Augustin on John 122

Tractate CXXIII.

123 (Jn 21,12-19.

1. With this third manifestation of Himself by the Lord to His disciples after His resurrection, the Gospel of the blessed Apostle Jn is brought to a close, of which we have already lectured through the earlier part as we were able, on to the place where it is related that an hundred and fifty-three fishes were taken by the disciples to whom He showed Himself, and for all they were so large, yet were not the nets broken. What follows we have now to take into consideration, and to discuss as the Lord enables us, and as the various points may appear to demand. When the fishing was over, “Jesus saith unto them, Come [and] dine. And none of those who sat down dared to ask Him, Who art Thou? knowing that it was the Lord.” If, then, they knew, what need was there to ask? and if there was no need wherefore is it said, “they dared not,” as if there were need, but, from some fear or other, they dared not? The meaning here, therefore, is: so great was the evidence of the truth that Jesus Himself had appeared to these disciples, that not one of them dared not merely to deny, but even to doubt it; for had any of them doubted it, he ought certainly to have asked. In this sense, therefore, it was said, “No one dared to ask Him, Who art Thou?” as if it were, No one dared to doubt that it was He Himself.

2. “And Jesus cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise.” We are likewise told here, you see, on what they dined; and of this dinner we also will say something that is sweet and salutary, if we, too, are made by Him to partake of the food. It is related above that these disciples, when they came to the land, “saw a fire of coals laid, and a fish laid thereon, and bread.” Here we are not to understand that the bread also was laid upon the coals, but only to supply, They saw. And if we repeat this verbin the place where it ought to be supplied, the whole may read thus: They saw coals laid, and fish laid thereon, and they saw bread. Or rather in this way: They saw coals laid, and fish laid thereon; they saw a so bread. At the Lord’s command they likewise broughtof the fishes which they themselves hadcaught; and although their doing so mightnot be actually stated by the historian, yet there has been no silence in regard to the Lord’s command. For He says, “Bring of the fishes which ye have now caught.” And when we have such certainty that He gave the order, will any suppose that they failed to obey it? Of this, therefore, the Lord prepared the dinner for these His seven disciples, namely, of the fish which they had seen laid upon the coals, with an addition thereto from those which they had caught, and of the bread which we are told with equal distinctness that they had seen. The fish roasted is Christ having suffered; He Himself also is the bread that cometh down from heaven.1 With Him is incorporated the Church, in order to the participation in everlasting blessedness. For this reason is it said, “Bring of the fish which ye have now caught,” that all of us who cherish this hope may know that we ourselves, through that septenary number of disciples whereby our universal community may in this passage be understood as symbolized, partake in this great sacrament, and are associated in the same blessedness. This is the Lord’s dinner with His own disciples, and herewith John, although having much besides that he might say of Christ, brings his Gospel, with profound thought and an eye to important lessons, to a close. For here the Church, such as it will be hereafter among the good alone, is signified by the draught of an hundred and fifty-three fishes; and to those who so believe, and hope, and love, there is demonstrated by this dinner their participation in such super-eminent blessedness.

3. “This was now,” he says, “the third time that Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after that He was risen from the dead.” And this we are to refer not to the manifestations themselves, but to the days that is to say, taking the first day when He rose again, and the [second] eight days after, when the disciple Thomas saw and believed, and [the third] on this day when He so acted in connection with the fishes, although how many days afterwards it was that He did so we are not told); for on that first day He was seen more than once, as is shown by the collated testimonies of all the evangelists: but, as we have said, it is in accordance with the days that His manifestations are to be calculated, making this the third; for that [manifestation] is to be reckoned the first, and all one and the same, as included in one day, however often and to however many He showed Himself on the day of His resurrection; the second eight days afterwards, and this the third, and thereafter as often as He pleased on to the fortieth day, when He ascended into heaven, although all of them have not been recorded in Scripture.

