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Home > Fathers of the Church > Tractates on the Gospel of John (Augustine) > Tractate 76

Tractate 76 (John 14:22-24)

1. While the disciples thus question, and Jesus their Master replies to them, we also, as it were, are learning along with them, when we either read or listen to the holy Gospel. Accordingly, because the Lord had said, Yet a little while, and the world sees me no more; but you shall see me, Judas— not indeed His betrayer, who was surnamed Iscariot, but he whose epistle is read among the canonical Scriptures— asked Him of this very matter: Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself unto us, and not unto the world? Let us, too, be as it were questioning disciples with them, and listen to our common Master. For Judas the holy, not the impure, the follower, but not the persecutor of the Lord, has inquired the reason why Jesus was to manifest Himself to His own, and not to the world; why it was that yet a little while, and the world should not see Him, but they should see Him.

2. Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my word: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loves me not, keeps not my sayings. Here we have set forth the reason why He is to manifest Himself to His own, and not to that other class whom He distinguishes by the name of the world; and such is the reason also why the one loves Him, and the other loves Him not. It is the very reason, whereof it is declared in the sacred psalm, Judge me, O God, and plead my cause against an unholy nation. For such as love are chosen, because they love: but those who have not love, though they speak with the tongues of men and angels, have become a sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal; and though they had the gift of prophecy, and knew all mysteries and all knowledge, and had all faith so that they could remove mountains, they are nothing; and though they distributed all their substance, and gave their body to be burnt, it profits them nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 The saints are distinguished from the world by that love which makes the one-minded to dwell [together] in a house. In this house Father and Son make their abode, and impart that very love to those whom They shall also honor at last with this promised self manifestation; of which the disciple questioned his Master, that not only those who then listened might learn it from His own lips, but we also from his Gospel. For he had made inquiry about the manifestation of Christ, and heard [in reply] about His loving and abiding. There is therefore a kind of inward manifestation of God, which is entirely unknown to the ungodly, who receive no manifestation of God the Father and the Holy Spirit: of the Son, indeed, there might have been such, but only in the flesh; and that, too, neither of the same kind as the other, nor able under any form to remain with them, save only for a little while; and even that, for judgment, not for rejoicing; for punishment, not for reward.

3. We have now, therefore, to understand, so far as He is pleased to unfold it, the meaning of the words, Yet a little while, and the world sees me no more; but you shall see me. It is true, indeed, that after a little while He was to withdraw even His body, in which the ungodly also were able to see Him, from their sight; for none of them saw Him after His resurrection. But since it was declared on the testimony of angels, He shall so come in like manner as you have seen Him go into heaven; Acts 1:11 and our faith stands to this, that He will come in the same body to judge the living and the dead; there can be no doubt that He will then be seen by the world, meaning by the name, those who are aliens from His kingdom. And, on this account, it is far better to understand Him as having intended to refer at once to that epoch, when He said, Yet a little while, and the world sees me no more, when in the end of the world He shall be taken away from the sight of the damned, that for the future He may be seen only of those with whom, as those that love Him, the Father and Himself are making their abode. But He said, a little while, because that which appears tedious to men is very brief in the sight of God: for of this same little while our evangelist, John, himself says, Little children, it is the last time. 1 John 2:18

4. But further, lest any should imagine that the Father and Son only, without the Holy Spirit, make their abode with those that love Them, let him recall what was said above of the Holy Spirit, Whom the world cannot receive, because it sees Him not, neither knows Him: but you shall know Him; for He shall dwell with you, and shall be in you John 14:17. Here you see that, along with the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit also takes up His abode in the saints; that is to say, within them, as God in His temple. The triune God, Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit, come to us while we are coming to Them: They come with help, we come with obedience; They come to enlighten, we to behold; They come to fill, we to contain: that our vision of Them may not be external, but inward; and Their abiding in us may not be transitory, but eternal. The Son does not manifest Himself in such a way as this to the world: for the world is spoken of in the passage before us as those, of whom He immediately adds, He that loves me not, keeps not my sayings. These are such as never see the Father and the Holy Spirit: and see the Son for a little while, not to their attainment of bliss, but to their condemnation; and even Him, not in the form of God, wherein He is equally invisible with the Father and the Holy Spirit, but in human form, in which it was His will to be an object of contempt in suffering, but of terror in judging the world.

5. But when He added, And the saying which you have heard is not mine, but the Father's who sent me, let us not be filled with wonder or fear: He is not inferior to the Father, and yet He is not, save of the Father: He is not unequal in Himself, but He is not of Himself. For it was no false word He uttered when He said, He that loves me not, keeps not my sayings. He called them, you see, His own sayings; does He, then, contradict Himself when He said again, And the saying which you have heard is not mine? And, perhaps, it was on account of some intended distinction that, when He said His own, He used sayings in the plural; but when He said that the saying, that is, the Word, was not His own, but the Father's, He wished it to be understood of Himself. For in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. For as the Word, He is certainly not His own, but the Father's: just as He is not His own image, but the Father's; and is not Himself His own Son, but the Father's. Rightly, therefore, does He attribute whatever He does, as equal, to the Author of all, of whom He has this very prerogative, that He is in all respects His equal.

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Source. Translated by John Gibb. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 7. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1888.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1701076.htm>.

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