Augustin on John 56

Tractate LVII.

57 (Jn 13,6-10 (continued), and Ct 5,2-3. In what way the church should fear to defile her feet, while proceeding on her way to Christ.

1). I Have not been unmindful of my debt, and acknowledge that the time of payment has now come. May He give me wherewith to pay, as He gave me cause to incur the debt. For He has given me the love, of which it is said, “Owe no man anything, but to love one another.”1 May He give also the word, which I feel myself owing to those I love. I put off your expectations till now for this reason, that I might explain as I could how it is we come to Christ along the ground, When we are commanded rather to seek the things which are above, not the things which are upon the earth.2 For Christ is sitting above, at the right hand of the Father: but He is assuredly here also; and for that reason said also to Saul, as he was raging on the earth, “Why persecutest thou me?”3 But the topic on which we were speaking, and which led to our entering on this inquiry, was our Lord’s washing His disciples’ feet, after the disciples themselves had already been washed, and needed not, save to wash their feet. And we there saw it to be understood that a man is indeed wholly washed in baptism; but while thereafter he liveth in this present world, and with the feet of his human passions treadeth on this earth, that is, in his life-intercourse with others, he contracts enough to call forth the prayer, “Forgive us our debts.”4 And thus from these also is he cleansed by Him who washed His disciples’ feet,5 and ceaseth not to make intercession for us.6 And here occurred the words of the Church in the Song of Songs, when she saith, “I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them?” when she wished to go and open to that Being, fairer in form than the sons of men,7 who had come to her and knocked, and asked her to open to Him. This gave rise to a question, which we were unwilling to compress into the narrow limits of the time, and therefore deferred till now, in what sense the Church, when on her way to Christ, may be afraid of defiling her feet, which she had washed in the baptism of Christ.

1 (Rm 13,8,
2 (Col 3,1-2.
3 (Ac 9,4,
4 (Mt 6,12,
5 Chap. 13,5.
6 (Rm 8,34,
7 (Ps 45,2,

2. For thus she speaks: “I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my Beloved 8 that knocketh at the gate.” And then He also says: “Open to me, my sister, my nearest, my dove, my perfect one; for my head is filled with dew, and my hair with the drops of the night.” And she replies: “I have put off my dress; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them?”9 O wonderful sacramental symbol! O lofty mystery! Does she, then, fear to defile her feet in coming to Him who washed the feet of His disciples? Her fear is genuine; for it is along the earth she has to come to Him, who is still on earth, because refusing to leave His own who are stationed here. Is it not He that saith, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world”?10 Is it not He that saith, “Ye shall see the heavens opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man”?11 If they ascend to Him because He is above, how do they descend to Him, but because He is also here? Therefore saith the Church: “I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them?” She says so even in the case of those who, purified from all dross. can say: “I desire to depart, and to be with Christ; nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.”12 She says it in those who preach Christ, and open to Him the door, that He may dwell by faith in the hearts of men.13 In such she says it, when they deliberate whether to undertake such a ministry, for which they do not consider themselves qualified, so as to discharge it blamelessly, and so as not, after preaching to others, themselves to become castaways.14 For it is safer to hear than to preach the truth: for in the hearing, humility is preserved; but when it is preached, it is scarcely possible for any man to hinder the entrance of some small measure of boasting, whereby the feet at least are defiled.

8 Patruelis, literally cousin (by the father’s side).
9 Ct 5,2-3.
10 (Mt 28,20).
11 Chap. 1,51.
12 (Ph 1,23-24.
13 (Ep 3,17,
14 (1Co 9,27,