4. “So when they had dined, He saith to Simon Peter, Simon, [son] of John, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto Him, Yea, Lord; Thou knowest that I love Thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again, Simon, [son] of John, lovest thou me? He saith unto Him, Yea, Lord; Thou knowest that I love Thee. He saith unto Him, Feed my lambs. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, [son] of John, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because He said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto Him, Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shall be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wilt not. And this spake He, signifying by what death he should glorify God.” Such was the end reached by that denier and lover; elated by his presumption, prostrated by his denial, cleansed by his weeping, approved by his confession, crowned by his suffering, this was the end he reached, to die with a perfected love for the name of Him with whom, by a perverted forwardness, he had promised to die. He would do, when strengthened by His resurrection, what in his weakness he promised prematurely. For the needful order was that Christ should first die for Peter’s salvation, and then that Peter should die for the preaching of Christ. The boldness thus begun by human temerity was an utter inversion of the order that had been instituted by the Truth. Peter thought to lay down his life for Christ,2 the one to be delivered in behalf of the Deliverer, seeing that Christ had come to lay down His life for all His own, including Peter also, which, you see, was now done. Now and henceforth a true, because graciously bestowed, strength of heart may be assumed for incurring death itself for the name of the Lord, and not a false one presumptuously usurped through an erroneous estimate of ourselves. Now there is no need that we should any more fear the passage out of the present life, because in the Lord’s resurrection we have a foregoing illustration of the life to come. Now thou hast cause, Peter, to be no longer afraid of death, because He liveth whom thou didst mourn when dead, and whom in thy carnal love thou didst try to hinder from dying in our behalf.3 Thou didst dare to step in before the Leader, and thou didst tremble before His persecutor: now that the price has been paid for thee, it is thy duty to follow the Buyer, and follow Him even to the death of the cross. Thou hast heard the words of Him whom thou hast already proved to be truthful; He Himself hath foretold thy suffering, who formerly foretold thy denial.

