Augustin on John 91

Tractate XCII.

Jn 15,26-27.

1. The Lord Jesus, in the discourse which He addressed to His disciples after the supper, when Himself in immediate proximity to His passion, and, as it were, on the eve of departure, and of depriving them of His bodily presence while continuing His spiritual presence to all His disciples till the very end of the world, exhorted them to endure the persecutions of the wicked, whom He distinguished by the name of the world: and from which He also told them that He had chosen, the disciples themselves, that they might know it was by the grace of God they were what they were, and by their own vices they had been what they had been. And then His own persecutors and theirs He clearly signified to be the Jews, that it might be perfectly apparent that they also were included in the appellation of that damnable world that persecuteth the saints. And when He had said of them that they knew not Him that sent Him, and yet hated both the Son and the Father, that is, both Him who was sent and Him who sent Him,-of all which we have already treated in previous discourses,-He reached the place where it is said, “This cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause.” And then He added, as if by way of consequence, the words whereon we have undertaken at present to discourse: “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceedeth from the Father, He shall bear witness of me: and ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.” But what connection has this with what He had just said, “But now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father: but that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause”? Was it that the Comforter, when He came, even the Spirit of truth, convicted those, who thus saw and hated, by a still clearer testimony? Yea, verily, some even of those who saw, and still hated, He did convert, by this manifestation of Himself, to the faith that worketh by love.1 To make this view of the passage intelligible, we recall to your mind that so it actually befell. For when on the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit fell upon an assembly of one hundred and twenty men, among whom were all the apostles; and when they, filled therewith were speaking in the language of every nation; a goodly number of those who had hated, amazed at the magnitude of the miracle (especially when they perceived in Peter’s address so great and divine a testimony borne in behalf of Christ, as that He, who was slain by them and accounted amongst the dead, was proved to have risen again, and to be now alive), were pricked in their hearts and converted; and so became aware of the beneficent character of that precious blood which had been so impiously and cruelly shed, because themselves redeemed by the very blood which they had shed.2 For the blood of Christ was shed so efficaciously for the remission of all sins, that it could wipe out even the very sin of shedding it. With this therefore in His eye, the Lord said, “They hated me without a cause: but when the Comforter is come, He shall bear witness of me;” saying, as it were, They hated me, and slew me when I stood visibly before their eyes; but such shall be the testimony borne in my behalf by the Comforter, that He will bring them to believe in me when I am no longer visible to their sight.

2. “And ye also,” He says,” shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.” The Holy Spirit shall bear witness, and so also shall ye. For, just because ye have been with me from the beginning, they can preach what ye know; which ye cannot do at present, because the fullness of that Spirit is not yet present within you. “He therefore shall testify of me, and ye also shall bear witness:” for the love of God shed abroad in your hearts by the Holy Spirit, who shall be given unto you,3 will give you the confidence needful for such witness-bearing. And that certainly was still wanting to Peter, when, terrified by the question of a lady’s maid, he could give no true testimony; but, contrary to his own promise, was driven by the greatness of his fear thrice to deny Him.4 But there is no such fear in love, for perfect love casteth out fear.5 In fine, before the Lord’s passion, his slavish fear was questioned by a bond-woman; but after the Lord’s resurrection, his free love by the very Lord of freedom:6 and so on the one occasion he was troubled, on the other tranquillized; there he denied the One he had loved, here he loved the One he had denied. But still even then that very love was weak and straitened, till strengthened and expanded by the Holy Spirit. And then that Spirit, pervading him thus with the fullness of richer grace, kindled his hitherto frigid heart to such a witness-bearing for Christ, and unlocked those lips that in their previous tremor had suppressed the truth, that, when all on whom the Holy Spirit had descended were speaking in the tongues of all nations to the crowds of Jews collected around, he alone broke forth before the others in the promptitude of his testimony in behalf of the Christ, and con-rounded His murderers with the account of His resurrection. And if any one would enjoy the pleasure of gazing on a sight so charming in its holiness, let him read the Ac of the Apostles:7 and there let him be filled with amazement at the preaching of the blessed Peter, over whose denial of his Master he had just been mourning; there let him behold that tongue, itself translated from diffidence to confidence, from bondage to liberty, converting to the confession of Christ the tongues of so many of His enemies, riot one of which he could bear when lapsing himself into denial. And what shall I say more? In him there shone forth such an effulgence of grace, and such a fullness of the Holy Spirit, and such a weight of most precious truth poured from the lips of the preacher, that he transformed that vast multitude of Jews who were the adversaries and murderers of Christ into men that were ready to die for His name, at whose hands he himself was formerly afraid to die with his Master. All this did that Holy Spirit when sent, who had previously only been promised. And it was these great and marvellous gifts of His own that the Lord foresaw, when He said, “They have both seen and hated both me and my Father: that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause. But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of me: and ye also shall bear witness.” For He, in bearing witness Himself, and inspiring such witnesses with invincible courage, divested Christ’s friends of their fear, and transformed into love the hatred of His enemies.