3. Therefore, as the Apostle James saith, “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak.”15 As it is also said by another manof God, “Thou wilt make me to hear joy and gladness; and the bones Thou hast humbled will rejoice.”16 This is what I said: When the truth is heard, humility is preserved. And another says: “But the friend of the bridegroom standeth and heareth him, and rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice.”17 Let us rejoice in the hearing that comes from the noiseless speaking of the truth within us. For although, when the sound is outwardly uttered, as by one that readeth; or proclaimeth, or preacheth, or disputeth, or commandeth, or comforteth, or exhorteth, or even by one that sings or accompanies hisvoice on an instrument, those who do so may fear to defile their feet, when they aim at pleasing men with the secretly active desire of human applause. Yet the one who hears such with a willing and pious mind, has no room for self-gratulation in the labors of others; and with no self-inflation, but with the joy of humility, rejoices because of the Master’s words of truth. Accordingly, in those who hear with willingness and humility, and spend a tranquil life in sweet and wholesome studies, the holy Church will take delight, and may say, “I sleep, andmy heart waketh.” And what is this, “I sleep, and my heart waketh,” but just I sit down quietly to listen? My leisure is not laid out in nourishing slothfulness, but in acquiring wisdom. “I sleep, and my heart waketh.” I am still, and see that Thou art the Lord:18 for “the wisdom of the scribe cometh by opportunity of leisure; and he that hath little business shall become wise.”19 “I sleep, and my heart waketh:” I rest from troublesome business, and my mind turns its attention to divine concerns (or communications).20

4. But while the Church finds delightful repose in those who thus sweetly and humbly sit at her feet, here is one who knocks, and says: “What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light; and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the house-tops.”21 It is His voice, then, that knocks at the gate, and says: “Open to me, my sister, my neighbor, my dove, my perfect one; for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night.” As if He had said, Thou art at leisure, and the door is closed against me: thou art caring for the leisure of the few, and through abounding iniquity the love of many is waxing cold.22 The night He speaks of is iniquity: but His dew and drops are those who wax cold and fall away, and make the head of Christ to wax cold, that is, the love of God to fail. For the head of Christ is God.23 But they are borne on His locks, that is, their presence is tolerated in the visible sacraments; while their senses never take hold of the internal realities. He knocks, therefore, to shake off this quiet from His inactive saints, and cries, “Open to me,” thou who, through my blood, art become “my sister;” through my drawing nigh, “my neighbor;” through my Spirit, “’my dove;” through my word which thou hast fully learned in thy leisure, “my perfect one:” open to me, go and preach me to others. For how shall I get in to those who have shut their door against me, without some one to open? and how shall they hear without a preacher?24

5. Hence it happens that those who love to devote their leisure to good studies, and shrink from encountering the troubles of toilsome labors, as feeling themselves unsuited to undertake and discharge such services with credit, would prefer, were it possible, to have the holy apostles and ancient preachers of the truth again raised up against that abounding of iniquity which hath so reduced the warmth of Christian love. But in regard to those who have already left the body, and put off the garment of the flesh (for they are not utterly parted), the Church replies, “I have put off my dress; how shall I put it on?” That dress shall, indeed, yet be recovered; and in the persons of those who have meanwhile laid it aside, shall the Church again put on the garment of flesh: only not now, when the cold are needing to be warmed; but then, when the dead shall rise again. Realizing, then, her present difficulty through the scarcity of preachers, and remembering those members of her own who were so sound in word and holy in character, but are now disunited from their bodies,the Church says in her sorrow, “I have put off my dress; how shall I put it on?” How can those members of mine, who had such surpassing power, through their preaching, to open the door to Christ, now return to the bodies which they have laid aside?

6. And then, turning again to those who preach, and gather in and govern the congregations of His people, and so open as they can to Christ, but are afraid, amid the difficulties of such work, of falling into sin, she says, “I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them?” For whosoever offendeth not in word, the same is a perfect man. And who, then, is perfect? Who is there that offendeth not amid such an abounding of iniquity, and such a freezing of charity? “I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them?” At times I read and hear: “My brethren, be not many masters, seeing that ye shall receive the greater condemnation: for in many things we offend all.”25 “I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them?” But see, I rise and open. Christ, wash them. “Forgive us our debts,” because our love is not altogether extinguished: for “we also forgive our debtors.”26 When we listen to Thee, the hones which have been humbled rejoice with Thee in the heavenly places.27 But when we preach Thee, we have to tread the ground in order to open to Thee: and then, if we are blameworthy, we are troubled; if we are commended, we become inflated. Wash our feet, that were formerly cleansed, but have again been defiled in our walking through the earth to open unto Thee. Let this be enough today, beloved. But in whatever we have happened to offend, by saying otherwise than we ought, or have been unduly elated by your commendations, entreat that our feet may be washed, and may your prayers find acceptance with God.