5. But first the Lord asks what He knew, and that not once, but a second and a third time, whether Peter loved Him; and just as often He has the same answer, that He is loved, while just as often He gives Peter the same charge to feed His sheep. To the threefold denial there is now appended a threefold confession, that his tongue may not yield a feebler service to love than to fear, and imminent death may not appear to have elicited more from the lips than present life. Let it be the office of love to feed the Lord’s flock, if it was the signal of fear to deny the Shepherd. Those who have this purpose in feeding the flock of Christ, that they may have them as their own, and not as Christ’s, are convicted of loving themselves, and not Christ, from the desire either of boasting, or wielding power, or acquiring gain, and not from the love of obeying, serving, and pleasing God. Against such, therefore, there stands as a wakeful sentinel this thrice inculcated utterance of Christ, of whom the apostle complains that they seek their own, not the things that are Jesus Christ’s.4 For what else mean the words, “Lovest thou me? Feed my sheep,” than if it were said, If thou lovest me, think not of feeding thyself, but feed my sheep as mine, and not as thine own; seek my glory in them, and not thine own; my dominion, and not thine; my gain, and not thine; lest thou be found in the fellowship of those who belong to the perilous times, lovers of their own selves, and all else that is joined on to this beginning of evils? For the apostle, after saying, “For men shall be lovers of their own selves,” proceeded to add, “Lovers of money, boastful, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, wicked, irreligious, without affection, false accusers, incontinent, implacable, without kindness, traitors, heady, blinded;5 lovers of pleasures more than of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.”6 All these evils flow from that as their fountain which he stated first, “lovers of their own selves.” With great propriety, therefore, is Peter addressed, “Lovest thou me?” and found replying, “I love Thee:” and the command applied to him, “Feed my lambs,” and this a second and a third time We have it also demonstrated here that love and liking are one and the same thing; for the Lord also in the last question said not Diligis me? but, Amas me? Let us, then, love not ourselves, but Him; and in feeding His sheep, let us be seeking the things which are His, not the things which are our own. For in some inexplicable way, I know not what, every one that loveth himself, and not God, loveth not himself; and whoever loveth God, and not himself, he it is that loveth himself. For he that cannot live by himself will certainly die by loving himself; he therefore loveth not himself who loves himself to his own loss of life. But when He is loved by whom life is preserved, a man by not loving himself only loveth the more, when it is for this reason that he loveth not himself [namely] that he may love Him by whom he lives. Let not those, then, who feed Christ’s sheep be “lovers of their own selves,” test they feed them as if they were their own, and not His, and wish to make their own gain of them, as “lovers of money;” or to domineer over them, as “boastful;” or to glory in the honors which they receive at their hands, as “proud;” or to go the length even of originating heresies, as “blasphemers;” and not to give place to the holy fathers, as those who are “disobedient to parents;” and to render evil for good to those who wish to correct them, because unwilling to let them perish, as “unthankful;” to slay their own souls and those of others, as “wicked;” to outrage the motherly bowels of the Church, as “irreligious;” to have no sympathy with the weak, as those who are “without affection;” to attempt to traduce the character of the saints, as “false accusers;” to give loose reins to the basest lusts, as “incontinent;” to make lawsuits their practice, as “implacable;” to know nothing of loving service, as those who are “without kindness;” to make known to the enemies of the godly what they are well aware ought to be kept secret, as “traitors;” to disturb human modesty by shameless discussions, as “heady;” to understand neither what they say nor whereof they affirm,7 as “blinded;” and to prefer carnal delights to spiritual joys, as those who are “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.” For these and such like vices, whether all of them meet in a single individual, or whether some dominate in one and others in another, spring up in some form or another from this one root, when men are “lovers of their own selves.” A vice which is specially to be guarded against by those who feed Christ’s sheep, lest they be seeking their own, not the things that are Jesus Christ’s, and be turning those to the use of their own lusts for whom the blood of Christ was shed. Whose love ought, in one who feedeth His sheep, to grow up unto so great a spiritual fervor as to overcome even the natural fear of death, that makes us unwilling to die even when we wish to live with Christ. For the Apostle Paul also says that he had a desire to be dissolved, and to be with Christ,8 and yet he groans, being burdened, and wishes not to be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality may be swallowed up of life.9 And so to His present lover the Lord said, “When thou shall be old, thou shall stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. For this He said to him, signifying by what death he should glorify God.” “Thou shall stretch forth thy hands,” He said; in other words, thou shall be crucified. But that thou mayest come to this, “another shall gird thee, and carry thee,” not whither thou wouldest, but “whither thou wouldest not.” He told him first what would happen, and then how it should come to pass. For it was not after being crucified, but when actually about to be crucified, that he was carried whither he would not; for after being crucified he went his way, not whither he would not, but rather whither he would. And though when set free from the body he wished to be with Christ, yet, were it only possible, he had a desire for eternal life apart from the grievousness of death, to which grievous experience he was unwillingly carried, but from it [when all was over] he was willingly carried away; unwillingly he came to it, but willingly he conquered it, and left this feeling of infirmity behind that makes every one unwilling to die,-a feeling so permanently natural, that even old age itself was unable to set the blessed Peter free from its influence, even as it was said unto him, “When thou shalt be old,” thou shall be led “whither thou wouldest not.” For our consolation the Saviour Himself transfigured also the same feeling in His own person when He said, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me;”10 and He certainly had come to die without having any necessity, but only the willingness to die, with power to lay down His life, and with power to take it again. But however great be the grievousness of death, it ought to be overcome by the power of that love which is felt to Him who, being our life, was willing to endure even death in our behalf. For if there were no grievousness, even of the smallest kind, in death, the glory of the martyrs would not be so great. But if the good Shepherd, who laid down His own life for His sheep,11 has raised up so many martyrs for Himself out of the very sheep, how much more ought those to contend to death for the truth, and even to blood against sin, who are entrusted by Him with the feeding, that is, with the teaching and governing of these very sheep? And on this account, along with the preceding example of His own passion, who can fail to see that the shepherds ought all the more to set themselves closely to imitate the Shepherd, if He was so imitated even by many of the sheep under whom, as the one Shepherd and in the one flock, the shepherds themselves are likewise sheep? For He made all those His sheep for [all of] whom He died, because He Himself also became a sheep that He might suffer for all.

1 Chap. 6,41).
2 Chap. 13,37.
3 (Mt 16,21-22,
4 (Ph 2,21).
5 Caecati.
6 (2Tm 3,1-5.
7 (1Tm 1,7,
8 (Ph 1,23,
9 (2Co 5,4).
10 (Mt 26,39,
11 Chap. 10,18, 11.

Tractate CXXIV.

Jn 21,19-25.