1 (Ga 5,6,
2 (Ac 2,2,
3 (Rm 5,5,
4 (Mt 26,69-74.
5 (1Jn 4,18,
6 (Jn 21,15,
7 7 Ac 2,5.

Tractate XCIII.

93 (Jn 16,1-4.

1). In the words preceding this chapter of the Gospel, the Lord strengthened His disciples to endure the hatred of their enemies, and prepared them also by His own example to become the more courageous in imitating Him: adding the promise, that the Holy Spirit should. come to bear witness of Him, and also that they themselves could become His witnesses, through the effectual working of His Spirit in their hearts. For such is His meaning when He saith, “He shall bear witness of me, and ye also shall bear witness.” That is to say, because He shall bear witness, ye also shall bear witness: He in your hearts, you in your voices; He by inspiration, you by utterance: that the words might be fulfilled, “Their sound hath gone forth into all the earth.”1 For it would have been to little purpose to have exhorted them by His example, had He not also filled them with His Spirit. Just as we see that the Apostle Peter, after having heard His words, when He said, “The servant is not greater than his lord: if they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you;”2 and seen that already fulfilled in Him, wherein, had example been sufficient, he ought to have imitated the patient endurance of his Lord, yet succumbed and fell into denial, as utterly unable to bear what He saw his Master enduring. But when he really received the gift of the Holy Spirit, he preached Him whom he had denied; and whom he had been afraid to confess, he had no fear now in openly proclaiming. Already, indeed, had he been sufficiently taught by example to know what was proper to be done; but not yet was he inspired with the power to do what he knew: he had got instruction to stand, but not the strength to keep him from falling. But after this was supplied by the Holy Spirit, he preached Christ even to the death, whom, in his fear of death, he had previously denied. And so the Lord in this succeeding chapter, on which we have now to address you, saith, “These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended.” As it is sung in the psalm, “Great peace have they who love Thy law, and nothing shall offend them.”3 Properly enough, therefore, with the promise of the Holy Spirit, by whose operation in their hearts they should be made His witnesses, He added, “These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended.” For when the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit given unto us,4 they have great peace who love God’s law, so that nothing may offend them.

