St Augustine’s Tractates on the John 14:15-21

Tractate 74 on John 14:15-17~

Joh 14:15  If you love me, keep my commandments.
Joh 14:16  And I will ask the Father: and he shall give you another Paraclete, that he may abide with you for ever:
Joh 14:17  The spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, nor knoweth him. But you shall know him; because he shall abide with you and shall be in you.

We have heard, brethren, while the Gospel was read, the Lord saying: “If ye love me, keep my commandments: and I will ask the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter [Paraclete], that He may abide with you for ever; [even] the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: but ye shall know Him; for He shall dwell with you, and shall be in you.” There are many points which might form the subject of inquiry in these few words of the Lord; but it were too much for us either to search into all that is here for the searching, or to find out all that we here search for. Nevertheless, as far as the Lord is pleased to grant us the power, and in proportion to our capacity and yours, attend to what we ought to say and you to hear, and receive, beloved, what we on our part are able to give, and apply to Him for that wherein we fail. It is the Spirit, the Comforter, that Christ has promised to His apostles; but let us notice the way inwhich He gave the promise. “If ye love me,” He says, “keep my commandments: and I will ask the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever: [even] the Spirit of truth.” We have here, at all events, the Holy Spirit in the Trinity, whom the catholic faith acknowledges to be consubstantial and co-eternal with Father and Son: He it is of whom the apostle says, “The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who is given unto us” (Rom 5:5).  How, then, doth the Lord say, “If ye love me, keep my commandments: and I will ask the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter;” when He saith so of the Holy Spirit, without [having] whom we can neither love God nor keep His commandments? How can we love so as to receive Him, without whom we cannot love at all? or how shall we keep the commandments so as to receive Him, without whom we have no power to keep them? Or can it be that the love wherewith we love Christ has a prior place within us, so that, by thus loving Christ and keeping His commandments, we become worthy of receiving the Holy Spirit, in order that the love, not of Christ, which had already preceded, but of God the Father, may be shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who is given unto us? Such a thought is altogether wrong. For he who believes that he loveth the Son, and loveth not the Father, certainly loveth not the Son, but some figment of his own imagination. And besides, this is the apostolic declaration, “No one saith, Lord Jesus, but in the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:3): and who is it that calleth Him Lord Jesus but he that loveth Him, if he so call Him in the way the apostle intended to be understood? For many call Him so with their lips, but deny Him in their hearts and works; just as He saith of such, “For they profess that they know God, but works they deny Him” (titus 1:16).  If it is by works He is denied, it is doubtless also by works that His name is truly invoked. “No one,” therefore, “saith, Lord Jesus,” in mind, in word, in deed, with the heart, the lips, the labor of the bands,-no one saith, Lord Jesus, but in the Holy Spirit; and no one calls Him so but he that loveth, And accordingly the apostles were already calling Him Lord Jesus: and if they called Him so, in no way that implied a feigned utterance, with the mouth confessing, in heart and works denying Him; if they called Him so in all. truthfulness of soul, there can be no doubt they loved. And how, then, did they love, but in the Holy Spirit? And yet they are i commanded to love Him and keep His commandments, previous and in order to their receiving the Holy Spirit: and yet, without having that Spirit, they certainly could not love Him and keep His commandments.