15 (Jc 1,19
16 (Ps 51,8,
17 Chap. 3,29.
18 (Ps 46,10,
19 (Si 38,24,
20 Two readings, affectibus or affatibus.
21 (Mt 10,27,
22 (Mt 24,12,
23 (1Co 11,3,
24 (Rm 10,14).
25 (Jc 3,1-2.
26 (Mt 6,12,
27 (Ps 51,8,

Tractate LVIII.

Jn 13,10-15.

1. We have already, beloved, as the Lord was pleased to enable us, expounded to you those words of the Gospel, where the Lord, in washing His disciples’ feet, says, “He that is once washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit.” Let us now look at what follows. “And ye,” He says, “are clean, but not all.” And to remove the need of inquiry on our part, the evangelist has himself explained its meaning, by adding: “For He knew who it was that should betray Him; therefore said He, Ye are not all clean.” Can anything be clearer? Let us therefore pass to what follows.

2. “So, after He had washed their feet, and had taken His garments, and was set down again, He said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you?” Now it is that the blessed Peter gets that promise fulfilled: for he had been put off when, in the midst of his trembling and asserting, “Thou shalt never wash my feet,” he received the answer, “What I do, thou knowest not now, but thou shall know hereafter” (vers. 7, 8). Here, then, is that very hereafter; it is now time to tell what was a little ago deferred. Accordingly, the Lord, mindful of His foregoing promise to make him understand an act of His so unexpected, so wonderful, so frightening, and, but for His own still more terrifying rejoinder, impossible to be permitted, that the Master not only of themselves, but of angels, and the Lord not only of them, but of all things, should wash the feet of His own disciples and servants: having then promised to let him know the meaning of so important an act, when He said, “Thou shalt know afterwards,” begins now to show them what it was that He did.

3. “Ye call me,” He says, “Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.” “Ye say well,” for ye only say the truth; I am indeed what ye say. There is a precept laid on man: “Let not thine own mouth praise thee, but the mouth of thy neighbor.”1 For self-pleasing is a perilous thing for one who has to be on his guard against falling into pride. But He who is over all things, however much He commend Himself, cannot exalt Himself above His actual dignity: nor can God be rightly termed arrogant. For it is to our advantage to know Him, not to His; nor can any one know Him, unless that self-knowing One make Himself known. If He, then, by abstaining from self-commendation, wish, as it were, to avoid arrogance, He will deny us the power of knowing Him. And no one surely would blame Him for calling Himself Master, even though believing Him to be nothing more than a man; seeing He only makes profession of what even men themselves in the various arts profess to such an extent, without any charge of arrogance, that they are termed professors. But to call Himself also the Lord of His disciples,-of men who, in an earthly sense, were themselves also free-born,-who would tolerate it in a man? But it is God that speaks. Here no elation is possible to loftiness so great, no lie to the truth: the profit is ours to be the subjects of such loftiness, the servants of the truth. That He calls Himself Lord is no imperfection on His side, but a benefit on ours. The words of a certain profane2 author are commended, when he says, “All arrogance is hateful, and specially disagreeable is that of talent and eloquence;”3 and yet, when the same person was speaking of his own eloquence, he said, “I would call it perfect, were I to pronounce judgment; nor, in truth, would I greatly fear the charge of arrogance.”4 If, then, that most eloquent man had in truth no fear of being charged with arrogance, how can the truth itself have such a fear? Let Him call Himself Lord who is the Lord, let Him say what is true who is the Truth; so that I may not fail to learn that which is profitable, by His being silent about that which is. The most blessed Paul-certainly not himself the only-begotten Son of God, but the servant and apostle of that Son; not the Truth, but a partaker of the truth-declares with freedom and consistency, “And though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I say the truth.”5 For it would not be in himself, but in the truth, which is superior to himself, that he was glorying both humbly and truly: for it is he also who has given the charge, that he that glorieth should glory in the Lord.6 Could thus the lover of wisdom have no fear of being chargeable with foolishness, though he desired to glory, and would wisdom itself, in its glorying, have any fear of such a charge? He had no fear of arrogance who said, “My soul shall make her boast in the Lord;”7 and could the power of the Lord have any such fear in commending itself, in which His servant’s soul is making her boast? “Ye call me,” He says, “Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.” Therefore ye say well, that I am so: for if I were not what ye say, ye would be wrong to say so, even with the purpose of praising me. How, then,could the Truth deny what the disciples of the Truth affirm? How could that which was said by the learners be denied by the very Truth that gave them their learning? How can the fountain deny what the drinker asserts? how can the light hide what the beholder declares?