2. And then He expressly declares what they were to suffer: “They shall put you out of the synagogues.” But what harm was it for the apostles to be expelled from the Jewish synagogues, as if they were not to separate themselves therefrom, although no one expelled them? Doubtless He meant to announce with reprobation, that the Jews would refuse to receive Christ, from whom they as certainly would refuse to withdraw; and so it would come to pass that the latter, who could not exist without Him, would also be cast out along with Him by those who would not have Him as their place of abode. For certainly, as there was no other people of God than that seed of Abraham, they would, had they only acknowledged and received Christ, have remained as the natural branches in the olive tree;5 nor would the churches of Christ have been different from the synagogues of the Jews, for they would have been one and the same, had they also desired to abide in Him. But having refused, what remained but that, continuing themselves out of Christ, they put out of the synagogues those who would not abandon Christ? For having received the Holy Spirit, and so become His witnesses, they would certainly not belong to the class of whom it is said: “Many of the chief rulers of the Jews believed on Him; but for fear of the Jews they dared not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.”6 And so they believed on Him, but not in the way He wished them to believe when He said: “How can ye believe, who expect honor one of another, and seek not the honor that cometh from God only?”7 It is, therefore, with those disciples who so believe in Him, that, filled with the Holy Spirit, or, in other words, with the gift of divine grace, they no longer belong to those who, “ignorant of the righteousness of God, and going about to establish their own, have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God;”8 nor to those of whom it is said, “They loved the praise of men more than the praise of God:” that the prophecy harmonizes, which finds its fulfillment in their own case: “They shall walk, O Lord, in the light of Thy countenance: and in Thy name shall they rejoice all the day; and in Thy righteousness shall they be exalted: for Thou art the glory of their strength.”9 Rightly enough is it said to such, “They shall cast you out of the synagogues;” that is, they who “have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge;” because, “ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own,”10 they expel those who are exalted, not in their own righteousness, but in God’s, and have no cause to be ashamed at being expelled by men, since He is the glory of their strength.

3. Finally, to what He had thus told them, He added the words: “But the hour cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service: and these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me.” That is to say, they have not known the Father, nor His Son, to whom they think they will be doing service in slaying you. Words which the Lord added in the way of consolation to His own, who should be driven out of the Jewish synagogues. For it is in thus announcing beforehand what evils they would have to endure for their testimony in His behalf, that He said, “They will put you out of the synagogues.” Nor does He say, And the hour cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. What then? “But the hour cometh:” just in the way He would have spoken, were He foretelling them of something good that would follow such evils. What, then, does He mean by the words, “They will put you out of the synagogues: but the hour cometh”? As if He would have gone on to say this: They, indeed, will scatter you, but I will gather you; or, They shall, indeed, scatter you, but the hour of your joy cometh. What, then, has the word which He uses, “but the hour cometh,” to do here, as if He were going on to promise them comfort after their tribulation, when apparently He ought rather to have said, in the form of continuous narration,11 And the hour cometh? But He said not, And it cometh, although predicting the approach of one tribulation after another, instead of comfort after tribulation. Could it have been that such a separation from the synagogues would so discompose them, that they would prefer to die, rather than remain in this life apart from the Jewish assemblies? Far surely would those be from such discomposure, who were seeking, not the praise of men, but of God. What, then, of the words, “They will put you out of the synagogues: but the hour cometh;” when apparently He ought rather to have said, And the hour cometh, “that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service”? For it is not even said, But the hour cometh that they shall kill you, as if implying that their comfort for such a separation would be found in the death that would befall them; but “The hour cometh,” He says, “that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.” On the whole, I do not think He wished to convey any further meaning than that they might understand and rejoice that they themselves would gain so many to Christ, by being driven out of the Jewish congregations, that it would be found insufficient to expel them, and they would not suffer them to live for fear of all being converted by their preaching to the name of Christ, and so turned away from the observance of Judaism, as if it were the very truth of God. For so ought we to understand the reference of His words to the Jews, when He said of them, “They will put you out of the synagogues.” For the witnesses, in other words, the martyrs of Christ, were likewise slain by the Gentiles: they, however, thought not that it was to the true God, but to their own false deities, that they were doing service when they so acted. But every Jew that slew the preachers of Christ reckoned that he was doing God service; believing as he did that all who were converted to Christ were deserting the God of Israel. For it was also by the same reasoning that they were incited to the murder of Christ Himself: because their own words on this subject have also been put on record. “Ye perceive that the whole world is gone after him:12 “If we let him live, the Romans will come, and take away both our place and nation.” And those of Caiaphas: “It is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.”13 And accordingly in this address He sought by His own example to stimulate His disciples, to whom He had just been saying, “If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you;”14 that as in slaying Him they thought they had done God a service, so also would it be in reference to them.

