. His illustrations are memorable, even as we read them today. He offered very searching applications. Of all the people that we have studied thus far in the history of the church, his sermons are the most readable and edifying.
Chrysostom and his doctrines
Even though Chrysostom was a wonderful preacher, he did not get everything right. Charles Spurgeon admired Chrysostom, but he also wrote that “there is enough of solid truth and brilliant utterance in Chrysostom’s homilies to justify his title of ‘Golden Mouth,’ but still all is not gold which fell from his lips.”
Chrysostom as a great exegete
There were two prominent school during those times. Antioch and Alexandria. Antioch focused on the literal interpretation while Alexandria on allegorical. So as we read Chrysostom, we see the natural sense of Scripture coming forth, as opposed to the more mystical sense of Scripture that was coming forth from Alexandria.
Chrysostom as a pastor
One of the great books of church history is Chrysostom’s “On the Priesthood”. It is a book of pastoral theology. Chrysostom writes about the various qualifications in order to be a pastor. Anyone thinking of a career as a pastor would do well to read Chrysostom’s “On the Priesthood”.
He breaks it down into two points. He says there are two jobs: people and preaching. He says a pastor must give equal attention to both. A pastor must give attention to the people he preaches to in order to understand them and communicate with them. And a pastor needs to study how to preach in order to be an effective minister of God’s covenant.
Augustine354 - 430
Born in Tagasta, Algeria
Monica, his mother, was a great influence in his life.
Bishop of Hippo
Major works: “The City of God” and “Confessions”
Monica: mother of Augustine
She was a woman of prayer
A very faithful woman not only in prayer, but also in witnessing to her family.
“Servant of the servants of God.”
Augustine the sinner
In his childhood - In The Confessions he tells us that he was sinning as soon as he was born. He said, “So tiny a child, so great a sinner.”
In his youth - “O Lord, give me chastity, but not yet.” So he continued to wallow in the sins of the flesh in Carthage
His search for the truth
Philosophy (Cicero’s Hortensius)
Met Ambrose who became instrumental to his conversion
Augustine on humility
“I wouldn’t have you prepare for yourself any way of grasping and holding the truth other than the one prepared by him who, as God, saw how faltering were our steps. That way is, first, humility; second, humility; third, humility; and as often as you ask, I’ll tell you humility.”
Augustine on charity
“This is not the time to do fewer works of mercy, but, rather, more…Think of people who see the walls of their home shaking and know that it is about to be destroyed—don’t they leave it and go as fast as they can to a more secure place? So should Christians, as their increasing afflictions reveal to them that the destruction of this world is coming closer, transfer unwearyingly and with all speed the goods they were intending to store up on earth to the treasure house of heaven.”
Augustine on judging
“None of us is known to another person as we know ourselves; and yet neither do we know ourselves well enough to feel secure about our behavior, even the very next day…There is so much unknown and undependable about human hearts that the Apostle was surely right to counsel us not to judge anything prematurely, ‘before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and reveal the intentions of the heart.’”
Augustine on church practices
Some practices “vary in the different places and regions of the world. Some people fast on Saturdays, others do not; some receive communion in the Lord’s body and blood daily, others only on certain days…[In these things] there is no better discipline for a wise and serious Christian than to do as does the church where you happen to be.”