4. “If I, then,” He says, “your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.” This, blessed Peter, is what thou didst not know when thou wert not allowing it to be done. This is what He promised to let thee know afterwards, when thy Master and thy Lord terrified thee into submission, and washed thy feet. We have learned, brethren, humility from the Highest; let us, as humble, do to one another what He, the Highest, did in His humility. Great is the commendation we have here of humility: and brethren do this to one another in turn, even in the visible act itself, when they treat one another with hospitality; for the practice of such humility is generally prevalent, and finds expression in the very deed that makes it discernible. And hence the apostle, when he would commend the well-deserving widow, says, “If she is hospitable, if she has washed the saints’ feet.”8 And wherever Such is not the practice among the saints, what they do not with the hand they do in heart, if they are of the number of those who are addressed in the hymn of the three blessed men, “O ye holy and humble of heart, bless ye the Lord.”9 But it is far better, and beyond all dispute more accordant with the truth, that it should also be done with the hands; nor should the Christian think it beneath him to do what was done by Christ. For when the body is bent at a brother’s feet, the feeling of such humility is either awakened in the heart itself, or is strengthened if already present.

5. But apart from this moral understanding of the passage, we remember that the way in which we commended to your attention the grandeur of this act of the Lord’s, was that, in washing the feet of disciples who were already washed and clean, the Lord instituted a sign, to the end that, on account of the human feelings that occupy us on earth, however far we may have advanced in our apprehension of righteousness, we might know that we are not exempt from sin; which He thereafter washes away by interceding for us, when we pray the Father, who is in heaven, to forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors.10 What connection, then, can such an understanding of the passage have with that which He afterwards gave Himself, when He explained the reason of His act in the words, “If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you”? Can we say that even a brother may cleanse a brother from the contracted stain of wrongdoing? Yea, verily, we know that of this also we were admonished in the profound significance of this work of the Lord’s, that we should confess our faults one to another, and pray for one another, even as Christ also maketh intercession for us.11 Let us listen to the Apostle James, who states this precept with the greatest clearness when he says, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another.”12 For of this also the Lord gave us the example. For if He who neither has, nor had, nor will have any sin, prays for our sins, how much more ought we to pray for one another’s in turn! And if He forgives us, whom we have nothing to forgive; how much more ought we, who are unable to live here without sin, to forgive one another! For what else does the Lord apparently intimate in the profound significance of this sacramental sign, when He says, “For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you;” but what the apostle declares in the plainest terms, “Forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye”?13 Let us therefore forgive one another his faults, and pray for one another’s faults, and thus in a manner be washing one another’s feet. It is our part, by His grace, to be supplying the service of love and humility: it is His to hear us, and to cleanse us from all the pollution of our sins through Christ, and in Christ; so that what we forgive even to others, that is, loose on earth, may be loosed in heaven.

1 (Pr 27,2).
2 Saecularis.
3 Cicero, in Q. Caecilium.
4 Cicero, de Oratore.
5 (2Co 12,6,
6 (1Co 1,31,
7 (Ps 34,2,
8 (1Tm 5,10,
9 (Da 3,88 that is, in the apocryphal piece called “The Song of the Three Children,” and which, as it has no place in the Hebrew Scriptures, is also omitted in our English version. Its place would fall between the and 24th verses of chap. iii.-Tr.
10 (Mt 6,12,
11 (Rm 8,34,
12 (Jc 5,16,
13 (Col 3,13,

Tractate LIX.

