Augustin on John 76
1. In the preceding lesson of the holy Gospel, which is followed by the one that has just been read, the Lord Jesus had said that He and the Father would come to those who loved Them, and make Their abode with them. But He had also already said above of the Holy Spirit, “But ye shall know Him; for He shall dwell with you, and shall be in you” (ver. 17): by which we understood that the divine Trinity dwelleth together in the saints as in His own temple. But now He saith, “These things have I spoken unto you while [still] dwelling with you.” That dwelling, therefore, which He promised in the future, is of one kind; and this, which He declares to be present, is of another. The one is spiritual, and is realized inwardly by the mind; the other is corporal, and is exhibited outwardly to the eye and the ear. The one brings eternal blessedness to those who have been delivered, the other pays its visits in time to those who await deliverance. As regards the one, the Lord never withdraws from those who love Him; as regards the other, He comes and goes. “These things, He says, “have I spoken unto you, while [still] dwelling with you;” that is, in His bodily presence, wherein He was visibly conversing with them.
2. “But the Comfort,” He adds, “[which is] the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” Is it, then, that the Son speaks, and the Holy Spirit teaches, so that we merely get hold of the words that are uttered by the Son, and then understand them by the teaching of the Spirit as if the Son could speak without the Holy Spirit, or the Holy Spirit teach without the Son: or is it not rather that the Son also teacheth and the Spirit speaketh, and, when it is God that speaketh and teacheth anything, that the Trinity itself is speaking and teaching? And just because it is a Trinity, its persons required to be introduced individually, so that we might hear it in its distinct personality, and understand its inseparable nature.1 Listen to the Father speaking in the passage where thou readest, “The Lord said unto me, Thou art my Son:”2 listen to Him also teaching, in that where thou readest, “Ever man that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.”3 The Son, on the other hand, thou hast just heard speaking; for He saith of Himself, “Whatsoever I have said unto you:” and if thou wouldst also know Him as a Teacher, bethink thyself of the Master, when He saith, “One is your Master, even Christ.”4 Furthermore, of the Holy Spirit, whom thou hast just been told of as a Teacher in the words, “He shall teach you all things,” listen to Him also speaking, where thou readest in the Ac of the Apostles, that the Holy Spirit said to the blessed Peter, “Go with them, for I have sent them.”5 The whole Trinity, therefore, both speaketh and teacheth: but were it not also brought before us in its individual personality, it would certainly altogether surpass the power of human weakness to comprehend it. For as it is altogether inseparable in itself, it could never be known as the Trinity, were it always spoken of inseparably; for when we speak of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, we certainly do not pronounce them simultaneously, and yet in themselves they cannot be else than simultaneous. But when He added,” He will bring to your remembrance,” we ought also to understand that we are commanded not to forget that these pre-eminently salutary admonitions are part of that grace which the Holy Spirit brings to our remembrance.
3. “Peace,” He said, “I leave with you, my peace I give unto you.” It is here we read in the prophet, “Peace upon peace:” peace He leaves with us when going away, His own peace He will give us when He cometh in the end. Peace He leaveth with us in this world, His own peace He will give us in the world to come. His own peace He leaveth with us, and abiding therein we conquer the enemy. His own peace He will give us when, with no more enemies to fight, we shall reign as kings. Peace He leaveth with us, that here also we may love one another: His own peace will He give us, where we shall be beyond the possibility of dissension. Peace He leaveth with us, that we may not judge one another of what is secret to each, while here on earth: His own peace will He give us, when He “will make manifest the counsels of the heart; and then shall every man have praise of God.”6 And yet in Him and from Him it is that we have peace, whether that which He leaveth with us when going to the Father, or that which He will give us when we ourselves are brought by Him to the Father. And what is it He leaveth with us, when ascending from us, save His own presence, which He never withdraweth? For He Himself is our peace who hath made both one.7 It is He, therefore, that becomes our peace, both when we believe that He is, and when we see Him as He is.8 For if, so long as we are in this corruptible body that burdens the soul, and are walking by faith, not by sight, He forsaketh not those who are sojourning at a distance from Himself;9 how much more, when we have attained to that sight, shall He fill us with Himself?
