Augustin on John 81

Tractate LXXXII.

82 (Jn 15,8-10.

1. The Saviour, in thus speaking to the disciples, commends still more and more the grace whereby we are saved, when He says, “Herein is my Father glorified,1 that ye bear very much fruit, and be made my disciples.” Whether we say glorified, or made bright, both are the rendering given us of one Greek verb, namely doxazein (doxazein). For what is doxa (doxa) in Greek, is in Latin glory. I have thought it worth while to mention this, because the apostle says, “If Abraham was justified by works, he hath glory. but not before God.”2 For this is the glory before God, whereby God, and not man, is glorified, when he is justified, not by works, but by faith, so that even his doing well is imparted to him by God; just as the branch, as I have stated above,3 cannot bear fruit of itself. For if herein God the Father is glorified, that we bear much fruit, and be made the disciples of Christ, let us not credit our own glory therewith, as if we had it of ourselves. For of Him is such a grace, and accordingly therein the glory is not ours, but His. Hence also, in another passage, after saying, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works;” to keep them from the thought that such good works were of themselves, He immediately added, “and may glorify your Father who is in heaven.”4 For herein is the Father glorified, that we bear much fruit, and be made the disciples of Christ. And by whom are we so made, but by Him whose mercy hath forestalled us? For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works.5

2. “As the Father hath loved me,” He says, “so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.” Here, then, you see, is the source of our good works. For whence should we have them. were it not that faith worketh by love?6 And how should we love, were it not that we were first loved? With striking clearness is this declared by the same evangelist in his epistle: “We love God because He first loved us.”7 But when He says, “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you,” He indicates no such equality between our nature and His as there is between Himself and the Father, but the grace whereby the Mediator between God and men is the man Christ Jesus.8 For He is pointed out as Mediator when He says, “The Father-me, and I-you.” For the Father, indeed, also loveth us, but in Him; for herein is the Father glorified, that we bear fruit in the vine, that is, in the Son, and so be made His disciples.

3. “Continue ye,” He says, “in my love.” How shall we continue? Listen to what follows: “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love.” Love brings about the keeping of His commandments; but does the keeping of His commandments bring about love? Who can doubt that it is love which precedes? For he has no true ground for keeping the commandments who is destitute of love. And so, in saying, “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love,” He shows not the source from which love springs, but the means whereby it is manifested. As if He said, Think not that ye abide in my love if ye keep not my commandments; for it is only if ye have kept them that ye shall abide. In other words, it will thus be made apparent that ye shall abide in my love if ye keep my commandments. So that no one need deceive himself by saying that he loveth Him, if he keepeth not His commandments. For we love Him just in the same measure as we keep His commandments; and the less we keep them, the less we love. And although, when He saith, “Continue ye in my love,” it is not apparent what love He spake of; whether the love we bear to Him, or that which He bears to us: yet it is seen at once in the previous clause. For He had there said, “So have I loved you;” and to these words He immediately adds, “Continue ye in my love:” accordingly, it is that love which He bears to us. What, then, do the words mean, “Continue ye in my love,” but just, continue ye in my grace? And what do these mean, “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love,” but, hereby shall ye know that ye shall abide in the love which I bear to you, if ye keep my commandments? It is not, then, for the purpose of awakening His love to us that we first keep His commandments; but this, that unless He loves us, we cannot keep His commandments. This is a grace which lies all disclosed to the humble, but is hid from the proud.