Jn 13,16-20.

1. We have just heard in the holy Gospelthe Lord speaking, and saying, “Verily, verily ,I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord, nor the apostle [he that is sent] greater than he that sent him: if ye know these things, blessed shall ye be if ye do them.” He said this, therefore, because He had washed the disciples’ feet, as the Master of humility both by word and example. But we shall be able, with His help, to handle what is in need of more elaborate handling, if we linger not at what is perfectly clear. Accordingly, after uttering these words, the Lord added, “I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but, that the Scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me, shall lift up his heel upon me.” And what is this, but that he shall trample upon me?We know of whom He speaks: it is Judas, that betrayer of His, who is referred to. He had not therefore chosen the person whom, by these words, He setteth utterly apart from His chosen ones. When I say then, He continues “Blessed shall ye be if ye do them, I speak not of you all:” there is one among you who will not be blessed, and who will not do these things. “I know whom I have chosen.” Whom, but those who shall be blessed in the doing of what has been commanded and shown as needful to be done, by Him who alone can make them blessed? The traitor Judas, He says, is not one of those that have been chosen. What, then, is meant by what He says in another place, “Have I not chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?”1 Was it that he also was chosen for some purpose, for which he was really necessary; although not for the blessedness of which He has just been saying, “Blessed shall ye be if ye do these things”? He speaketh not so of them all; for He knows whom He has chosen to be associated with Himself in blessedness. Of such he is not one, who ate His bread in order that he might lift up his heel upon Him. The bread they ate was the Lord Himself; he ate the Lord’s bread in enmity to the Lord: they ate life, and he punishment. “For he that eateth unworthily,” says the apostle, “eateth judgment unto himself.”2 “From this time,”3 Christ adds, “I tell you before it come; that when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am He:” that is, I am He of whom the Scripture that preceded has just said, “He that eateth bread with me, shall lift up his heel upon me.”

2. He then proceeds to say: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send, receiveth me; and he that receiveth me, receiveth Him that sent me.” Did He mean us to understand that there is as little distance between one sent by Him, and Himself, as there is between Himself and God the Father? If we take it in this way, I know not what measurements of distance (which may God forbid!) we shall be adopting, in the Arian fashion. For they, when they hear or read these words of the Gospel, have immediate recourse to their dogmatic measurements, whereby they ascend not to life, but fall headlong into death. For they straightway say: The Son’s messenger stands at the same relative distance from the Son, as expressed in the words, “He that receiveth whomsoever I send, receiveth me,” as that in which the Son Himself stands from the Father, when He said, “He that receiveth me, receiveth Him that sent me.” But if thou sayest so, thou forgettest, heretic, thy measurements. For if, because of these words of the Lord, thou puttest the Son at as great a distance from the Father as the messenger [apostle] from the Son, where dost thou purpose to place the Holy Spirit? Has it escaped thee, that ye are wont to place Him after the Son? He will therefore come in between the messenger and the Son; and much greater, then, will be the distance between the Son and His messenger, than between the Father and His Son. Or perhaps, to preserve that distinction between the Son and His messenger, and between the Father and His Son, at their equality of distance, will the Holy Spirit be equal to the Son? But as little will ye allow this. And where, then, do ye think of placing Him, if ye place the Son as far beneath the Father, as ye place the messenger beneath the Son? Restrain, therefore, your foolhardy presumption; and do not be seeking to find in these words the same distance between the Son and His messenger as between the Father and His Son. But listen rather to the Son Himself, when He says, “I and my Father are one.”4 For there the Truth hath left you no shadow of distance between the Begetter and the Only-begotten; there Christ Himself hath erased your measurements, and the rock hath broken your staircase to pieces.