4. But why is it that, when He said, “Peace I leave with you,” He did not add, “my;” but when He said, “I give unto you,” He there made use of it? Is “my” to be understood even where it is not expressed, on the ground that what is expressed once may have a reference to both? Or may it not be that here also we have some underlying truth that has to be asked and sought for, and opened up to those who knock thereat? For what, if by His own peace He meant such to be understood as that which He possesses Himself? whereas the peace, which He leaves us in this world, may more properly be termed our peace than His. For He, who is altogether without sin, has no elements of discord in Himself; while the peace we possess, meanwhile, is such that in the midst of it we have still to be saying, “Forgive us our debts.”10 A certain kind of peace, accordingly, we do possess, inasmuch as we delight in the law of God after the inward man: but it is not a full peace, for we see another law in our members warring against the law of our mind.11 In the same way we have peace in our relations with one another, just because, in mutually loving, we have a mutual confidence in one another: but no more is such a peace as that complete, for we see not the thoughts of one another’s hearts; and we have severally better or worse opinions in certain respects of one another than is warranted by the reality. And so that peace, although left us by Him, is our peace: for were it not from Him, we should not be possessing it, such as it is; but such is not the peace He has Himself. And if we keep what we received to the end, then such as He has shall we have, when we shall have no elements of discord of our own, and we shall have no secrets hid from one another in our hearts. But I am not ignorant that these words of the Lord may be taken so as to seem only a repetition of the same idea, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you:” so that after saying “peace,” He only repeated it in saying “my peace;” and what He had meant in saying “I leave with you,” He simply repeated in saying “I give unto you.” Let each one understand it as he pleases; but it is my delight, as I believe it is yours also, my beloved brethren, to keep such hold of that peace here, where our hearts are making common cause against the adversary, that we may be ever longing for the peace which there will be no adversary to disturb.
5. But when the Lord proceeded to say, “Not as the world giveth, give I unto you,” what else does He mean but, Not as those give who love the world, give I unto you? For their aim in giving themselves peace is that, exempt from the annoyance of lawsuits and wars, they may find enjoyment, not in God, but in the friendship of the world; andalthough they give the righteous peace, in ceasing to persecute them, there can be no true peace where there is no real harmony, because their hearts are at variance. For asone is called a consort who unites his lot (sortem) with another, so may he be termed concordant whose heart has entered into a similar union.12 Let us, therefore, beloved, with whom Christ leaveth peace, and to whom He giveth His own peace, not after the world’s way, but in a way worthy of Him by whom the world was made, that we should be of one heart with Himself. having our hearts run into one, that this one heart, set on that which is above, may escape the corruption of the earth.
1 Eam [Trinitatem] distincte audire, inseparabiliter intelligere.
2 (Ps 2,7,
3 Chap. 6,45.
4 (Mt 23,10,
5 (Ac 10,20,
6 (1Co 4,5,
7 (Ep 2,14,
8 (1Jn 3,2,
9 (2Co 5,6-7.
10 (Mt 6,12).
11 (Rm 7,22-23.
12 Consors dicitur, qui sortem jungit-concors dicendus, qui corda jungit.
78 (Jn 14,27-28.