4. But what are we to make of that which follows: “Even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in His love”? Here also He certainly intended us to understand that fatherly love wherewith He was loved of the Father. For this was what He has just said, “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you;” and then to these He added the words, “Continue ye in my love;” in that, doubtless, wherewith I have loved you. Accordingly, when He says also of the Father, “I abide in His love,” we are to understand it of that love which was borne Him by the Father. But then, in this case also, is that love which the Father bears to the Son referable to the same grace as that wherewith we are loved of the Son: seeing that we on our part are sons, not by nature, but by grace; while the Only-begotten is so by nature and not by grace? Or is this even in the Son Himself to be referred to His condition as man? Certainly so. For in saying, “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you,” He pointed to the grace that was His as Mediator. For Christ Jesus is the Mediator between God and men, not in respect to His Godhead, but in respect to His manhood.9 And certainly it is in reference to this His human nature that we read, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and age, and in favor [grace] with God and men.”10 In harmony, therefore, with this, we may rightly say that while human nature belongs not to the nature of God, yet such human nature does by grace belong to the person of the only-begotten Son of God; and that by grace so great, that there is none greater, yea, none that even approaches equality. For there were no merits that preceded that assumption of humanity, but all His merits began with that very assumption. The Son, therefore, abideth in the love wherewith the Father hath loved Him, and so hath kept His commandments. For what are we to think of Him even as man, but that God is His lifter up?11 for the Word was God, the Only-begotten, co-eternal with Him that begat; but that He might be given to us as Mediator, by grace ineffable, the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.12

1 Clarificatus, literally, “clarified,” or made bright, clear, to men’s eyes. See immediately afterwards in text.
2 (Rm 4,2).
3 Tract. LXXXI. sec. 2.
4 (Mt 5,16,
5 (Ep 2,10,
6 (Ga 5,6,
7 (1Jn 4,19,
8 (1Tm 2,5,
9 Non in quantum Deus, sed in quantum homo est.
10 (Lc 2,52,
11 (Ps 3,3,
12 Chap. 1,1, 14.

Tractate LXXXIII.

Jn 15,11-12.

1. You have just heard, beloved, the Lord saying to His disciples, “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might be in you, and that your joy might be full.” And what else is Christ’s joy in us, save that He is pleased to rejoice over us? And what is this joy of ours which He says is to be made full, but our having fellowship with Him? On this account He had said to the blessed Peter, “If I wash thee not, thou shall have no part with me.”1 His joy, therefore, in us is the grace He hath bestowed upon us: and that is also our joy. But over it He rejoiced even from eternity, when He chose us before the foundation of the world.2 Nor can we rightly say that His joy was not full; for God’s joy was never at any time imperfect. But that joy of His was not in us: for we, in whom it could be, had as yet no existence; and even when our existence commenced, it began not to be in Him. But in Him it always was, who in the infallible truth of His own foreknowledge rejoiced that we should yet be His own. Accordingly, He had a joy over us that was already full, when He rejoiced in foreknowing and foreordaining us: and as little could there be any fear intermingling in that joy of His, lest there should be any possible failure in what He foreknew would be done by Himself. Nor, when He began to do what He foreknew that He would do, was there any increase to His joy as the expression of His blessedness; otherwise His making of us must have added to His blessedness. Be such a supposition, brethren, far from our thoughts; for the blessedness of God was neither less without us, nor became greater because of us. His joy, therefore, over our salvation, which was always in Him, when He foreknew and foreordained us, began to be in us when He called us; and this joy we properly call our own, as by it we, too, shall yet be blessed: but this joy, as it is ours, increases and advances, and presses onward perseveringly to its own completion. Accordingly, it has its beginning in the faith of the regenerate, and its completion in the reward when they rise again. Such is my opinion of the purport of the words, “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might be in you, and that your joy might be made full:” that mine “might be in you;” that yours “might be made full.” For mine was always full, even before ye were called, when ye were foreknown as those whom I was afterwards to call; but it finds its place in you also, when ye are transformed into that which I have foreknown regarding you. And “that yours may be full:” for ye shall be blessed, what ye are not as yet; just as ye are now created, who had no existence before.