1. It is no unimportant question why the Lord, when He manifested Himself for the third time to the disciples, said unto the Apostle Peter, “Follow me;” but of the Apostle John, “Thus I wish him to remain1 till I come, what is that to thee?” To the discussion or solution of this question, according as the Lord shall grant us ability we devote the last discourse of this work When the Lord, then, had announced beforehand to Peter by what death he was to glorify God, “He saith unto him, Follow me. Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; who also leaned on His breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that shall betray Thee? Peter, therefore, seeing him, saith to Jesus, Lord, and what [of] this man? Jesus saith unto him, Thus do I wish him to remain till I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou me. Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple dieth not: yet Jesus said not unto him, He dieth not; but, Thus do I wish him to remain till I come, what is that to thee?” You see the great extent in this Gospel of a question which, by its depth, must exercise in no ordinary way the mind ofthe inquirer. For why is it said to Peter, “Follow me,” and not to the others who were likewise present? Surely the disciples followed Him also as their Master. But if it is to be understood only in reference to his suffering, was Peter the only one that suffered for the truth of Christianity? Was there not present there amongst those seven, another son of Zebedee, the brother of John, who, after His ascension, is plainly recorded to have been slain by Herod?2 But some one may say that, as James was not crucified, it was properly enough said to Peter, “Follow me,” inasmuch as he underwent not only death, but, like Christ, even the death of the cross. Be it so, if no other explanation can be found that is more satisfactory. Why, then, was it said of John, “Thus do I wish him to remain till I come, what is that to thee?” and the words repeated, “Follow thou me,” as if that other, therefore, were not to follow, seeing He wished him to remain till He comes. Who can readily believe that anything else was meant than what the brethren who lived at the time believed, namely, that that disciple was not to die, but to abide in this life till Jesus came? But Jn himself removed such an idea, by giving a flat contradiction to the report that the Lord had said so. For why should he add, “Jesus saith not, He dieth not,” save to prevent what was false from taking hold of the hearts of men?

2. But let any one who so listeth still refuse his assent, and declare that what Jn asserts is true enough, that the Lord said not that that disciple dieth not, and yet that this is the meaning of such words as He is here recorded to have used; and further assert that the Apostle Jn is still living, and maintain that he is sleeping rather than lying dead in his tomb at Ephesus. Let him employ as an argument the current report that there the earth is in sensible commotion, and presents a kind of heaving appearance, and assert whether it be steadfastly or obstinately that this is occasioned by his breathing. For we cannot fail to have some who so believe, if there is no want of those also who affirm that Moses is alive; because it is written that his sepulchre could not be found,3 and that he appeared with the Lord on the mountain along with Elias,4 of whom we read that he did not die, but was translated.5 As if Moses’ body could not have been hid somewhere in such a way as that its position should altogether escape discovery by men, and be raised up therefrom by divine power at the time when Elias and he were seen with Christ just as at the time of Christ’s passion many bodies of the saints arose, and after His resurrection appeared, according to Scripture, to many in the holy city.6 But still, as I began to say, if some deny the death of Moses, whom Scripture itself, in the very passage where we read that his sepulchre could nowhere be found, explicitly declares to have died; how much more may occasion be taken from these words where the Lord says, “Thus do I wish him to stay till I come,” to believe that Jn is sleeping, but still alive, beneath the ground? Of whom we have also the tradition (which is found in certain apocryphal scriptures), that he was present, in good health, when he ordered a sepulchre to be made for him; and that, when it was dug and prepared with all possible care, he laid himself down there as in a bed, and became immediately defunct: yet as those think who so understand these words of the Lord, not really defunct, but only lying like one in such a condition; and, while accounted dead, was actually buried when asleep, and that he will so remain till the coming of Christ, making known meanwhile the fact of his life by the bubbling up of the dust, which is believed to be forced by the breath of the sleeper to ascend from the depths to the surface of the grave. I think it quite superfluous to contend with such an opinion. For those may see for themselves who know the locality whether the ground there does or suffers what is said regarding it, because, in truth, we too have heard of it from those who are not altogether unreliable witnesses.