1. Wehave just heard, brethren, these words of the Lord, which He addressed to His disciples: “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come unto you: if ye loved me, ye would surely rejoice, because I go unto the Father; for the Father is greater than I.” Their hearts might have become filled with trouble and fear, simply because of His going away from them, even though intending to return; lest, possibly, in the very interval of the shepherd’s absence, the wolf should make an onset on the flock. But as God, He abandoned not those from whom He departed as man: and Christ Himself is at once both man and God. And so He both went away in respect of His visible humanity, and remained as regards His Godhead: He went away as regards the nature which is subject to local limitations, and remained in respect of that which is ubiquitous. Why, then, should their heart be troubled and afraid, when His quitting their eyesight was of such a kind as to leave unaltered His presence in their heart? Although even God, who has no local bounds to His presence, may depart from the hearts of those who turn away from Him, not with their feet, but their moral character; just as He comes to such as turn to Him, not with their faces, but in faith, and approach Him in the spirit, and not in the flesh. But that they might understand that it was only in respect of His human nature that He said, “I go and come to you,” He went on to say, “If ye loved me, ye would surely rejoice, because I go unto the Father; for the Father is greater than I.” And so, then, in that very respect wherein the Son is not equal to the Father, in that was He to go to the Father, just as from Him is He hereafter to come to judge the quick and the dead: while in so far as the Only-begotten is equal to Him that begat, He never withdraws from the Father; but with Him is everywhere perfectly equal in that Godhead which knows of no local limitations. For “being as He was in the form of God,” as the apostle says, “He thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” For how could that nature be robbery, which was His, not by usurpation, but by birth? “But He emptied Himself, taking upon Him the form of a servant;”1 and so, not losing the former, but assuming the latter, and emptying Himself in that very respect wherein He stood forth before us here in a humbler state than that wherein He still remained with the Father. For there was the accession of a servant-form, with no recession of the divine: in the assumption of the one there was no consumption of the other. In reference to the one He says, “The Father is greater than I;” but because of the other, “I and my Father are one.”2
2. Let the Arian attend to this, and find healing in his attention; that wrangling may not lead to vanity, or, what is worse, to insanity. For it is the servant-form which is that wherein the Son of God is less, not only than the Father, but also than the Holy Spirit; and more than that, less also than Himself,for He Himself, in the form of God, is greater than Himself. For the man Christ does not cease to be called the Son ofGod, a name which was thought worthy of being applied even to His flesh alone as it lay in the tomb. And what else than this do we confess, when we declare that we believe in the only-begotten Son of God, who, under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, and buried? And what of Him was buried, save the flesh without the spirit? And so in believing in the Son of God, who was buried, we surely affix the name, Son of God, even to His flesh, which alone was laid in the grave. Christ Himself, therefore, the Son of God, equal with the Father because in the form of God, inasmuch as He emptied Himself, without losing the form of God, but assuming that of a servant, is greater even than Himself; because the unlost form of God is greater than the assumed form of a servant. And what, then, is there to wonder at, or what is there out of place, if, in reference to this servant-form, the Son of God says, “The Father is greater than I;” and in speaking of the form of God, the self-same Son of God declares, “I and my Father are one”? For one they are, inasmuch as “The Word was God;” and greater is the Father, inasmuch as “the Word was made flesh.”3 Let me add what cannot be gainsaid by Arians and Eunomians:4 in respect of this servant-form, Christ as a child was inferior also to His own parents, when, according to Scripture, “He was subject”5 as an infant to His seniors. Why, then, heretic, seeing that Christ is both God and man, when He speaketh as man, dost thou calumniate God? He in His own person commends our human nature; dost thou dare in Him to asperse the divine? Unbelieving and ungrateful as thou art, wilt thou degrade Him who made thee, just for the very reason that He is declaring what He became because of thee? For equal as He is with the Father, the Son, by whom man was made, became man, in order to be less than the Father: and had He not done so, what would have become of man?
3. May our Lord and Master bring home clearly to our minds the words, “If ye loved me, ye would surely rejoice, because I go unto the Father; for the Father is greater than I.” Let us, along with the disciples, listen to the Teacher’s words, and not, with strangers, give heed to the wiles of the deceiver. Let us acknowledge the twofold substance of Christ; to wit, the divine, in which he is equal with the Father, and the human, in respect to which the Father is greater. And yet at the same time both are not two, for Christ is one; and God is not a quaternity, but a Trinity. For as the rational soul and the body form but one man, so Christ, while both God and man, is one; and thus Christ is God, a rational soul, and a body. In all of these we confess Him to be Christ, we confess Him in each. Who, then, is He that made the world? Christ Jesus, but in the form of God. Who is it that was crucified under Pontius Pilate? Christ Jesus, but in the form of a servant. And so of the several parts whereof He consists as man. Who is He who was not left in hell? Christ Jesus, but only in respect of His soul. Who was to rise on the third day, after being laid in the tomb? Christ Jesus, but solely in reference to His flesh. In reference, then, to each of these, He is likewise called Christ And yet all of them are not two, or three, but one Christ. On this account, therefore, did He say, “If ye loved me, ye would surely rejoice, because I go unto the Father;” for human nature is worthy of congratulation, in being so assumed by the only-begotten Word as to be constituted immortal in heaven, and, earthy in its nature, to be so sublimated and exalted, that, as incorruptible dust, it might take its seat at the right hand of the Father. In such a sense it is that He said He would go to the Father. For in very truth He went unto Him, who was always with Him. But His going unto Him and departing from us were neither more nor less than His transforming and immortalizing that which He had taken upon Him from us in its mortal condition, and exalting that to heaven, by means of which He lived on earth in man’s behalf. And who would not draw rejoicing from such a source, who has such love to Christ that he can at once congratulate his own nature as already immortal in Christ, and cherish the hope that he himself will yet become so through Christ?