4. Such, then, is the meaning of these words: “They will put you out of the synagogues;” but have no fear of solitude: inasmuch as, when separated from their assembly, you will assemble so many in my name, that they, in very fear lest the temple, that was with them, and all the sacraments of the old law, should be deserted, will slay you: actually, in thus shedding your blood, full of the notion that they are doing God service. An illustration surely of the apostle’s words, “They have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge;”15 when they imagine that they are doing God service in slaying His servants. Appalling mistake! Is it thus thou wouldst please God by striking down the God-pleaser; and is the living temple of God by thy blows laid level with the ground, that God’s temple of stone may not be deserted? Accursed blindness! But it is in part that it has happened to Israel, that the fullness of the Gentiles might come in: in part, I say, and not totally, has it happened. For not all, but only some of the branches have been broken off, that the wild olive might be ingrafted.16 For just at the time when the disciples of Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit, were speaking in the tongues of all nations, and performing many divine miracles, and scattering divine utterances on every side, Christ, even though slain, was so beloved, that His disciples, when expelled from the congregations of the Jews, gathered into a congregation of their own a vast multitude of those very Jews, and had no fear of being left to solitude.17 hereupon, accordingly, the others, reprobate and blind, being inflamed with wrath, and having a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge, and believing that they were doing God service, put them to death. But He, who was slain for them, gathered those together; just as He had also, before He was slain, instructed them in what was to happen, lest their minds, left ignorant and unprepared, should be cast into trouble by evils, however transient, that were unexpected and unprovided for; but rather by knowing of them beforehand, and sustaining them with patience, might be led onward to everlasting blessing. For that such was the cause of His making these announcements to them beforehand, is shown also by His words that followed: “But these things have I told you, that, when their time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them.” Their hour was an hour of darkness, a midnight hour. But the Lord commanded His loving-kindness in the daytime, and made them sing of it in the night:18 when the Jewish night threw no confusion of darkness into the day of the Christians, separated as it was from themselves; and when that which could slay the flesh had no power to darken their faith.

1 (Ps 19,4,
2 Chap. 15,20.
3 (Ps 119,165,
4 (Rm 5,5,
5 Rm 11,17).
6 Chap. 12,42, 43.
7 Chap. 5,44.
8 (Rm 10,3,
9 (Ps 89,15-17.
10 (Rm 10,2-3.
11 Indicativo modo).
12 Chap. 12,19.
13 Chap. 11,48, 50.
14 Chap. 15,20.
15 (Rm 10,2,
16 (Rm 11,25 Rm 11,17.
17 (Ac 2,4.
18 (Ps 42,8,

Tractate XCIV.

Jn 16,4-7

1. When the Lord Jesus had foretold His disciples the persecutions they would have to suffer after His departure, He went on to say: “And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you; but now I go my way to Him that sent me.” And here the first thing we have to look at is, whether He had not previously foretold them of the sufferings that were to come. And the three other evangelists make it sufficiently clear that He had uttered such predictions prior to the approach of the supper:1 which was over, according to John, when He spake, and added, “And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you.” Are we, then, to settle such a question in this way, that they, too, tell us that He was near His passion when He said these things? Then it was not when He was with them at the beginning that He so spake, for He was on the very eve of departing, and proceeding to the Father: and so also, even according to these evangelists, it is strictly true what is here said, “And these things I said not unto you at the beginning.” But what are we to do with the credibility of the Gospel according to Matthew, who relates that such announcements were made to them by the Lord, not only when He was on the eve of sitting down with His disciples to the passover supper, but also at the beginning, when the twelve apostles are for the first time expressed by name, and sent forth on the work of God?2 What, then, is the meaning of what He says here, “And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you;” but that what He says here of the Holy Spirit who was to come to them, and to bear witness, when they should have such ills to endure, this He said not unto them at the beginning, because He was with themselves?

