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Home > Fathers of the Church > Tractates on the Gospel of John (Augustine) > Tractate 88

Tractate 88 (John 15:20-21)

1. The Lord, in exhorting His servants to endure with patience the hatred of the world, proposes to them no greater and better example than His own; seeing that, as the Apostle Peter says, Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we should follow His steps. 1 Peter 2:21 And if we really do so, we do it by His assistance, who said, Without me you can do nothing. But further, to those to whom He had already said, If the world hate you, know that it hated me before [it hated] you, He now also says in the word you have just been hearing, when the Gospel was read, Remember my word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord: if they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. Now in saying, The servant is not greater than his lord, does He not clearly indicate how He would have us understand what He had said above, Henceforth I call you not servants? For, you see, He calls them servants. For what else can the words imply, The servant is not greater than his lord: if they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you? It is clear, therefore, that when it is said, Henceforth I call you not servants, He is to be understood as speaking of that servant who abides not in the house for ever, but is characterized by the fear which love casts out; 1 John 4:18 whereas, when it is here said, The servant is not greater than his lord: if they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you, that servant is meant who is distinguished by the clean fear which endures for ever. For this is the servant who is yet to hear, Well done, good servant: enter into the joy of your Lord. Matthew 25:21

2. But all these things, He says, will they do unto you for my name's sake, because they know not Him that sent me. And what are all these things that they will do, but what He has just said, namely, that they will hate and persecute you, and despise your word? For if they kept not their word, and yet neither hated nor persecuted them; or if they even hated, but did not persecute them: it would not be all these things that they did. But all these things will they do unto you for my name's sake,— what else is that but to say, they will hate me in you, they will persecute me in you; and your word, just because it is mine, they will not keep? For all these things will they do unto you for my name's sake: not for yours, but mine. So much the more miserable, therefore, are those who do such things on account of that name, as those are blessed who suffer such things in its behalf: as He Himself elsewhere says, Blessed are they that suffer persecution for righteousness' sake. Matthew 5:10 For that is on my account, or for my name's sake: because, as we are taught by the apostle, He is made of God unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and santification, and redemption; that, according as it is written, He that glories, let him glory in the Lord. 1 Corinthians 1:30-31 For the wicked do such things to the wicked, but not for righteousness' sake; and therefore both are alike miserable, those who do, and those who suffer them. The good also do such things to the wicked: where, although the former do so for righteousness' sake, yet the latter suffer them not on the same behalf.

3. But some one says, If, when the wicked persecute the good for the name of Christ, the good suffer for righteousness' sake, then surely it is for righteousness' sake that the wicked do so to them; and if such is the case, then also, when the good persecute the wicked for righteousness' sake, it is for righteousness' sake likewise that the wicked suffer. For if the wicked can assail the good with persecution for the name of Christ, why cannot the wicked suffer persecution at the hands of the good on the same account; and what is that, but for righteousness' sake? For if the good act not so on the same account as that on which the wicked suffer, because the good do so for righteousness' sake, while the wicked suffer for unrighteousness, so then neither can the wicked act so on the same account as that for which the good suffer, because the wicked do so by unrighteousness, while the good suffer for righteousness' sake. And how then will that be true, All these things will they do unto you for my name's sake, when the former do it not for the name of Christ, that is, for righteousness' sake, but because of their own iniquity? Such a question is solved in this way, if only we understand the words, All these things will they do unto you for my name's sake, as referring entirely to the righteous, as if it had been said, All these things will you suffer at their hands for my name's sake, so that the words, they will do unto you, are equivalent to these, You will suffer at their hands. But if for my name's sake is to be taken as if He had said, For my name's sake which they hate in you, so also may the other be taken for that righteousness' sake which they hate in you; and in this way the good, when they institute persecution against the wicked, may be rightly said to do so both for righteousness' sake, in their love for which they persecute the wicked, and for that wickedness' sake which they hate in the wicked themselves; and so also the wicked may be said to suffer both for the iniquity that is punished in their persons, and for the righteousness which is exercised in their punishment.

4. It may also be inquired, if the wicked also persecute the wicked, just as ungodly princes and judges, while they were the persecutors of the godly, certainly also punished murderers and adulterers, and all classes of evil-doers whom they ascertained to be acting contrary to the public laws, how are we to understand the words of the Lord, If you were of the world, the world would love its own? John 15:19 For those whom it punishes cannot be loved by the world, which, we see, generally punishes the classes of crimes mentioned above, save only that the world is both in those who punish such crimes, and in those that love them. Therefore that world, which is to be understood as existing in the wicked and ungodly, both hates its own in respect of that section of men in whose case it inflicts injury on the criminal, and loves its own in respect of that other section in whose case it shows favor to its own partners in criminality. Hence, All these things will they do unto you for my name's sake, is said either in reference to that for the sake of which you suffer, or to that on account of which they themselves so deal with you, because that which is in you they both hate and persecute. And He added, Because they know not Him that sent me. This is to be understood as spoken of that knowledge of which it is also elsewhere recorded, But to know You is perfect intelligence. Wisdom 6:16 For those who with such a knowledge know the Father, by whom Christ was sent, can in no wise persecute those whom Christ is gathering; for they also themselves are being gathered by Christ along with the others.

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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/1701088.htm>.

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