1 (Ph 2,6-7.
2 Chap. 10,30.
3 Chap. 1,1, 14.
4 The Eunomians were a branch of the Arians, only slightly differing in some of their tenets regarding the essential inferiority to God, and the creaturehood of the Son and the Holy Spirit. As a sect, they belong to the fourth century, and derived their name from Eunomius, bishop of Cyzicus.-Tr.
5 (Lc 2,51,
1. Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, had said unto His disciples, “If ye loved me, ye would surely rejoice, because I go unto the Father; for the Father is greater than I.” And that He so spake in His servant-form, and not in that of God, wherein He is equal with the Father, is well known to faith as it resides in the minds of the pious, not as it is reigned by the scornful and senseless. And then He added, “And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe.” What can He mean by this, when the fact rather is, that a man ought, before it comes to pass, to believe that which demands his belief? For it forms the very encomium of faith when that which is believed is not seen. For what greatness is there in believing what is seen, as in those words of the same Lord, when, in reproving a disciple, He said, “Because thou hast seen, thou hast believed; blessed are they that see not, and yet believe.”1 And I hardly know whether any one can be said to believe what he sees; for this same faith is thus defined in the epistle addressed to the Hebrews: “Now faith is the substance of those that hope,2 the assurance3 of things not seen.” Accordingly, if faith is in things that are believed, and that, too, in things which are not seen,4 what mean these words of the Lord, “And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe”? Ought He not rather to have said, And now I have told you before it come to pass, that ye may believe what, when it is come to pass, ye shall see? For even he who was told, “Because thou hast seen, thou hast believed,” did not believe only what he saw; but he saw one thing, and believed another: for he saw Him as man, and believed Him to be God. He perceived and touched the living flesh, which he had seen in the act of dying, and he believed in the Deity infolded in that flesh. And so he believed with the mind what he did not see, by the help of that which was apparent to his bodily senses. But though we may be said to believe what we see, just as every one says that he believes his own eyes, yet that is not to be mistaken for the faith which is built up by God in our souls; but from things that are seen, we are brought to believe in those which are invisible. Wherefore, beloved, in the passage before us, when our Lord says,”And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe;” by the words, “when it is come to pass,” He certainly means, that they would yet see Him after His death, alive, and ascending to His I Father; at the sight of which they should then be compelled to believe that He was indeed the Christ, the Son of the living God, seeing He could do such a thing, even after predicting it, and also could predict it before He did it: and this they should then believe, not with a new, but with an augmented faith; or at least [with a faith] that had been impaired5 by His death, and was now repaired6 by His resurrection. For it was not that they had not previously also believed Him to be the Son of God, but when His own predictions were actually fulfilled in Him, that faith, which was still weak at the time of His here speaking to them, and at the time of His death almost ceased to exist, sprang up again into new life and increased vigor).