2. “This,” He says, “is my injunction, that ye love one another, as I have loved you.” Whether we call it injunction or commandment.3 both are the rendering of the same Greek word, entole (entolh). But He had already made this same announcement on a former occasion, when, as ye ought to remember, I repounded it to you to the best of my ability.4 For this is what He says there, “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”5 And so the repetition of this commandment is its commendation: only that there He said, “A new commandment I give unto you;” and here, “This is my commandment:” there, as if there had been no such commandment before; and here, as if He had no other commandment to give them. But there it is spoken of as “new,” to keep us from persevering in our old courses; here, it is called “mine,” to keep us from treating it with contempt.

3. But when He said in this way here, “This is my commandment,” as if there were none else, what are we to think, my brethren? Is, then, the commandment about that love wherewith we love one another, His only one? Is there not also another that is still greater,-that we should love God? Or has God in very truth given us such a charge about love alone, that we have no need of searching for others? There are three things at least that the apostle commends when he says, “But now abide faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”6 And although in charity, that is, in love, are comprehended the two commandments; yet it is here declared to be the greatest only, and not the sole one. Accordingly, what a host of commandments are given us about faith, what a multitude about hope! who is there that could collect them together, or suffice to number them? But let us ponder the words of the same apostle: “Love is the fullness of the law.”7 And so, where there is love, what can be wanting? and where it is not, what is there that can possibly be profitable? The devil believes,8 but does not love: no one loveth who doth not believe. One may, indeed, hope for pardon who does not love, but he hopes in vain; but no one can despair who loves. Therefore, where there is love, there of necessity will there be faith and hope; and where there is the love of our neighbor, there also of necessity will be the love of God. For he that loveth not God, how loveth he his neighbour as himself, seeing that he loveth not even himself? Such an one is both impious and iniquitous; and he that loveth iniquity, manifestly loveth not, but hateth his own soul.9 Let us, therefore, be holding fast to this precept of the Lord, to love one another; and then all else that is commanded we shall do, for all else we have contained in this. But this love is distinguished from that which men bear to one another as such; for in order to mark the distinction, it is added, “as I have loved you.” And wherefore is it that Christ loveth us, but that we may be fitted to reign with Christ? With this aim, therefore, let us also be loving one another, that we may manifest the difference of our love from that of others, who have no such motive in loving one another, because the love itself is wanting. But those whose mutual love has the possession of God Himself for its object, will truly love one another; and, therefore, even for the very purpose of loving one another, they love God. There is no such love as this in all men; for few have this motive for their love one to another, that God may be all in all.10

1 Chap. 13,8.
2 (Ep 1,4,
3 Praeceptum, sive mandatum.
4 See Tract. LXV).
5 Chap. 13,34.
6 (1Co 13,13,
7 (Rm 13,10,
8 (Jc 2,19,
9 (Ps 11,5, here, as usual, along with the Vulgate, follows the Septuagint in what is clearly is a mistranslation of the Hebrew text, which is correctly rendered grammatically in our English version, though not exactly according to the Masoretic punctuation). ha;gŇŤ;
 (fem). shows that “his soul” is the subject, and not the object of the hatred.-Tr.
10 (1Co 15,28,

Tractate LXXXIV.

84 (Jn 15,13.

1. The Lord, beloved brethren, hath defined that fullness of love which we ought to bear to one another, when He said: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Inasmuch, then, as He had said before, “This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you;” and appended to these words what you have just been hearing, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends;” there follows from this as a consequence, what this same Evangelist Jn says in his epistle, “That as Christ laid down His life for us, even so we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren;”1 loving one another in truth, as He hath loved us, who laid down His life for us. Such also is doubtless the meaning of what we read in the Proverbs of Solomon: “If thou sittest down to supper at the table of a ruler, consider wisely what is set before thee; and so put to thy hand, knowing that thou art bound to make similar preparations.”2 For what is the table of the ruler, but that from which we take the body and blood of Him who laid down His life for us? And what is it to sit thereat, but to approach in humility? And what is it to consider intelligently what is set before thee, but worthily to reflect on the magnitude of the favor? And what is it, so to put to thy hand, as knowing that thou art bound to make similar preparations, but as I have already said, that, as Christ laid down His life for us, so we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren? For as the Apostle Peter also says, “Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we should follow His steps.”3 This is to make similar preparations. This it was that the blessed martyrs did in their burning love; and if we celebrate their memories in no mere empty form, and, in the banquet whereat they themselves were filled to the full, approach the table of the Lord, we must, as they did, be also ourselves making similar preparations. For on these very grounds we do not commemorate them at that table in the same way, as we do others who now rest in peace, as that we should also pray for them, but rather that they should do so for us, that we may cleave to their footsteps; because they have actually attained that fullness of love, than which, our Lord hath told us, there cannot be a greater. For such tokens of love they exhibited for their brethren, as they themselves had equally received at the table of the Lord.