3. Meanwhile let us yield to the opinion, which we are unable to refute by any certain evidence, lest we stir up still another question that may be put to us, Why the very ground should seem in a kind of way to live and breathe upon the interred corpse? But can so great a question as the one before us be settled on such grounds as these, if by a great miracle, such as can be wrought by the Almighty, the living body lies so long asleep beneath the ground, till the coming of the end of the world? Nay, rather, does there not arise a wider and more difficult one, why Jesus bestowed on the disciple, whom He loved beyond the others to such an extent that he was counted worthy to recline on His breast, the gift of a protracted sleep in the body, when He delivered the blessed Peter, by the eminent glory of martyrdom, from the burden of the body itself, and vouchsafed to him what the Apostle Paul said that he desired, and committed to writing, namely, “to be let loose, and to be with Christ”?7 But if, what is rather to be believed, Saint Jn declared that the Lord said not, “He dieth not,” for the very purpose that no such meaning might be attached to the words which He used; and his body lieth in its sepulchre lifeless like those of others deceased; it remains, if that really takes place which report has spread abroad regarding the soil, which grows up anew, though continually carried away, that it is either so done for the purpose of commending the preciousness of his death, seeing it wants the commendation of martyrdom (for he suffered not death at a persecutor’s hand for the faith of Christ), or on some other account that is concealed from our knowledge. Still there remains the question, why the Lord said of one who was destined to die, “Thus I wish him to remain till I Come.”

4. And who, besides, would not be disposed, in the case of these two apostles, Peter and John, to make this further inquiry, why the Lord loved John better, when He Himself was better loved by Peter? For wherever Jn has something to say of himself, in order that the reference may be understood without any mention of his name, he adds this, that Jesus loved him, as if he were the only one so loved, that he might be distinguished by this mark from the others, who were all of them certainly loved by Christ: and what else, when he so spake, did he wish to be understood but that he himself was more abundantly loved? and far be it that he should utter a falsehood. And what greater proof could Jesus have given of His own greater love to him than that this man, who was only a partner with the rest of his fellow-disciples in the great salvation, should be the only one that leaned on the breast of the Saviour Himself? And further, that the Apostle Peter loved Christ more than the others, may be adduced from many documentary evidences; but to go no further after others, it is plainly enough apparent in the lesson almost immediatelypreceding the present, in connection with that third manifestation of the Lord, when He put to him the question, “Lovest thou me more than these?” He knew it, of course, and yet asked, in order that we also, who read the Gospel, might know Peter’s love to Christ, both from the questions of the One and the answers of the other. But when Peter only replied, “I love Thee,” without adding, “more than these,” his answer contained all that he knew of himself. For he could not know how much He was loved by any other, not being able to look into that other’s heart. But by saying in the earliest of his answers, “Yea, Lord, Thou knowest,” he stated in clear enough terms, that it was with perfect knowledge of all that the Lord asked what He asked. The Lord therefore knew, not only that Peter loved Him, but also that he loved Him more than the others. And yet if we propose to ourselves, in the way of inquiry, which of the two is the better, he that loveth Christ more or he that loveth Him less, who will hesitate to answer, he is the better that loveth Him more? If, on the other hand, we propose this question, which of the two is the better, he that is loved less or he that is loved more by Christ, without any doubt we shall reply that he is the better who is loved the more by Christ. In the comparison therefore which I drew first, Peter is superior to John; but in the latter, Jn is preferred to Peter. Accordingly, we have a third to pro pose in this form: Which of the two disciples is the better, he that loveth Christ less than his fellow-disciple [does], and is loved more than his fellow-disciple by Christ? or he who is loved less than his fellow-disciple by Christ, while he, more than his fellow-disciple, loveth Christ? Here it is that the answer plainly halts, and the question grows in magnitude. As far. however, as my own wisdom goes, I might easily reply, that he is the better who loveth Christ the more, but he the happier who is loved the more by Christ; if only I could thoroughly see how to defend the justice of our Deliverer in loving him the less by whom He is loved the more, and him the more by whom He is loved the less.