2. But what says He next? “Hereafter I will not talk much with you; for the prince of this world cometh;” and who is that, but the devil? “And hath nothing in me;” that is to say, no sin at all. For by such words He points to the devil, as the prince, not of His creatures, but of sinners, whom He here designates by the name of this world. And as often as the name of the world is used in a bad sense, He is pointing only to the lovers of such a world; of whom it is elsewhere recorded, “Whosoever will be a friend of this world, becomes the enemy of God.”7 Far be it from us, then, so to understand the devil as prince of the world, as if he wielded the government of the whole world, that is, of heaven and earth, and all that is in them; of which sort of world it was said, when we were lecturing on Christ the Word, “And the world was made by Him.”8 The whole world therefore, from the highest heavens to the lowest earth, is subject to the Creator, not to the deserter; to the Redeemer, not to the destroyer; to the Deliverer, not to the enslaver; to the Teacher, not to the deceiver. And in what sense the devil is to be understood as the prince of the world, is still more clearly unfolded by the Apostle Paul, who, after saying, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood,” that is, against men, went on to say, “but against principalities and powers, and the world-rulers of this darkness.”9 For in the very next word he has explained what he meant by “world,” when he added, “of this darkness;” so that no one, by the name of the world, should understand the whole creation, of which in no sense are fallen angels the rulers. “Of this darkness,” he says, that is, of the lovers of this world: of whom, nevertheless, there were some elected, not from any deserving of their own, but by the grace of God, to whom he says, “Ye were sometimes darkness; but now are ye light in the Lord.”10 For all have been under the rulers of this darkness, that is, [under the rulers] of wicked men, or darkness, as it were, in subjection to darkness: but “thanks be to God, who hath delivered us,” says the same apostle, “from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.”11 And in Him the prince of this world, that is, of this darkness, had nothing; for neither did He come with sin as God, nor had His flesh any hereditary taint of sin in its procreation by the Virgin. And, as if it were said to Him, Why, then, dost Thou die, if Thou hast no sin to merit the punishment of death? He immediately added, “But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do: arise, let us go hence.” For He was sitting at table with those who were similarly occupied. But “let us go,” He said, and whither, but to the place where He, who had nothing in Him deserving of death, was to be delivered up to death? But He had the Father’s commandment to die, as the very One of whom it had been foretold, “Then I paid for that which I took not away;”12 and so appointed to pay death to the full, while owing it nothing, and to redeem us from the death that was our due. For Adam had seized on sin as a prey, when, deceived, he presumptuously stretched forth his hand to the tree, and attempted to invade the incommunicable name of that Godhead I which was disallowed him, and with which the Son of God was endowed by nature, and not by robbery.
1 Chap. 20,29.
2 Text, sperantium, although many Mss. have sperandorum, or sperandarum, “things hoped for.”
4 (He 11,1,
7 (Jc 4,4,
8 Chap. 1,10.
9 (Ep 6,12, Augustin, rectores mundi tenebrarum harum; original, tou;" kosmokravtora" tou` skovtou" touvtou.
10 (Ep 5,8,
11 (Col 1,12-13.
12 (Ps 69,4,
80 (Jn 15,1-3.
1. This passage of the Gospel, brethren, where the Lord calls Himself the vine, and His disciples the branches, declares in so many words that the Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,1 is the head of the Church, and that we are His members. For as the vine and its branches are of one nature, therefore, His own nature as God being different from ours, He became man, that in Him human nature might be the vine, and we who also are men might become branches thereof. What mean, then, the words, “I am the true vine”? Was it to the literal vine, from which that metaphor was drawn, that He intended to point them by the addition of “true”? For it is by similitude, and not by any personal propriety, that He is thus called a vine; just as He is also termed a sheep, a lamb, a lion, a rock, a corner-stone, and other names of a like kind, which are themselves rather the true ones, from which these are drawn as similitudes, not as realities. But when He says, “I am the true vine,” it is to distinguish Himself, doubtless, from that [vine] to which the words are addressed: “How art thou turned into sourness,2 as a strange vine?”3 For how could that be a true vine which was expected to bring forth grapes and brought forth thorns?4
2. “I am,” He says, “the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, He taketh away; and every one that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” Are, then, the husbandman and the vine one? Christ is the vine in the same sense as when He said, “The Father is greater than I;”5 but in that sense wherein He said, “I and myFather are one,” He is also the husbandman. And yet not such a one as those, whose whole service is confined to external labor; but such, that He also supplies the increase from within. “For neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.” But Christ is certainly God, for the Word was God; and so He and the Father are one: and if the Word was made flesh,-that which He was not before,-He nevertheless still remains what He was. And still more, after saying of the Father, as of the husbandman, that He taketh away the fruitless branches, and pruneth the fruitful, that they may bring forth more fruit, He straightway points to Himself as also the purger of the branches, when He says, “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.” Here, you see, He is also the pruner of the branches-a work which belongs to the husbandman, and not to the vine; and more than that, He maketh the branches His workmen. For although they give not the increase, they afford some help; but not of themselves: “For without me,” He says, “ye can do nothing.”’ And listen, also, to their own confession: “What, then, is Apollos, and what is Paul but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man. I have planted, Apollos watered.” And this, too, “as the Lord gave to every man;” and so not of themselves. In that, however, which follows, “but God gave the increase,”6 He works not by them, but by Himself; for work like that exceeds the lowly capacity of man, transcends the lofty powers of angels, and rests solely and entirely in the hands of the Triune Husbandman. “Now ye are clean,” that is, clean, and yet still further to be cleansed. For, had they not been clean, they could not have borne fruit; and yet every one that beareth fruit is purged by the husbandman, that he may bring forth more fruit. He bears fruit because he is clean; and to bear more, he is cleansed still further. For who in this life is so clean as not to be in need of still further and further cleansing? seeing that, “if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us; but if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness;” to cleanse in very deed the clean, that is, the fruitful, that they may be so much the more fruitful, as they have been made the cleaner.