2. But let us not be supposed to have so spoken as if on such grounds we might possibly arrive at an equality with Christ the Lord, if for His sake we have undergone witness-bearing even unto blood). He had power to lay down His life, and to take it again;4 but we have no power to live as long as we wish; and die we must, however unwilling: He, by dying, straightway slew death in Himself; we, by His death, are delivered from death: His flesh saw no corruption;5 ours, after corruption, shall in the end of the world be clothed by Him with incorruption: He had no need of us, in order to work out our salvation; we, without Him, can do nothing: He gave Himself as the vine, to us the branches; we, apart from Him, can have no life. Lastly, although brethren die for brethren, yet no martyr’s blood is ever shed for the remission of the sins of brethren, as was the case in what He did for us; and in this respect He bestowed not on us aught for imitation, but something for congratulation. In as far, then, as the martyrs have shed their blood for the brethren, so far have they exhibited such tokens of love as they themselves perceived at the table of the Lord. (One might imitate Him in dying, but no one could, in redeeming).6 In all else, then, that I have said, although it is out of my power to mention everything, the martyr of Christ is far inferior to Christ Himself. But if any one shall set himself in comparison, I say, not with the power. but with the innocence of Christ, and (I would not say) in thinking that he is healing the sins of others, but at least that he has no sins of his own, even so far is his avidity overstepping the requirements of the method of salvation; it is a matter of considerable moment for him, only he attains not his desire. And well it is that he is admonished in that passage of the Proverbs, which immediately goes on to say, “But if thy greed is too great, be not desirous of his dainties; for it is better that thou take nothing thereof, than that thou shouldst take more than is befitting. For such things,” it is added, “have a life of deceit,” that is, of hypocrisy. For in asserting his own sinlessness,he cannot prove, but only pretend, that he is righteous. And so it is said,” For such have a deceiving life.” There is only One who could at once have human flesh and be free from sin. Appropriately are we commanded that which follows; and such a word and proverb is well adapted to human weakness, when it is said, “Lay not thyself out, seeing thou art poor, against him that is rich.” For the rich man is Christ, who was never obnoxious to punishment either through hereditary or personal debt and is righteous Himself, and justifies others. Lay not thyself out against Him, thou who art so poor, that thou art manifestly to the eyes of all the daily beggar that thou art in thy prayer for the remission of sins. “But keep thyself,” he says, “from thine own counsel” [“cease from thine own wisdom”-E. V.]. From what, but from this delusive presumption? For He, indeed, inasmuch as He is not only man but also God, can never be chargeable with evil. “For if thou turn thine eye upon Him, He will nowhere be visible.” “Thine eye,” that is, the human eye, wherewith thou distinguishest that which is human; “if thou turn it upon Him, He will nowhere be visible,” because He cannot be seen with such organs of sight as are thine. “For He will provide Himself wings like an eagle’s, and will depart to the house of His overseer,”7 from which, at all events, He came to us, and found us not such as He Himself was who came. Let us therefore love one another, even as Christ hath loved us, and given Himself for us.8 “For greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” And let us be imitating Him in such a spirit of reverential obedience, that we shall never have the boldness to presume on a comparison between Him and ourselves.