We are therefore to understand that he who loves has already the Holy Spirit, and by what he has becomes worthy of a fuller possession, that by having the more he may love the more. Already, therefore, had the disciples that Holy Spirit whom the Lord promised, for without Him they could not call Him Lord; but they had Him not as yet in the way promised by the Lord. Accordingly they both had, and had Him not, inasmuch as they had Him not as yet to the same extent as He was afterwards to be possessed. They had Him, therefore, in a more limited sense: He was yet to be given them in an ampler measure. They had Him in a hidden way, they were yet to receive Him in a way that was manifest; for this present possession had also a bearing on that fuller gift of the Holy Spirit, that they might come to a conscious knowledge of what they had. It is in speaking of this gift that the apostle says: “Now we have received, not the spirit of this world, but the spirit which is of God, that we may know the things that are freely given to us of God” (1 Cor 2:12).   For that same manifest bestowal of the Holy Spirit the Lord made, not once, but on two separate occasions. For close on the back of His resurrection from the dead He breathed on them and said, “Receive ye the Holy Spirit” (Jn 20:22).   And because He then gave [the Spirit], did He on that account fail in afterwards sending Him according to His promise? Or was it not the very same Spirit who was both then breathed upon them by Himself, and afterwards sent by Him from heaven? (see Acts 2:4).   And so, why that same giving on His part which took place publicly, also took place twice, is another question: for it may be that this twofold bestowal of His in a public way took place because of the two Commandments of love, that is, to our neighbor and to God, in order that love might be impressively intimated as pertaining to the Holy Spirit, And if any other reason is to be sought for, we cannot at present allow our discourse to be improperly prolonged by such an inquiry: provided, however, it be admitted that, without the Holy Spirit, we can neither love Christ nor keep His commandments; while the less experience we have of His presence, the less also can we do so; and the fuller our experience, so much the greater our ability. Accordingly, the promise is no vain one, either to him who has not [the Holy Spirit], or to him who has. For it is made to him who has not, in order that he may have; and to him who has, that he may have moreabundantly. For were it not that He was possessed by some in smaller measure than byothers, St. Elisha would not have said to St. Elijah, “Let the spirit that is in thee be in a twofold measure in me” (2 Kings 2:9).

3. But when Jn the Baptist said, “For God giveth not the Spirit by measure” (Jn 3:34),  he was speaking exclusively of the Son of God, who received not the Spirit by measure; for in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead (Col 2:9).   And no more is it independently of the grace of the Holy Spirit that the Mediator between God and men is the man Christ Jesus (1 Tim 2:5): for with His own lips He tells us that the prophetical utterance had been fulfilled in Himself: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; because He hath anointed me, and hath sent me to preach the gospel to the poor” (Lk 4:18-21).   For His being the Only-begotten, the equal of the Father, is not of grace, but of nature; but the assumption of human nature into the personal unity of the Only-begotten is not of nature, but of grace, as the Gospel acknowledges itself when it says, “And the child grew, and waxed strong, being filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was in Him” (Lk 2:40).  But to others He is given by measure,-a measure ever enlarging until each has received his full complement up to the limits of his own perfection. As we are also reminded by the apostle, “Not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think, but to think soberly; according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith” (Rom 12:3).   Nor is it the Spirit Himself that is divided, but the gifts bestowed by the Spirit: for there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit (1 Cor 12:4).

But when He says, “I will ask the Father, and He shall give you another Paraclete,” He intimates that He Himself is also a paraclete. For paraclete is in Latin called advocatus (advocate); and it is said of Christ, “We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 Jn 2:1).  But He said that the world could not receive the Holy Spirit, in much the same sense as it is also said, “The minding of the flesh is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God; neither indeed can be” (Rom 8:7);  just as if we were to say, Unrighteousness cannot be righteous. For in speaking in this passage of the world, He refers to those who love the world; and such a love is not of the Father (1 Jn 2:16).  And thus the love of this world, which gives us enough to do to weaken and destroy its power within us, is in direct opposition to the love of God, which is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given unto us. “The world,” therefore, “cannot receive Him, cause it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him.” For worldly love possesseth not those invisible eyes, whereby, save in an invisible way, the Holy Spirit cannot be seen.

But ye,” He adds, “shall know Him; for He shall dwell with you, and be in you.” He will be in them, that He may dwell with them; He will not dwell with them to the end that He may be in them: for the being anywhere is prior to the dwelling there. But to prevent us from imagining that His words, “He shall dwell with you,” were spoken in the same sense as that in which a guest usually dwells with a man in a visible way, He explained what “He shall dwell with you” meant, when He added the words, “He shall be in you.” He is seen, therefore, in an invisible way: nor can we have any knowledge of Him unless He be in us. For it is in a similar way that we come to see our conscience within us: for we see the face of another, but we cannot see our own; but it is our own conscience we see, not another’s. And yet conscience is never anywhere but within us: but the Holy Spirit can be also apart from us, since He is given that He may also be in us. But we cannot see and know Him in the only way in which He may be seen and known, unless He be in us.