2. The Comforter then, or Advocate (for both form the interpretation of the Greek word, paraclète), had become necessary on Christ’s departure: and therefore He had not spoken of Him at the beginning, when He was with them, because His own presence was their comfort; but on the eve of His own departure it behoved Him to speak of His coming, by whom it would be brought about that with love shed abroad in their hearts they would preach the word of God with all boldness; and with Him inwardly bearing witness with them of Christ, they also should bear witness, and feel it to be no cause of stumbling when their Jewish enemies put them out of the synagogues, and slew them, with the thought that they were doing God service; because the charity beareth all things,3 which was to be shed abroad in their hearts by the gift of the Holy Spirit.4 In this, therefore, is the whole meaning to be found, that He was to make them His martyrs, that is, His witnesses through the Holy Spirit; so that by His effectual working within them, they would endure the hardships of all kinds of persecution, and, set aglow at that divine fire, lose none of their warmth in the love of preaching. “These things,” therefore, He says, “have I told you, that, when their time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them” (ver. 4). These things, I say, I have told you, not merely because ye shall have to endure such things, but because, when the Comforter is come, He shall bear witness of me, that ye may not keep them back through fear, and by whom ye yourselves shall also be enabled to bear witness. “And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you,” and I myself was your comfort through my bodily presence exhibited to your human senses, and which, as infants, ye were able to comprehend.

3. “But now I go my way to Him that sent me; and none of you,” He says, “asketh me, Whither goest Thou?” He means that His departure would be such that none would ask Him of that which they should see taking place in broad daylight before their eyes: for previously to this they had asked Him whither He was going, and had been answered that He was going whither they themselves could not then come.5 Now, however, He promises that He will go away in such a manner that none of them shall ask Him whither He goes. For a cloud received Him when He ascended up from their side; and of His going into heaven they made no verbal inquiry, but had ocular evidence.6

4. “But because I have said these things unto you,” He adds, “sorrow hath filled your heart.” He saw, indeed, what effect these words of His were producing in their hearts; for having not yet within them the spiritual consolation, which they were afterwards to have by the Holy Spirit, what they still saw objectively in Christ they were afraid of losing; and because they could have no doubt they were about to lose Him whose announcements were always true, their human feelings were saddened, because their carnal view of Him was to be left a blank. But He knew what was most expedient for them, because that inward sight, wherewith the Holy Spirit was yet to comfort them, was undoubtedly superior; not by bringing a human body into the bodies of those who saw, but by infusing Himself into the hearts of those who believed. And then He adds, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth, it is expedient for you that I go away. For if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you:” as if He had said, It is expedient for you that this form of a servant be taken away from you; as the Word made indeed flesh I dwell among you; but I would not that ye should continue to love me carnally, and, content with such milk, desire to remain infants always. “It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you.” If I withdraw not the tender nutriment wherewith I have nourished you, ye will acquire no keen relish of solid food; if ye adhere in a carnal way to the flesh, ye will not have room for the Spirit. For what is this, “If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you”? Was it that He could not send Him while located here Himself? Who would venture to say so? Neither was it, that where He was, thence the Other had withdrawn, or that He had so come from the Father as that He did not still abide with the Father. And still further, how could He, even when having His own abode on earth, be unable to send Him, who we know came and remained upon Him at His baptism;7 yea, more, from whom we know that He was never separable? What does it mean, then, “If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you;” but that ye cannot receive the Spirit so long as ye continue to know Christ after the flesh? Hence one who had already been made a partaker of the Spirit says, “Though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we [Him] no more.”8 For now even the very flesh of Christ he did not know in a carnal way, when brought to a spiritual knowledge of the Word that had been made flesh. And such, doubtless, did the good Master wish to intimate, when He said, “If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you.”