3. “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Why does He not say, Ye are clean through the baptism wherewith ye have been washed, but “through the word which I have spoken unto you,” save only that in the water also it is the word that cleanseth? Take away the word, and the water is neither more nor less than water. The word is added to the element, and there results the Sacrament, as if itself also a kind of visible word. For He had said also to the same effect, when washing the disciples’ feet, “He that is washed needeth not, save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit.”7 And whence has water so great an efficacy, as in touching the body to cleanse the soul, save by the operation of the word; and that not because it is uttered, but because it is believed? For even in the word itself the passing sound is one thing, the abiding efficacy another. “This is the word of faith which we preach,” says the apostle, “that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth that Jesus is the Lord, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shall be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”8 Accordingly, we read in the Ac of the Apostles, “Purifying their hearts by faith;”9 and, says the blessed Peter in his epistle, “Even as baptism doth also now save us, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer10 of a good conscience.” “This is the word of faith which we preach,” whereby baptism, doubtless, is also consecrated, in order to its possession of the power to cleanse. For Christ, who is the vine with us, and the husbandman with the Father, “loved the Church, and gave Himself for it.” And then read the apostle, and see what he adds: “That He might sanctify it, cleansing it with the washing of water by the word.”11 The cleansing, therefore, would on no account be attributed to the fleeting and perishable element, were it not for that which is added, “by the word.” This word of faith possesses such virtue in the Church of God, that through the medium of him who in faith presents, and blesses, and sprinkles it, He cleanseth even the tiny infant, although itself unable as yet with the heart to believe unto righteousness, and to make confession with the mouth unto salvation. All this is done by means of the word, whereof the Lord saith, “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.”
1 (1Tm 2,5,
2 Hebrew ynDm, pass. part. of rDm, to depart [from God], and so, perhaps, “stragglers,” i.e. “straggling branches of [a strange vine];” or, as in English version, “degenerate branches,” rather than as in text, where Augustin gives, in amaritudinem, vitis aliena, following the LXX., which reads, “ajllotriva.” The Vulgate is better: in pravum, vinea aliena.-Tr.
3 (Jr 2,21,
4 (Is 5,4,
5 Chap. 14,28.
6 (1Co 3,5-7.
7 Chap. 13,10.
8 (Rm 10,10,
9 (Ac 15,9,
10 Literally, “questioning,” interrogatio, 1P 3,21.
11 (Ep 5,25-26.
81 (Jn 15,4-7.
1. Jesus called Himself the vine, and His disciples the branches, and His Father the husbandman; whereon we have already discoursed as we were able. But in the present passage, while still speaking of Himself as the vine, and of His branches, or, in other words, of the disciples, He said, “Abide in me, and I in you.” They are not in Him in the same kind of way that He is in them. And yet both ways tend to their advantage, and not to His. For the relation of the branches to the vine is such that they contribute nothing to the vine, but from it derive their own means of life; while that of the vine to the branches is such that it supplies their vital nourishment, and receives nothing from them. And so their having Christ abiding in them, and abiding themselves in Christ, are in both respects advantageous, not to Christ, but to the disciples. For when the branch is cut off, another may spring up from the living root; but that which is cut off cannot live apart from the root.