1 (1Jn 3,16).
2 (Pr 23,1-2: see below, and also Tract. XLVII. sec. 2, note 4.
3 (1P 2,21,
4 Chap. 10,18.
5 (Ac 2,31,
6 This parenthesized sentence is found, according to Migne, inserted here in six Mss. In three others it occurs immediately before the second following sentence, beginning, “But if any one,” etc. In other Mss. it is wanting; and Migne omits it from the text.-Tr.
7 The whole of this passage, taken from Proverbs 23,3-5, as well as verses 1 and 2, quoted in sec. 1 of this Lecture, and in Tract. XLVII. sec. 2 (where see note 4), departs so widely from the Hebrew text, and even from the Septuagint (which is itself considerably astray), that it is hardly possible to account for the differences; and we refrain from attempting it. The text had evidently been felt to be obscure from very early times, especially for those who were unacquainted with the Hebrew; and hence transformations, omissions, and interpolations of words, and even of sentences, on the part of copyists and commentators, had resulted in the very various readings of different versions. The passage as given by Augustin is a good example of his ingenuity in spiritualizing the statements of Scripture.-Tr.
8 (Ga 2,20,

Tractate LXXXV.

85 (Jn 15,14-15.

1. When the Lord Jesus had commended the love which He manifested toward us in dying for us, and had said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends,” He added, “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” What great condescension! when one cannot even be a good servant unless he do his lord’s commandments; the very means, which only prove men to be good servants, He wished to be those whereby His friends should be known. But the condescension, as I have termed it, is this, that the Lord condescends to call those His friends whom He knows to be His servants. For, to let us know that it is the duty of servants to yield obedience to their master’s commands, He actually in another place reproaches those who are servants, by saying, “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things that I say?”1 Accordingly, when ye say Lord, prove what you say by doing my commandments. Is it not to the obedient servant that He is yet one day to say, “Well done, thou good servant; because thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord”?2 One, therefore, who is a good servant, can be both servant and friend.

2. But let us mark what follows. “Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth.” How, then are we to understand the good servant to be both servant and friend, when He says, “Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth”? He introduces the name of friend in such a way as to withdraw that of servant; not as if to include both in the one term, but in order that the one should succeed to the place vacated by the other. What does it mean? Is it this, that even in doing the Lord’s commandments we shall not be servants? Or this, that then we shall cease to be servants, when we have been good servants? And yet who can contradict the Truth, when He says, “Henceforth I call you not servants?” and shows why He said so: “For the servant,” He adds, “knoweth not what his lord doeth.” Is it that a good and tried servant is not likewise entrusted by his master with his secrets? What does He mean, then, by saying, “The servant knoweth not what his lord doeth”? Be it that “he knoweth not what he doeth,” is he ignorant also of what he commands? For if he were so, how can he serve? Or how is he a servant who does no service? And yet the Lord speaks thus: “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants.” Truly a marvellous statement! Seeing we cannot serve the Lord but by doing His commandments, how is it that in doing so we shall cease to be servants? If I be not a servant in doing His commandments, and yet cannot be in His service unless I so do, then, in my very service, I am no longer a servant.