5. But with Christ’s bodily departure, both the Father and the Son, as well as the Holy Spirit, were spiritually present with them. For had Christ departed from them in such a sense that it would be in His place, and not along with Him, that the Holy Spirit would be present in them, what becomes of His promise when He said, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world;”9 and, I and the Father “will come unto him, and will make Our abode with him;”10 seeing that He also promised that He would send the Holy Spirit in such a way that He would be with them for ever? In this way it was, on the other hand, that seeing they were yet out of their present carnal or animal condition to become spiritual, with undoubted certainty also were they yet to have in a more comprehensive way both the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. But in no one are we to believe that the Father is present without the Son and the Holy Spirit, or the Father and the Son without the Holy Spirit, or the Son without the Father and the Holy Spirit, or the Holy Spirit without the Father and the Son, or the Father and the Holy Spirit without the Son; but wherever any one of Them is, there also is the Trinity, one God. But here the Trinity had to be suggested in such a way that, although there was no diversity of essence, yet the personal distinction of each one separately should be presented to notice; where those who have a right understanding can never imagine a separation of natures.

6. But that which follows, “And when He is come, He will convince the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, indeed, because they believe not on me; but of righteousness, because I go to the Father, and ye shall see me no more; and of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged” (vers. 8-11); as if it were sin simply not to believe on Christ; and as if it were very righteousness not to see Christ; and as if that were the very judgment, that the prince of this world, that is, the devil, is judged: all this is very obscure, and cannot be included in the present discourse, lest; brevity only increase the obscurity; but must rather be deferred till another occasion for such explanation as the Lord may enable us to give.

1 (Mt 24,9 Mc 13,9-13; and Lc 21,12-17).
2 (Mt 10,17,
3 (1Co 13,7,
4 (Rm 5,5,
5 Chap. 13,36.
6 (Ac 1,9-11).
7 Chap. 1,32.
8 (2Co 5,16,
9 (Mt 28,20,
10 Chap. 14,23.

Tractate XCV.

95 1). The Lord, when promising that He would send the Holy Spirit, said, “When He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” What does it mean? Is it that the Lord Jesus Christ did not reprove the world of sin, when He said, “If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin; but now they have no cloak for their sin”? And that no one may take it to his head to say that this applied properly to the Jews, and not to the world, did He not say in another place, “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own”?1 Did He not reprove it of righteousness, when He said, “O righteous Father, the world hath not known Thee”?2 And did He not reprove it of judgment when He declared that He would say to those on the left hand, “Depart ye into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels”?3 And many other passages are to be found in the holy evangel, where Christ reproveth the world of these things. Why is it, then, He attributeth this to the Holy Spirit, as if it were His proper prerogative? Is it that, because Christ spake only among the nation of the Jews, He does not appear to have reproved the world, inasmuch as one may be understood to be reproved who actually hears the reprover; while the Holy Spirit, who was in His disciples when scattered throughout the whole world, is to be understood as having reproved not one nation, but the world? For mark what He said to them when about to ascend into heaven: “It is not for you to know the times or the moments, which the Father hath put in His own power. But ye shall receive the power of the Holy Spirit, that cometh upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”4 Surely this is to reprove the world. But would any one venture to say that the Holy Spirit reproveth the world through the disciples of Christ, and that Christ Himself doth not, when the apostle exclaims, “Would ye receive a proof of Him that speaketh in me, namely Christ?”5 And so those, surely, whom the Holy Spirit reproveth, Christ. reproveth likewise. But in my opinion, because there was to be shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Spirit that love6 which casteth out the fear,7 that might have hindered them from venturing to reprove the world which bristled with persecutions, therefore it was that He said, “He shall reprove the world:” as if He would have said, He shall shed abroad love in your hearts, and, having your fear thereby expelled, ye shall have freedom to reprove. We have frequently said, however, that the operations of the Trinity are inseparable;8 but the Persons needed to be set forth one by one, that not only without separating Them, but also without confounding Them together, we may have a right understanding both of Their Unity and Trinity.