3. But now that the heretical slander has been disposed of, in what sense are we to understand these words of the Lord: “He that receiveth whomsoever I send, receiveth me; and he that receiveth me, receiveth Him that sent me”? For if we were inclined to understand the words, “He that receiveth me, receiveth Him that sent me,” as expressing the oneness in nature of the Father and the Son; the sequence from the similar arrangement of words in the other clause, “He that receiveth whomsoever I send, receiveth me,” would be the unity in nature of the Son and His messenger. And there might, indeed, be no impropriety in so understanding it, seeing that a twofold substance belongeth to the strong man, who hath rejoiced to run the race;5 for the Word was made flesh,6 that is, God became man. And accordingly He might be supposed to have said, “He that receiveth whomsoever I send, receiveth me,” with reference to His human nature; “and he that receiveth me” as God, “receiveth Him that sent me.” But in so speaking, He was not commending the unity of nature, but the authority of the Sender in Him who is sent. Let every one, therefore, so receive Him that is sent, that in His person lie may give heed to Him who sent Him. If, then, thou lookest for Christ in Peter, thou wilt find the disciple’s instructor; and if thou lookest for the Father in the Son, thou wilt find the Begetter of the Only-begotten: and so in Him who is sent, thou art not mistaken in receiving the Sender. What follows in the Gospel cannot be compressed within the shortness of the time remaining. And therefore, dearly beloved, let what has been said, if thought sufficient, be received in a healthful way, as pasture for the holy sheep; and if it is somewhat scanty, let it be ruminated over with ardent desire for more).

1 Chap. 6,70).
2 (1Co 11,29,
3 A modo; Greek, JAh a)rtip; margin of English Bible, “From henceforth.”-Tr.
4 Chap. 10,30.
5 (Ps 19,5,
6 Chap. 1,14.

Tractate LX.

Jn 13,21.

1. It is no light question, brethren, that meets us in the Gospel of the blessed John, when he says: “When Jesus had thus said, He was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.” Was it for this reason that Jesus was troubled, not in flesh, but in spirit, that He was now about to say, “One of you shall betray me”? Did this occur then for the first time to His mind, or was it at that moment suddenly revealed to Him for the first time, and so troubled Him by the startling novelty of so great a calamity? Was it not a little before that He was using these words, “He that eateth bread with me will lift up his heel against me”? And had He not also, previously to that, said, “And ye are clean, but not all”? where the evangelist added, “For He knew who should betray Him:”1 to whom also on a still earlier occasion He had pointed in the words, “Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?”2 Why is it, then, that He “was now troubled in spirit,” when “He testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me”? Was it because now He had so to mark him out, that he should no longer remain concealed among the rest, but be separated from the others, that therefore “He was troubled in spirit”? Or was it because now the traitor himself was on the eve of departing to bring those Jews to whom he was to betray the Lord, that He was troubled by the imminency of His passion, the closeness of the danger, and the swooping hand of the traitor, whose resolution was foreknown? For some such cause it certainly was that Jesus “was troubled in spirit,” as when He said, “Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour; but for this cause came I unto this hour.”3 And accordingly, just as then His soul was troubled as the hour of His passion approached; so now also, as Judas was on the point of going and coming, and the atrocious villainy of the traitor neared its accomplishment, “He was troubled in spirit.”

2. He was troubled, then, who had power to lay down His life, and had power to take it again.4 That mighty power is troubled, the firmness of the rock is disturbed: or is it rather our infirmity that is troubled in Him? Assuredly so: let servants believe nothing unworthy of their Lord, but recognize their own membership in their Head. He who died for us, was also Himself troubled in our place. He, therefore, who died in power, was troubled in the midst of His power: He who shall yet transform5 the body of our humility into similarity of form with the body of His glory, hath also transferred into Himself the feeling of our infirmity, and sympathizeth with us in the feelings of His own soul. Accordingly, when it is the great, the brave, the sure, the invincible One that is troubled, let us have no fear for Him, as if He were capable of failing: He is not perishing, but in search of us [who are]. Us, I say; it is us exclusively whom He is thus seeking, that in His trouble we may behold ourselves, and so, when trouble reaches us, may not fall into despair and perish. By His trouble, who could not be troubled save with His own consent, He comforts such as are troubled unwillingly.