5. I shall therefore, in the manifested mercy of Him whose justice is hidden, set about the discussion, in order to the solution of a question of such importance, in accordance with the strength which He may graciously bestow: for hitherto it has only been proposed, not expounded. Let this, then, be the commencement of its exposition, namely, that we bear in mind that in this corruptible body, which burdens the soul,8 we live a miserable life. But we who are now redeemed by the Mediator, and have received the earnest of the Holy Spirit, have a blessed life in prospect, although we possess it not as yet in reality. But a hope that is seen is not hope; for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.9 And it is in the evils that every one suffers, not in the good things that he enjoys, that he has need of patience. The present life, therefore, whereof it is written, “Is not the life of man a term of trial upon earth?”10 in which we are daily crying to the Lord, “Deliver us from evil,”11 a man is compelled to endure, even when his sins are forgiven him, although it was the first sin that caused his falling into such misery. For the penalty is more protracted than the fault; test the fault should be accounted small, were the penalty to end with itself. On this account it is also, either for the demonstration of our debt of misery, or for the amendment of our passing life, or for the exercise of the necessary patience, that man is kept through time in the penalty, even when he is no longer held by his sin as liable to everlasting damnation. This is the truly lamentable but unblameable condition of the present evil days we pass in this mortal state, even while in it we look with loving eyes to the days that are good. For it comes from the righteous anger of God, whereof the Scriptures say, “Man, that is born of woman, is of few days and full of anger:”12 for the anger of God is not like that of man, the disturbance of an excited man, but the calm fixing of righteous punishment. In this anger of His, God restraineth not, as it is written, His tender mercies;13 but, besides other consolations to the miserable, which He ceaseth not to bestow on mankind, in the fullness of time, when He knew that such had to be done, He sent His only-begotten Son,14 by whom He created all things, that He might become man while remaining God, and so be the Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus:15 that those who believe in Him, being absolved by the layer of regeneration from the guilt of all their sins,-to wit, both of the original sin they have inherited by generation, and to meet which, in particular, regeneration was instituted, and of all others contracted by evil conduct,-might be delivered from perpetual condemnation, and live in faith and hope and love while sojourning in this world, and be walking onward to His visible presence amid its toilsome and perilous temptations on the one hand, but the consolations of God, bothbodily and spiritual, on the other, ever keeping to the way which Christ has become to them. And because, even while walking in Him, they are not exempt from sins, which creep in through the infirmities of this life, He has given them the salutary remedies of alms whereby their prayers might be aided when He taught them to say, “Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors.”16 So does the Church act in blessed hope through this troublous life; and this Church symbolized in its generality, was personified in the Apostle Peter, on account of the primacy of his apostleship. For, as regards his proper personality, he was by nature one man, by grace one Christian, by still more abounding grace one, and yet also, the first apostle; but when it was said to him, “I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven,” he represented the universal Church, which in this world is shaken by divers temptations, that come upon it like torrents of rain, floods and tempests, and falleth not, because it is founded upon a rock (petra), from which Peter received his name. For petra (rock) is not derived from Peter, but Peter from petra; just as Christ is not called so from the Christian, but the Christian from Christ. For on this very account the Lord said, “On this rock will I build my Church,” because Peter had said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”17 On this rock, therefore, He said, which thou hast confessed. I will build my Church. For the Rock (Petra) was Christ;18 and on this foundation was Peter himself also built. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Christ Jesus.19 The Church, therefore, which is rounded in Christ received from Him the keys of the kingdom of heaven in the person of Peter, that is to say, the power of binding and loosing sins. For what the Church is essentially in Christ, such representatively is Peter in the rock (petra); and in this representation Christ is to be understood as the Rock, Peter as the Church. This Church, accordingly, which Peter represented, so long as it lives amidst evil, by loving and following Christ is delivered from evil. But its following is the closer in those who contend even unto death for the truth. But to the universality20 [of the Church] is it said, “Follow me,” even as it was for the same universality that Christ suffered: of whom this same Peter saith, “Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we should follow His footsteps.”21 This, then, you see is why it was said to him, “Follow me.” But there is another, an immortal life, that is not in the midst of evil: there we shall see face to face what is seen here through a glass and in a riddle,22 even when much progress is made in the beholding of the truth. There are two states of life, therefore, preached and commended to herself from heaven, that are known to the Church, whereof the one is in faith, the other in sight; one in the temporal sojourn in a foreign land, the other in the eternity of the [heavenly] abode; one in labor, the other in repose; one on the way, the other in the fatherland; one in active work, the other in the wages of contemplation; one declines from evil and makes for good, the other has no evil to decline from, and has great good to enjoy; the one fights with a foe, the other reigns without a foe; the one is brave in the midst of adversities, the other has no experience of adversity; the one is bridling its carnal lusts, the other has full scope for spiritual delights; the one is anxious with the care of conquering, the other secure in the peace of victory; the one is helped in temptations, the other, free from all temptations, rejoices in the Helper Himself; the one is occupied in relieving the indigent, the other is there, where no indigence is found; the one pardons the sins of others, that its own may be pardoned to itself, the other neither has anything to pardon nor does aught for which pardon has to be asked; the one is scourged with evils that it may not be elated with good things, the other is free from all evil by such a fullness of grace that, without any temptation to pride, it may cleave to that which is supremely good; the one discerneth both good and evil, the other has only that which is good presented to view: therefore the one is good, but miserable as yet; the other, better and blessed. This one was signified by the Apostle Peter, that other by John. The whole of the one is passed here to the end of this world, and there finds its termination, the other is deferred for its completion till after the end of this world, but has no end in the world to come. Hence it is said to the latter, “Follow me;” but of the former, “Thus I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee follow thou me.” For what means this last? So far as my wisdom goes, so far as I comprehend, what is it but this, Follow thou me by imitating me in the endurance of temporal evils; let him remain till I come to restore everlasting good? And this may be expressed more clearly in this way: Let perfected action, informed by the example of my passion, follow me; but let contemplation only begun remain [so] till I come, to be perfected when I come. For the godly plenitude of patience, reaching forward even unto death, followeth Christ; but the fullness of knowledge tarrieth till Christ come, to be manifested then. For here the evils of this world are endured in the land of the dying, while there shall be seen the good things of the Lord in the land of the living. For in saying, “I wish him to tarry till I come,” we are not to understand Him as meaning to remain on, or abide permanently, but to wait; seeing that what is signified by him shall certainly not be fulfilled now, but when Christ is come. But what is signified by him to whom it was said, “Follow thou me,” unless it be done now, will never attain to the expected end. And in this life of activity. the more we love Christ the more easily are we delivered from evil. But He loveth us less as we now are, and therefore delivers from it, that we may not be always such as we are. There, however, He loveth us more; for we shall not have aught about us to displease Him, or aught that He will have to separate us from: nor is it for aught else that He loveth us here but that He may heal and translate us from everything He loveth not. Here, therefore, the loveth us] less, where He would not have us remain; there in larger measure, whither He would have us to be passing, and out of that wherein He would not that we should perish. Let Peter therefore love Him, that we may obtain deliverance from our present mortality; let Jn be loved by Him, that we may be preserved in the immortality to come.