2. He next explains what He has said” of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” “Of sin indeed,” He says, “because they have believed not on me.” For this sin, as if it were the only one, He has put before the others; because with the continuance of this one, all others are retained, and in the removal of this, the others are remitted. “But of righteousness,” He adds, “because I go to the Father, and ye shall see me no more.” And here we have to consider in the first place, if any one is rightly reproved of sin, how he may also be rightly reproved of righteousness. For if a sinner ought to be reproved just because he is a sinner, will any one imagine that a righteous man is also to be reproved because he is righteous? Surely not. For if at any time a righteous man also is reproved, he is rightly reproved on this account, that, according to Scripture, “There is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.” And accordingly, when a righteous man is reproved, he is reproved of sin, and not of righteousness. Since in that divine utterance also, where we read, “Be not made righteous over-much,”9 there is notice taken, not of the righteousness of the wise man, but of the pride of the presumptuous. The man, therefore, that becomes “righteous over-much,” by that very excess becomes unrighteous. For he makes himself righteous over-much who says that he has no sin, or who imagines that he is made righteous, not by the grace of God, but by the sufficiency of his own will: nor is he righteous through living righteously, but is rather self-inflated with the imagination of being what he is not. By what means, then, is the world to be reproved of righteousness, if not by the righteousness of believers? Accordingly, it is convinced of sin, because it believeth not on Christ; and it is convinced of the righteousness of those who do believe. For the very comparison with believers is itself a reproving of unbelievers. And this the exposition itself sufficiently indicates. For in wishing to open up what He has said, He adds, “Of righteousness, because I go to the Father, and ye shall see me no more.” He does not say, And they shall see me no more; that is, those of whom He had said, “because they have believed not on me.” Of them He spake, when expounding what He denominated sin, in the words, “because they have believed not on me;” but when expounding what He called righteousness, whereof the world is convicted, He turned to those to whom He was speaking, and said, “because I go to the Father, and ye shall see me no more.” Wherefore it is of its own sins, but of others’ righteousness, that the world is convicted, just as darkness is reproved by the light: “For al things,” says the apostle, “that are reproved, are made manifest by the light.”10 For the magnitude of the evil chargeable on those who do not believe, may be made apparent not only by itself, but also by the goodness of those who do believe. And since the cry of unbelievers usually is, How can we believe what we do not see so the righteousness of unbelievers just required this very definition, “Because I go to the Father, and ye shall see me no more.” For blessed are they who see not, and yet do believe.11 For of those also who saw Christ, the faith in Him that met with commendation was not that they believed what they saw, namely, the Son of man; but that they believed what they did not see, namely, the Son of God. But after His servant-form was itself also withdrawn from their view, then in every respect was the word truly fulfilled, “The just liveth by faith.”12 For “faith,” according to the definition in the Epistle to the Hebrews, “is the confidence of those that hope,13 the conviction of things that are not seen.”