3. Let us, brethren, let us understand, and may the Lord enable us to understand, and enable us also to do what we understand. And if we know this, we know of a truth what the Lord doeth; for it is only the Lord that so enables us, and by such means only do we attain to His friendship. For just as there are two kinds of fear, which produce two classes of fearers; so there are two kinds of service, which produce two classes of servants. There is a fear, which perfect love casteth out;3 and there is another fear, which is clean, and endureth for ever.4 The fear that lies not in love, the apostle pointed to when he said, “For ye have not received the spirit of service again to fear.”5 But he referred to the clean fear when he said, “Be not high-minded, but fear.”6 In that fear which love casteth out, there has also to be cast out the service along with it: for both were joined together by the apostle, that is, the service and the fear, when he said, “For ye have not received the spirit of service again to fear.” And it was the servant connected with this kind of service that the Lord also had in His eye when He said, “Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth.” Certainly not the servant characterized by the clean fear, to whom it is said, “Well done, thou good servant: enter thou into the joy of thy lord;” but the servant who is characterized by the fear which love casteth out, of whom He elsewhere saith, “The servant abideth not in the house for ever, but the Son abideth ever.”7 Since, therefore, He hath given us power to become the sons of God,8 let us not be servants, but sons: that, in some wonderful and indescribable but real way, we may as servants have the power not to be servants; servants, indeed, with that clean fear which distinguishes the servant that enters into the joy of his lord, but not servants with the fear that i has to be cast out, and which marketh him that abideth not in the house for ever. But let us bear in mind that it is the Lord that enableth us to serve so as not to be servants. And this it is that is unknown to the servant, who knoweth not what his Lord doeth; and who, when he doeth any good thing, is lifted up as if he did it himself, and not his Lord; and so, glories not in the Lord, but in himself, thereby deceiving himself, because glorying, as if he had not received.9 But let us, beloved, in order that we may be the friends of the Lord, know what our Lord doeth. For it is He who makes us not only men, but also righteous, and not we ourselves. And who but He is the doer, in leading us to such a knowledge? For “we have received not the spirit of this world, but the Spirit which is of God, that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.”10 Whatever good there is, is freely given by Him. And so because this also is good, by Him who graciously imparteth all good is this gift of knowing likewise bestowed; that, in respect of all good things whatever, he that glorieth may glory in the Lord.11 But the words that follow, “But I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you,” are so profound, that we must by no means compress them within the limits of the present discourse, but leave them over till another.

1 (Lc 6,46,
2 (Mt 25,21).
3 (1Jn 4,18,
4 (Ps 19,9,
5 (Rm 8,15,
6 (Rm 11,20,
7 Chap. 8,35.
8 Chap. 1,12.
9 (1Co 4,7,
10 (1Co 2,12,
11 (1Co 1,31,

Tractate LXXXVI.

Jn 15,15-16.

1). It is a worthy subject of inquiry how these words of the Lord are to be understood, “But I have called you friends: for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.” For who is there that dare affirm or believe that any man knoweth all things that the only-begotten Son hath heard of the Father; when there is no one that can comprehend even how He heareth any word of the Father, being as He is Himself the only Word of the Father? Nay more, is it not the case that a little afterwards, in this same discourse, which He delivered to the disciples between the Supper and His passion, He said, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now”?1 How, then, are we to understand that He made known unto the disciples all that He had heard of the Father, when there are many things that He saith not, just because He knows that they cannot bear them now? Doubtless what He is yet to do He says that He has done as the same Being who hath made those things which are yet to be.2 For as He says by the prophet, “They pierced my hands and my feet,”3 and not, They will yet pierce; but speaking as it were of the past, and yet predicting what Was still in the future: so also in the passage before us He declares that He has made known to the disciples all, that He knows He will yet make known in that fullness of knowledge, whereof the apostle says, “But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” For in the same place he adds: “Now I know in part, but then shall I know, even as also I am known; and now through a glass in a riddle, but then face to face.”4 For the same apostle also says that we have been saved by the washing of regeneration,5 and yet declares in another place, “We are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is no 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.”6 To a similar purpose it is also said by his fellow-apostle Peter, “In whom, though now seeing Him not, ye believe; and in whom, when ye see Him, ye shall rejoice with a joy unspeakable and glorious: receiving the reward of faith, even the salvation of your souls.”7 If, then, it is now the season of faith, and faith’s reward is the salvation of our souls; who, in that faith which worketh by love,8 can doubt that the day must come to an end, and at its close the reward be received; not only the redemption of our body, whereof the Apostle Paul speaketh,9 but also the salvation of our souls, as we are told by the Apostle Peter? For the felicity springing from both is at this present time, and in the existing state of mortality, a matter rather of hope than of actual possession. But this it concerns us to remember, that our outward man, to wit the body, is still decaying; but the inward, that is, the soul, is being renewed day by day.10 Accordingly, while we are waiting for the immortality of the flesh and salvation of our souls in the future, yet with the pledge we have received, it may be said that we are saved already; so that knowledge of all things which the Only-begotten hath heard of the Father we are to regard as a matter of hope still lying in the future, although declared by Christ as something He had already imparted.