2. And then He proceeds to say: “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.” A great encomium on grace, my brethren,-one that will instruct the souls of the humble, and stop the mouths of the proud. Let those now answer it, if they dare, who, ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own, havenot submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.1 Let the self-complacent answer it, who think they have no need of God for the performance of good works. Fight they not against such a truth, those men of corrupt mind, reprobate concerning the faith,2 whose reply is only full of impious talk, when they say: It is of God that we have our existence as men, but it is of ourselves that we are righteous? What is it you say, you who deceive yourselves, and, instead of establishing freewill, cast it headlong down from the heights of its self-elevation through the empty regions of presumption into the depths of an ocean grave? Why, your assertion that man of himself worketh righteousness, that is the height of your self-elation. But the Truth contradicts you, and declares, “The branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine.” Away with you now over your giddy precipices, and, without a spot whereon to take your stand, vapor away at your windy talk. These are the empty regions of your presumption. Butlook well at what is tracking your steps, and, if you have any sense remaining, let your hair stand on end. For whoever imagines that he is bearing fruit of himself is not in the vine, and he that is not in the vine is not in Christ, and he that is not in Christ is not a Christian. Such are the ocean depths into which you have plunged.
3. Ponder again and again what the Truth has still further to say: “I am the vine,” He adds, “ye are the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing.” For just to keep any from supposing that the branch can bear at least some little fruit of itself, after saying, “the same bringeth forth much fruit,” His next words are not, Without me ye can do but little, but “ye can do nothing.” Whether then it be little or much, without Him it is impracticable; for without Him nothing can be done. For although, when the branch beareth little fruit, the husbandman purgeth it that it may bring forth more; yet if it abide not in the vine, and draw its life from the root, it can bear no fruit whatever of itself. And although Christ would not have been the vine had He notbeen man, yet He could not have supplied such grace to the branches had He not also been God. And just because such grace is so essential to life, that even death itself ceases to be at the disposal of free-will, He adds, “If any one abide not in me, he shall be cast forth as a branch, and wither; and they shall gather him, and cast him into the fire, and he is burned.” The wood of the vine, therefore, is in the same proportion the more contemptible if it abide not in the vine, as it is glorious while so abiding; in fine, as the Lord likewise says of them in the prophet Ezekiel, when cut off, they are of no use for any purpose of the husbandman, and can be applied to no labor of the mechanic.3 The branch is suitable only for one of two things, either the vine or the fire: if it is not in the vine, its place will be in the fire; and that it may escape the latter, may it have its place in the vine.
4. “If ye abide in me,” He says, “and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” For abiding thus in Christ, is there aught they can wish but what will be agreeable to Christ? So abiding in the Saviour, can they wish anything that is inconsistent with salvation? Some things, indeed, we wish because we are in Christ, and other things we desire because still in this world. For at times, in connection with this our present abode, we are inwardly prompted to ask what we know not it would be inexpedient for us to receive. But God forbid that such should be given us if we abide in Christ, who, when we ask, only does what will be for our advantage. Abiding, therefore, ourselves in Him, when His words abide in us we shall ask what we will, and it shall be done unto us. For if we ask, and the doing follows not, what we ask is not connected with our abiding in Him, nor with His words which abide in us, but with that craving and infirmity of the flesh which are not in Him, and have not His words abiding in them. For to His words, at all events, belongs that prayer which He taught, and in which we say, “Our Father, who art in heaven.”4 Let us only not fall away from the words and meaning of this prayer in our petitions, and whatever we ask, it shall be done unto us. For then only may His words be said to abide in us, when we do what He has commanded us, and love what He has promised. But when His words abide only in the memory, and have no place in the life, the branch is not to be accounted as in the vine, because it draws not its life from the root. It is to this distinction that the word of Scripture has respect, “and to those that remember His commandments to do them.”5 For many retain them in their memory only to treat them with contempt, or even to mock at and assail them. It is not in such as have only some kind of contact, but no connection, that the words of Christ abide; and to them, therefore, they will not be a blessing, but a testimony against them; and because they are present in them without abiding in them, they are held fast by them for the very purpose of being judged according to them at last.
1 (Rm 10,3,
2 (2Tm 3,8).
3 (Ez 15,5,
4 (Mt 6,9,
5 (Ps 103,18,
Augustin on John 76