3. But how are we to understand, “Ye shall see me no more”? For He saith not, I go to the Father, and ye shall not see me, so as to be understood as referring to the interval of time when He would not be seen, whether short or long, but at all events terminable; but in saying, “Ye shall see me no more,” as if a truth announced beforehand that they would never see Christ in all time coming. Is this the righteousness we speak of, never to see Christ, and yet to believe on Him; seeing that the faith whereby the just liveth is commended on the very ground of believing that the Christ whom it seeth not meanwhile, it shall see some day? Once more, in reference to this righteousness, are we to say that the Apostle Paul was not righteous when confessing that He had seen Christ after His ascension into heaven,14 which was undoubtedly the time of which He had already said, “Ye shall see me no more”? Was Stephen, that hero of surpassing renown, not righteous in the spirit of this righteousness, who, when they were stoning him, exclaimed, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God”?15 What, then, is meant by “I go to the Father, and ye shall see me no more,” but just this, As I am while with you now? For at that time He was still mortal in the likeness of sinful flesh.16 He could suffer hunger and thirst, be wearied, and sleep; and this Christ,that is, Christ in such a condition, they were , no more to see after He had passed from this e world to the Father; and such, also, is therighteousness of faith, whereof the apostle t says, “Though we have known Christ after f the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him f no more.”17 This, then, He says, will be your . righteousness whereof the world shall be reproved, “because I go to the Father, and ye shall see me no more:” seeing that ye shall believe in me as in one whom ye shall not see; and when ye shall see me as I shall be then, we shall not see me as I am while with you meanwhile; ye shall not see me in my humility, but in my exaltation; nor in my mortality, but in my eternity; nor at the bar, but on the throne of judgment: and by this faith of yours, in other words, your righteousness, the Holy Spirit will reprove an unbelieving world.

4. He will also reprove it “of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.” Who is this, save he of whom He saith in another place, “Behold, the prince of the world cometh, and shall find nothing in me;”18 that is, nothing within his jurisdiction, nothing belonging to him; in fact, no sin at all? For thereby is the devil the prince of the world. For it is not of the heavens and of the earth, and of all that is in them, that the devil is prince, in the sense in which the world is to be understood, when it is said, “And the world was made by Him;” but the devil is prince of that world, whereof in the same passage He immediately afterwards subjoins the words, “And the world knew Him not;”19 that is, unbelieving men, wherewith the world through its utmost extent is filled: among whom the believing world groaneth, which He, who made the world, chose out of the world; and of whom He saith Himself, “The Son of man came not to judge the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”20 He is the judge by whom the world is condemned, the helper whereby the world is saved: for just as a tree is full of foliage and fruit, or a field of chaff and wheat, so is the world full of believers and unbelievers. Therefore the prince of this world, that is, the prince of the darkness thereof, or of unbelievers, out of whose hands that world is rescued, to which it is said, “Ye were at one time darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord:”21 the prince of this world, of whom He elsewhere saith, “Now is the prince of this world cast out,”22 is assuredly judged, inasmuch as he is irrevocably destined to the judgment of everlasting fire. And so of this judgment, by which the prince of the world is judged, is the world reproved by the Holy Spirit; for it is judged along with its prince, whom it imitates in its own pride and impiety. “For if God,” in the words of the Apostle Peter, “spared not the angels that sinned, but thrust them into prisons of infernal darkness, and gave them up to be reserved for punishment in the judgment,”23 how is the world otherwise than reproved of this judgment by the Holy Spirit, when it is in the Holy Spirit that the apostle so speaketh? Let men, therefore, believe in Christ, that they be not convicted of the sin of their own unbelief, whereby all sins are retained: let them make their way into the number of believers, that they be not convicted of the righteousness of those, whom, as justified, they fail to imitate: let them beware of that future judgment, that they be not judged with the prince of the world, whom, judged as he is, they continue to imitate. For the unbending pride of mortals can have no thought of being spared itself, as it is thus called to think with terror of the punishment that overtook the pride of angels.

1 Chap. 15,22, 19.
2 Chap. 17,25).
3 (
Mt 25,41,
4 (Ac 1,7-8).
5 (2Co 13,3).
6 (Rm 5,5,
7 (1Jn 4,18).
8 Tract. XX.
9 (Qo 7,20 Qo 7,16).
10 (Ep 5,13).
11 Chap. 20,29).
12 (Rm 1,17 Ha 2,4 and He 11,1
13 Sperantium substantia.
14 (1Co 15,8,
15 (Ac 7,56,
16 (Rm 8,3,
17 (2Co 5,16,
18 Chap. 14,30.
19 Chap. 1,10.
20 Chap. 3,17.
21 (Ep 5,8,
22 Chap. 12,31).
23 (2P 2,4,

Augustin on John 91