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Home > Fathers of the Church > Tractates on the Gospel of John (Augustine) > Tractate 91

Tractate 91 (John 15:24-25)

1. The Lord had said, He that hates me, hates my Father also. For of a certainty he that hates the truth must also hate Him of whom the truth is born; on which subject we have already spoken, as we were granted ability. And then He added the words on which we have now to discourse: If I had not done among [in] them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin. To wit, that great sin whereof He also says before, If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin. Their sin was that of not believing on Him who thus spoke and wrought. For they were not without sin before He so spoke to them and did such works among them; but this sin of theirs, in not believing on Him, is thus specially mentioned because really inclusive in itself of all sins besides. For had they been clear of this one, and believed on Him, all else would also have been forgiven.

2. But what is meant when, after saying, If I had not done among them works, He immediately added, which none other man did? Of a certainty, among all the works of Christ, none seem to be greater than the raising of the dead; and yet we know that the same was done by the prophets of olden time. For Elias did so; 1 Kings 17:21-22 and Elisha also, both when alive in the flesh, 2 Kings 4:35 and when he lay buried in his sepulchre. For when certain men, who were carrying a dead person, had fled there for refuge from an onset of their enemies, and had laid him down therein, he instantly came again to life. 2 Kings 13:21 And yet there were some works that Christ did which none other man did: as, when He fed the five thousand men with five loaves, and the four thousand with seven; when He walked on the waters, and gave Peter power to do the same; Matthew 14:25-29 when He changed the water into wine; John 2:9 when He opened the eyes of a man that was born blind, John 9:7 and many besides, which it would take long to mention. But we are answered, that others also have done works which even He did not, and which no other man has done. For who else save Moses smote the Egyptians with so many and mighty plagues, Exodus vii.-xii as when He led the people through the parted waters of the sea, Exodus 14:21-29 when he obtained manna for them from heaven in their hunger, Exodus xvi and water from the rock in their thirst? Exodus 17:6 Who else save Joshua the son of Nun divided the stream of the Jordan for the people to pass over, Joshua iii and by the utterance of a prayer to God bridled and stopped the revolving sun? Joshua 10:12-14 Who save Samson ever quenched his thirst with water flowing forth from the jawbone of a dead ass? Judges 15:19 Who save Elias was carried aloft in a chariot of fire? 2 Kings 2:11 Who save Elisha, as I have just mentioned, after his own body was buried, restored the dead body of another to life? Who else besides Daniel lived unhurt amid the jaws of famishing lions, that were shut up with him? Daniel 6:22 And who else save the three men Ananias, Azariah, and Mishael, ever walked about unharmed in flames that blazed and did not burn? Daniel 3:23-27

3. I pass by other examples, as these I consider to be sufficient to show that some of the saints have done wonderful works, which none other man did. But we read of no one whatever of the ancients who cured with such power so many bodily defects, and bad states of the health, and troubles of mortals. For, to say nothing of those individual cases which He healed, as they occurred, by the word of command, the Evangelist Mark says in a certain place: And at even, when the sun had set, they brought unto Him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils. And all the city was gathered together at the door. And He healed many that were sick of various diseases, and cast out many devils. Mark 1:32-34 And Matthew, in giving us the same account, has also added the prophetic testimony, when he says: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sickness. Matthew 8:17 In another passage also it is said by Mark: And wherever He entered, into villages, or cities, or country, they laid the sick in the streets, and besought Him that they might touch if it were but the border of His garment: and as many as touched Him were made whole. Mark 6:56 None other man did such things in them. For so are we to understand the words in them, not among them, or in their presence; but directly in them, because He healed them. For He wished them to understand the works as those which not only occasioned admiration, but conferred also manifest healing, and were benefits which they ought surely to have requited with love, and not with hatred. He transcends, indeed, the miracles of all besides, in being born of a virgin, and in possessing alone the power, both in His conception and birth, to preserve inviolate the integrity of His mother: but that was done neither before their eyes nor in them. For the knowledge of the truth of such a miracle was reached by the apostles, not through any onlooking that they had in common with others, but in the course of their separate discipleship. Moreover, the fact that on the third day He restored Himself to life from the very tomb, in the flesh wherein He had been slain, and, never thereafter to die, with it ascended into heaven, even surpasses all else that He did: but just as little was this done either in the Jews or before their eyes; nor had it yet been done, when He said, If I had not done among them the works which none other man did.

4. The works, then, are doubtless those miracles of healing in connection with their bodily complaints which He exhibited to such an extent as no one before had furnished among them: for these they saw, and it is in reproaching them therewith that He proceeds to say, But now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father: but [this comes to pass] that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause [gratuitously]. He calls it, their law, not as invented by them, but given to them: just as we say, Our daily bread; which, nevertheless, we ask of God in conjoining the words Give us. Matthew 6:11 But one hates gratuitously who neither seeks advantage from the hatred nor avoids inconvenience: so do the wicked hate the Lord; and so also is He loved by the righteous, that is to say, gratuitously [gratis, freely,] inasmuch as they expect no other gifts beyond Himself, for He Himself will be all in all. But whoever would be disposed to look for something more profound in the words of Christ, If I had not done among them the works which none other man did (for although such were done by the Father, or the Holy Spirit, yet no one else did them, for the whole Trinity is one and the same in substance), he will find that it was He who did it even when some man of God did something similar. For in Himself He can do everything by Himself; but without Him no one can do anything. For Christ with the Father and the Holy Spirit are not three Gods, but one God, of whom it is written, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who only does wondrous things. No one else, therefore, really himself did the works which He did among them; for any one else who did any such works, did them only through His doing. But He Himself did them without any doing on their part.

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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/1701091.htm>.

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