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Home > Fathers of the Church > Tractates on the Gospel of John (Augustine) > Tractate 71

Tractate 71 (John 14:10-14)

1. Give close attention, and try to understand, beloved; for while it is we who speak it is He Himself who never withdraws His presence from us who is our Teacher. The Lord says, what you have just heard read, The words that I speak unto you, I speak not of myself: but the Father, that dwells in me, He does the works. Even His words, then, are works? Clearly so. For surely he that edifies a neighbor by what he says, works a good work. But what mean the words, I speak not of myself, but, I who speak am not of myself? Hence He attributes what He does to Him, of whom He, that does them, is. For the Father is not God [as born, etc.] of any one else, while the Son is God, as equal, indeed, to the Father, but [as born] of God the Father. Therefore the former is God, but not of God; and the Light, but not of light: whereas the latter is God of God, Light of Light.

2. For in connection with these two clauses,— the one where it is said, I speak not of myself; and the other, which runs, but the Father that dwells in me, He does the works,— we are opposed by two different classes of heretics, who, by each of them holding only to one clause, run off, not in one, but opposite directions, and wander far from the pathway of truth. For instance, the Arians say, See here, the Son is not equal to the Father, He speaks not of Himself. The Sabellians, or Patripassians, on the other hand, say, See, He who is the Father is also the Son; for what else is this, The Father that dwells in me, He does the works, but I that do them dwell in myself? You make contrary assertions, and that not only in the sense that any one thing is false, that is, contrary to truth, but in this also, when two things that are both false contradict one another. In your wanderings you have taken opposite directions; midway between the two is the path you have left. You are a far longer distance apart from each other than from the very way you have both forsaken. Come hither, you from the one side, and you from the other: pass not across, the one to the other, but come from both sides to us, and make this the place of your mutual meeting. You Sabellians, acknowledge the Being you overlook; Arians, set Him whom you subordinate in His place of equality, and you will both be walking with us in the pathway of truth. For you have grounds on both sides that make mutual admonition a duty. Listen, Sabellian: so far is the Son from being the same as the Father, and so truly is He another, that the Arian maintains His inferiority to the Father. Listen, Arian: so truly is the Son equal to the Father, that the Sabellian declares Him to be identical with the Father. Do thou restore the personality you have abstracted, and thou, the full dignity you have lowered, and both of you stand together on the same ground as ourselves: because the one of you [who has been an Arian], for the conviction of the Sabellian, never lets out of sight the personality of Him who is distinct from the Father, and the other [who has been a Sabellian] takes care, for the conviction of the Arian, of not impairing the dignity of Him who is equal with the Father. For to both of you He cries, I and my Father are one. When He says one, let the Arians listen; when He says, we are, let the Sabellians give heed, and no longer continue in the folly of denying, the one, His equality [with the Father], the other, His distinct personality. If, then, in saying, The words that I speak unto you, I speak not of myself, He is thereby accounted of a power so inferior, that what He does is not what He Himself wills; listen to what He also said, As the Father raises up the dead and quickens them, even so the Son quickens whom He will. And so likewise, if in saying, The Father that dwells in me, He does the works, He is on that account not to be regarded as distinct in person from the Father, let us listen to His other words, What things soever the Father does, these also does the Son likewise; and He will be understood as speaking not of one person twice over, but of two who are one. But just because their mutual equality is such as not to interfere with their distinct personality, therefore He speaks not of Himself, because He is not of Himself; and the Father also, that dwells in Him, Himself does the works, because He, by whom and with whom He does them, is not, save of [the Father] Himself. And then He goes on to say, Believe ye not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? Or else believe me for the very works' sake. Formerly it was Philip only who was reproved, but now, it is shown that he was not the only one there that needed reproof. For the very works' sake, He says, believe ye that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: for had we been separated, we should have been unable to do any kind of work inseparably.

3. But what is this that follows? Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believes in me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever you shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you shall ask anything in my name, I will do it. And so He promised that He Himself would also do those greater works. Let not the servant exalt himself above his Lord, or the disciple above his Master. He says that they will do greater works than He does Himself; but it is all by His doing such in or by them, and not as if they did them of themselves. Hence the song that is addressed to Him, I will love You, O Lord, my strength. But what, then, are those greater works? Was it that their very shadow, as they themselves passed by, healed the sick? Acts 5:15 For it is a mightier thing for a shadow, than for the hem of a garment, to possess the power of healing. Matthew 14:36 The one work was done by Christ Himself, the other by them; and yet it was He that did both. Nevertheless, when He so spoke, He was commending the efficacious power of His own words: for it was in this sense He had said, The words that I speak unto you, I speak not of myself; but the Father that dwells in me, He does the works. What works was He then referring to, but the words He was speaking? They were hearing and believing, and their faith was the fruit of those very words: howbeit, when the disciples preached the gospel, it was not small numbers like themselves, but nations also that believed; and such, doubtless, are greater works. And yet He said not, Greater works than these shall you do, to lead us to suppose that it was only the apostles who would do so; for He added, He that believes in me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do. Is the case then so, that he that believes in Christ does the same works as Christ, or even greater than He did? Points like these are not to be treated in a cursory way, nor ought they to be hurriedly disposed of; and, therefore, as our present discourse must be brought to a close, we are obliged to defer their further consideration.

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Source. Translated by John Gibb. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 7. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1888.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1701071.htm>.

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