Tractate 75 on John 14:18-21~

After the promise of the Holy Spirit, lest any should suppose that the Lord was to give Him, as it were, in place of Himself, in any such way as that He Himself would not likewise be with them, He added the words: “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” Orphani [Greek] are pupilli [parent-less children] in Latin. The one is the Greek, the other the Latin name of the same thing: for in the psalm where we read, “Thou art the helper of the fatherless” [in the Latin version, pupillo], the Greek has orphano (Ps 10:14). Accordingly, although it was not the Son of God that adopted sons to His Father, or willed that we should have by grace that same Father, who is His Father by nature, yet in a sense it is paternal feelings toward us that He Himself displays, when He declares, “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” In the same way He calls us alsohe children of the bridegroom, when He says, “The time will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall the children of the bridegroom fast” (Matt 9:15).   And who is the bridegroom, but Christ the Lord?

2. He then goes on to say, “Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more.” How so the world saw Him then; for under the name of the world are to be understood those of whom He spake above, when saying of the Holy Spirit, “Whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neitherknoweth Him.” He was plainly visible to the carnal eyes of the world, while manifest in the flesh; but it saw not the Word that lay hid in the flesh: it saw the man, but it saw not God: it saw the covering, but not the Being within. But as, after the resurrection, even His very flesh, which He exhibited both to the sight and to the handling of His own, He refused to exhibit to others, we may in this way perhaps understand the meaning of the words, “Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye shall see me: because I live, ye shall live also.”

What is meant by the words, “Because I live, ye shall live also”? Why did He speak in the present tense of His own living, and in the future of theirs, but just by way of promise that the life also of the resurrection-body, as it preceded in His own case, would certainly follow in theirs? And as His own resurrection was in the immediate future, He put the word in the present tense to signify its speedy approach: but of theirs, as delayed till the end of the world, He said not, ye live; but, “ye shall live.” With elegance and brevity, therefore, by means of two words, one of them in the present tense and the other in the future, He gave the promise of two resurrections, to wit, His own in the immediate future, and ours as yet to come in the end of the world. “Because I live,” He says, “ye shall live also:” because He liveth, therefore shall we live also. For as by man is death, by man also is the resurrection of the dead, For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive (1 Cor 15:21-22).   As it is only through the former that every one is liable to death, it is only through Christ that any one can attain unto life. Because we did not live, we are dead; because He lived, we shall live also. We were dead to Him, when we lived to ourselves; but, because He died in our behalf, He liveth both for Himself and for us. For, because He liveth, we shall live also. For while we were able of ourselves to attain unto death, it is not of ourselves also that life can come into our possession.

“In that day,” He says, “ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.” In what day, but in that whereof He said, “Ye shall live also”? For then will it be that we can see what we believe. For even now is He in us, and we in Him: this we believe now, but then shall we also know it; although what we know even now by faith, we shall know then by actual vision. For as long as we are in the body, as it now is, to wit, corruptible, and encumbering to the soul, we live at a distance from the Lord; for we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor 5:7).   Then accordingly it will be by sight, for we shall see Him as He is (1 Jn 3:2).  For if Christ were not even now in us, the apostle would not say, “And if Christ be in you, the body is dead indeed because of sin; but the spirit is life because of righteousness” (Rom 8:10).  But that we are also in Him even then, He makes sufficiently clear, when He says, “I am the vine, ye are the branches” (Jn 15:5).  Accordingly in that day, when we shall be living the life, whereby death shall be swallowed up, we shall know that He is in the Father, and we in Him, and He in us; for then shall be completed that very state which is already in the present begun by Him, that He should be in us, and we in Him.

“He that hath my commmandments,” He adds, “and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me.” He that hath [them] in his memory, and keepeth them in his life; who hath them orally, and keepeth them morally; who hath them in the ear, and keepeth them in deed; or who hath them in deed, and keepeth them by perseverance;-“he it is,” He says, “that loveth me.” By works is love made manifest as no fruitless application of a name. “And he that loveth me,” He says, “shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” But what is this, “I will love”? Is it as if He were then only to love, and loveth not at present? Surely not. For how could the Father love us apart from the Son, or the Son apart from the Father? Working as They do inseparably, how can They love apart? But He said, “I will love him,” in reference to that which follows, “and I will manifest myself to him.” “I will love, and will manifest;” that is, I will love to the very extent of manifesting. For this has been the present aim of His love, that we may believe, and keep hold of the commandment of faith; but then His love will have this for its object, that we may see, and get that very sight as the reward of our faith: for we also love now, by believing in that which we shall see hereafter; but then shall we love in the sight of that which now we believe).

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One Response to St Augustine’s Tractates on the John 14:15-21

  1. Pingback: Commentaries for the Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year A | stjoeofoblog

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