6. But by this line of argument we have shown why Christ loved John more than Peter, not why Peter loved Christ more than John. For if Christ loveth us more in the world to come, where we shall live unendingly with Him, than in the present, from which we are in the course of being rescued, that we may be always in the other, it does not follow on that account that we shall love Him less when better ourselves; since we can in no possible way be better ourselves, save by loving Him more. Why was it, then, that Jn loved Him less than Peter, if he signified that life, wherein He must be more abundantly loved, but because on that very account it was said, “I will that he tarry,” that is wait, “till I come;” for we have not yet the love itself, which will then be greater far, but are expecting that future, that we may have it when He shall come? Just as in his own epistle the same apostle declares, “It has not yet appeared what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.”23 Then accordingly shall we love the more that which we shall see. But the Lord Himself. in His predestinating knowledge, loveth more that future life of ours that is yet to come, such as He knows it will be hereafter in us, in order that by so loving us He may draw us onward to its possession. Wherefore, as all the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth,24 we know our present misery, because we feel it; and therefore we love more the mercy of the Lord, which we wish to be exhibited in our deliverance from misery, and we ask and experience it daily,especially in the remission of sins: this it is that was signified by Peter, as loving more, but less beloved; because Christ loveth us less in our misery than in our blessedness. But the contemplation of the truth, such as it then shall be, we love less, because as yet we neither know nor possess it: this was signified by Jn as loving less, and therefore waiting both for that state itself, and for the perfecting in us of that love to Him, to which He is entitled, till the Lord come; but loved the more, because that it is, which is symbolized by him, that maketh him blessed.

