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Home > Fathers of the Church > Tractates on the Gospel of John (Augustine) > Tractate 77

Tractate 77 (John 14:25-27)

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1. In the preceding lesson of the holy Gospel, which is followed by the one that has just been read, the Lord Jesus had said that He and the Father would come to those who loved Them, and make Their abode with them. But He had also already said above of the Holy Spirit, But you shall know Him; for He shall dwell with you, and shall be in you John 14:17: by which we understood that the divine Trinity dwells together in the saints as in His own temple. But now He says, These things have I spoken unto you while [still] dwelling with you. That dwelling, therefore, which He promised in the future, is of one kind; and this, which He declares to be present, is of another. The one is spiritual, and is realized inwardly by the mind; the other is corporal, and is exhibited outwardly to the eye and the ear. The one brings eternal blessedness to those who have been delivered, the other pays its visits in time to those who await deliverance. As regards the one, the Lord never withdraws from those who love Him; as regards the other, He comes and goes. These things, He says, have I spoken unto you, while [still] dwelling with you; that is, in His bodily presence, wherein He was visibly conversing with them.

2. But the Comfort, He adds, [which is] the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said to you. Is it, then, that the Son speaks, and the Holy Spirit teaches, so that we merely get hold of the words that are uttered by the Son, and then understand them by the teaching of the Spirit as if the Son could speak without the Holy Spirit, or the Holy Spirit teach without the Son: or is it not rather that the Son also teaches and the Spirit speaks, and, when it is God that speaks and teaches anything, that the Trinity itself is speaking and teaching? And just because it is a Trinity, its persons required to be introduced individually, so that we might hear it in its distinct personality, and understand its inseparable nature. Listen to the Father speaking in the passage where you read, The Lord said to me, You are my Son: listen to Him also teaching, in that where you read, Every man that has heard, and has learned of the Father, comes unto me. The Son, on the other hand, you have just heard speaking; for He says of Himself, Whatsoever I have said to you: and if you would also know Him as a Teacher, bethink yourself of the Master, when He says, One is your Master, even Christ. Matthew 23:10 Furthermore, of the Holy Spirit, whom you have just been told of as a Teacher in the words, He shall teach you all things, listen to Him also speaking, where you read in the Acts of the Apostles, that the Holy Spirit said to the blessed Peter, Go with them, for I have sent them. The whole Trinity, therefore, both speaks and teaches: but were it not also brought before us in its individual personality, it would certainly altogether surpass the power of human weakness to comprehend it. For as it is altogether inseparable in itself, it could never be known as the Trinity, were it always spoken of inseparably; for when we speak of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, we certainly do not pronounce them simultaneously, and yet in themselves they cannot be else than simultaneous. But when He added, He will bring to your remembrance, we ought also to understand that we are commanded not to forget that these pre-eminently salutary admonitions are part of that grace which the Holy Spirit brings to our remembrance.

3. Peace, He said, I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. It is here we read in the prophet, Peace upon peace: peace He leaves with us when going away, His own peace He will give us when He comes in the end. Peace He leaves with us in this world, His own peace He will give us in the world to come. His own peace He leaves with us, and abiding therein we conquer the enemy. His own peace He will give us when, with no more enemies to fight, we shall reign as kings. Peace He leaves with us, that here also we may love one another: His own peace will He give us, where we shall be beyond the possibility of dissension. Peace He leaves with us, that we may not judge one another of what is secret to each, while here on earth: His own peace will He give us, when He will make manifest the counsels of the heart; and then shall every man have praise of God. 1 Corinthians 4:5 And yet in Him and from Him it is that we have peace, whether that which He leaves with us when going to the Father, or that which He will give us when we ourselves are brought by Him to the Father. And what is it He leaves with us, when ascending from us, save His own presence, which He never withdraws? For He Himself is our peace who has made both one. Ephesians 2:14 It is He, therefore, that becomes our peace, both when we believe that He is, and when we see Him as He is. 1 John 3:2 For if, so long as we are in this corruptible body that burdens the soul, and are walking by faith, not by sight, He forsakes not those who are sojourning at a distance from Himself; 2 Corinthians 5:6-7 how much more, when we have attained to that sight, shall He fill us with Himself?

4. But why is it that, when He said, Peace I leave with you, He did not add, my; but when He said, I give unto you, He there made use of it? Is my to be understood even where it is not expressed, on the ground that what is expressed once may have a reference to both? Or may it not be that here also we have some underlying truth that has to be asked and sought for, and opened up to those who knock thereat? For what, if by His own peace He meant such to be understood as that which He possesses Himself? Whereas the peace, which He leaves us in this world, may more properly be termed our peace than His. For He, who is altogether without sin, has no elements of discord in Himself; while the peace we possess, meanwhile, is such that in the midst of it we have still to be saying, Forgive us our debts. Matthew 6:12 A certain kind of peace, accordingly, we do possess, inasmuch as we delight in the law of God after the inward man: but it is not a full peace, for we see another law in our members warring against the law of our mind. Romans 7:22-23 In the same way we have peace in our relations with one another, just because, in mutually loving, we have a mutual confidence in one another: but no more is such a peace as that complete, for we see not the thoughts of one another's hearts; and we have severally better or worse opinions in certain respects of one another than is warranted by the reality. And so that peace, although left us by Him, is our peace: for were it not from Him, we should not be possessing it, such as it is; but such is not the peace He has Himself. And if we keep what we received to the end, then such as He has shall we have, when we shall have no elements of discord of our own, and we shall have no secrets hid from one another in our hearts. But I am not ignorant that these words of the Lord may be taken so as to seem only a repetition of the same idea, Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: so that after saying peace, He only repeated it in saying my peace; and what He had meant in saying I leave with you, He simply repeated in saying I give unto you. Let each one understand it as he pleases; but it is my delight, as I believe it is yours also, my beloved brethren, to keep such hold of that peace here, where our hearts are making common cause against the adversary, that we may be ever longing for the peace which there will be no adversary to disturb.

5. But when the Lord proceeded to say, Not as the world gives, give I unto you, what else does He mean but, Not as those give who love the world, give I unto you? For their aim in giving themselves peace is that, exempt from the annoyance of lawsuits and wars, they may find enjoyment, not in God, but in the friendship of the world; and although they give the righteous peace, in ceasing to persecute them, there can be no true peace where there is no real harmony, because their hearts are at variance. For as one is called a consort who unites his lot (sortem) with another, so may he be termed concordant whose heart has entered into a similar union. Let us, therefore, beloved, with whom Christ leaves peace, and to whom He gives His own peace, not after the world's way, but in a way worthy of Him by whom the world was made, that we should be of one heart with Himself, having our hearts run into one, that this one heart, set on that which is above, may escape the corruption of the earth.

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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. <>.

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