2. “Ye have not chosen me,” He says, “but I have chosen you.” Grace such as that is ineffable. For what were we so long as Christ had not yet chosen us, and we were therefore still destitute of love? For he who hath chosen Him, how can he love Him? Were we, think you, in that condition which is sung of in the psalm: “I had rather be an abject in the house of the Lord, than dwell in the tents of wickedness”?11 Certainly not. What were we then, but sinful and lost? We had not yet come to believe on Him, in order to lead to His choosing us; for if it were those who already believed that He chose, then was He chosen Himself, prior to His choosing. But how could He say, “Ye have not chosen me,” save only because His mercy anticipated us?12 Here surely is at fault the vain reasoning of those who defend the foreknowledge of God in opposition to His grace, and with this view declare that we were chosen before the foundation of the world,13 because God foreknew that we should be good, but not that He Himself would make us good. So says not He, who declares, “Ye have not chosen me.” For had Hechosen us on the ground that He foreknew that we should be good, then would He also have foreknown that we would not be the first to make choice of Him. For in no other way could we possibly be good: unless, forsooth, one could be called good who has never made good his choice. What was it then that He chose in those who were not good? For they were not chosen because of their goodness, inasmuch as they could not be good without being chosen. Otherwise grace is no more grace, if we maintain the priority of merit. Such, certainly, is the election of grace, whereof the apostle says: “Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant saved according to the election of grace.” To which he adds: “And if by grace, then is it no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace.”14 Listen, thou ungrateful one, listen: “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.” Not that thou mayest say, I am chosen because I already believed. For if thou wert believing in Him, then hadst thou already chosen Him. But listen: “Ye have not chosen me.” Not that thou mayest say, Before I believed I was already doing good works, and therefore was I chosen. For what good work can be prior to faith, when the apostle says, “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin”?15 What, then, are we to say on hearing such words, “Ye have not chosen me,” but that we were evil, and were chosen in order that we might be good through the grace of Him who chose us? For it is not by grace, if merit preceded: but it is of grace: and therefore that grace did not find, but effected the merit.

3. See then, beloved, how it is that He chooseth not the good, but maketh those whom He has chosen good. “I have chosen you,” He saith, “and appointed you that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and [that] your fruit should remain.” And is not that the fruit, whereof He had already said, “Without me ye can do nothing”?16 He hath chosen therefore, and appointed that we should go and bring forth fruit; and no fruit, accordingly, had we to induce His choice of us. “That ye should go,” He said, “and bring forth fruit.” We go to bring forth, and He Himself is the way wherein we go, and wherein He hath appointed us to go. And so His mercy hath anticipated us in all. “And that your fruit,” He saith, “should remain; that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, He may give it you.” Accordingly let love remain; for He Himself is our fruit. And this love lies at present in longing desire, not yet in fullness of enjoyment; and whatsoever with that longing desire we shall ask in the name of the only-begotten Son, the Father giveth us. But what is not expedient for our salvation to receive, let us not imagine that we ask that in the Saviour’s name: but we ask in the name of the Saviour only that which really belongs to the way of salvation.

1 Chap. 16,12.
2 (Is 45,11,
3 (Ps 22,16).
4 (1Co 13,10 1Co 13,12.
5 (Tt 3,5,
6 (Rm 8,24-25.
7 (1P 1,8-9.
8 (Ga 5,6,
9 (Rm 8,23,
10 (2Co 4,16,
11 (Ps 84,10,
12 (Ps 59,10,
13 (Ep 1,4,
14 (Rm 11,5-6.
15 (Rm 14,23).
16 Chap. 15,5.

Augustin on John 81