7. Let no one, however, separate these distinguished apostles. In that which was signified by Peter, they were both alike; and in that which was signified by John, they will both be alike hereafter. In their representative character, the one was following, the other tarrying; but in their personal faith they were both of them enduring the present evils of the misery here, both of them expecting the future good things of the blessedness to come. And such is the case, not with them alone, trot with the holy universal Church, the spouse of Christ, who has still to be rescued from the present trials, and to be preserved in the future happiness. And these two states of life were symbolized by Peter and John, the one by the one, the other by the other; but in this life they both of them walked for a time by faith, and the other they shall both of them enjoy eternally by sight. For the whole body of the saints, therefore, inseparably belonging to the body of Christ, and for their safe pilotage through the present tempestuous life, did Peter, the first of the apostles, receive the keys of the kingdom of heaven for the binding and loosing of sins; and for the same congregation of saints, in reference to the perfect repose in the bosom of that mysterious life to come did the evangelist John recline on the breast of Christ. For it is not the former alone but the whole Church, that bindeth and looseth sins; nor did the latter alone drink at the fountain of the Lord’s breast, to emit again in preaching, of the Word in the beginning, God with God, and those other sublime truths regarding the divinity of Christ, and the Trinity and Unity of the whole Godhead. which are to be yet beheld in that kingdom face to face, but meanwhile till the Lord’s coming are only to be seen in a mirror and in a riddle; but the Lord has Himself diffused this very gospel through the whole world, that every one of His own may drink thereat according to his own individual capacity. There are some who have entertained the idea-and those, too, who are no contemptible handlers of sacred eloquence-that the Apostle Jn was more loved by Christ on the ground that he never married a wife, and lived in perfect chastity from early boyhood.25 There is, indeed, no distinct evidence of this in the canonical Scriptures: nevertheless it is an idea that contributes not a little to the suitableness of the opinion expressed above, namely, that that life was signified by him, where there will be no marriage.

8. “This is the disciple who testifieth of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true. And there are also,” he adds, “many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.” We are not to suppose that in regard to local space the world would be unable to contain them; for how could they be written in it if it could not hear them when written? but perhaps it is that they could not be comprehended by the capacity of the readers: although, while our faith in certain things themselves remains unharmed, the words we use about them may not unfrequently appear to exceed belief. This will not take place when anything that was obscure or dubious is in course of exposition by the setting forth of its ground and reason, but only when that which is clear of itself is either magnified or extenuated, Without any real departure from the pathway of the truth to be intimated; for the words may outrun the thing itself that is indicated only in such a way, that the will of him that speaketh, but without any intention to deceive, may be apparent, so that, knowing how far he will be believed, he, orally, either diminishes or magnifies his subject beyond the limit to which credit will be given. This mode of speaking is called by the Greek name hyperbole, by the masters not only of Greek, but also of Latin literature. And this mode is found not only here, but in several other parts also of the divine literature: as, “They set their mouths against the heavens;”26 and, “The top of the hair of such as go on in their trespasses;”27 and many others of the same kind, which are no more wanting in the sacred Scriptures than other tropes or modes of speaking. Of these I might give a more elaborate discussion, were it not that, as the evangelist here terminates his Gospel, I am also compelled to bring my discourse to a close.

1 Sic eum volo manere donec veniam.
2 (Ac 12,2).
3 (Dt 34,6,
4 (Mt 17,3,
5 (2R 2,11,
6 (Mt 27,52-53,
7 (Ph 1,23).
8 (Sg 9,15,
9 (Rm 8,24-25,
10 (Jb 7,1,
11 (Mt 6,13,
12 (Jb 14,1,
13 (Ps 77,9,
14 (Ga 4,4,
15 (1Tm 2,5).
16 (Mt 6,12,
17 (Mt 16,16-19.
18 (1Co 10,4,
19 (1Co 3,11,
20 Universitati.
21 (1P 2,21,
22 (1Co
23 (1Jn 3,2,
24 (Ps 25,10).
25 Jerome, Book I., Against Jovinian.
26 (Ps 73,9,
27 (Ps 68,21

[i]Roberts, Alexander and Donaldson, James, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series: Volume VII, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc). 1997.
Augustin on John 122