3. Away with the reasons of philosophers, who assert that a wise man is not affected by mental perturbations. God hath made foolish the wisdom of this world;6 and the Lord knoweth the thoughts of men, that they are vain.7 It is plain that the mind of the Christian may be troubled, not by misery, but by pity: he may fear lest men should be lost to Christ; he may sorrow when one is being lost; he may have ardent desire to gain men to Christ; he may be filled with joy when such is being done; he may have fear of falling away himself from Christ; he may sorrow over his own estrangement from Christ; he may be earnestly desirous of reigning with Christ, and he may be rejoicing in the hope that such fellowship with Christ will yet be his lot. These are certainly four of what they call perturbations-fear and sorrow, love and gladness. And Christian minds may have sufficient cause to feel them, and evidence their dissent from the error of Stoic philosophers, and all resembling them: who indeed, just as they esteem truth to be vanity, regard also insensibility as soundness; not knowing that a man’s mind, like the limbs of his body, is only the more hopelessly diseased when it has lost even the feeling of pain.

4. But says some one: Ought the mind of the Christian to be troubled even at the prospect of death? For what comes of those words of the apostle, that he had a desire to depart, and to be with Christ,8 if the object of his desire can thus trouble him when it comes? Our answer to this would be easy, indeed, in the case of those who also term gladness itself a perturbation [of the mind]. For what if the trouble he thus feels arises entirely from his rejoicing at the prospect of death? But such a feeling, they say, ought to be termed gladness, and not rejoicing.9 And what is that, but just to alter the name, while the feeling experienced is the same? But let us for our part confine our attention to the Sacred Scriptures, and with the Lord’s help seek rather such a solution of this question as will be in harmony with them; and then, seeing it is written, “When He had thus said, He was troubled in spirit,” we will not say that it was joy that disturbed Him; lest His own words should convince us of the contrary when He says, “My soul is sorrowful, even unto death.”10 It is some such feeling that is here also to be understood, when, as His betrayer was now on the very point of departing alone, and straightway returning along with his associates, “Jesus was troubled in spirit.”

5. Strong-minded, indeed, are those Christians, if such there are, who experience no trouble at all in the prospect of death; but for all that, are they stronger-minded than Christ? Who would have the madness to say so? And what else, then, does His being troubled signify, but that, by voluntarily assuming the likeness of their weakness, He comforted the weak members in His own body, that is, in His Church; to the end that, if any of His own are still troubled at the approach of death, they may fix their gaze upon Him, and so be kept from thinking themselves castaways on this account, and being swallowed up in the more grievous death of despair? And how great, then, must be that good which we ought to expect and hope for in the participation of His divine nature, whose very perturbation tranquillizes us, and whose infirmity confirms us? Whether, therefore, on this occasion it was by His pity for Judas himself thus rushing into ruin, or by the near approach of His own death, that He was troubled, yet there is no possibility of doubting that it was not through any infirmity of mind, but in the fullness of power, that He was troubled, and so no despair of salvation need arise in our minds, when we are troubled, not in the possession of power, but in the midst of our weakness. He certainly bore the infirmity of the flesh,-an infirmity which was swallowed up in His resurrection. But He who was not only man, but God also, surpassed by an ineffable distance the whole human race in fortitude of mind. He was not, then, troubled by any outward plessure of man, but troubled Himself; which was very plainly declared of Him when He raised Lazarus from the dead: for it is there written that He troubled Himself,11 that it may be so understood even where the text does not so express it, and yet declares that He was troubled. For having by His power assumed our full humanity, by that very power He awoke in Himself our human feelings whenever He judged it becoming.

1 Chap. 13,18, 10, 11.
2 Chap. 6,71.
3 Chap. 12,27.
4 Chap. 10,18.
5 (Ph 3,21, text has transfiguravit (pret)., “hath transformed,” in this as well as in the next clause, “hath transferred,” but here it is evidently is a misprint for transfigurabit (fut)..-Tr.
6 (1Co 1,20,
7 (Ps 94,11).
8 (Ph 1,23).
9 Gaudium, non laetitia.
10 (Mt 26,38,
11 Chap. 11,33, margin.

Augustin on John 56