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Home > Fathers of the Church > Tractates on the Gospel of John (Augustine) > Tractate 83

Tractate 83 (John 15:2-12)

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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 you not, you shall have no part with me. His joy, therefore, in us is the grace He has 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. Ephesians 1:4 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 you were called, when you were foreknown as those whom I was afterwards to call; but it finds its place in you also, when you are transformed into that which I have foreknown regarding you. And that yours may be full: for you shall be blessed, what you are not as yet; just as you are now created, who had no existence before.

2. This, He says, is my injunction, that you love one another, as I have loved you. Whether we call it injunction or commandment, both are the rendering of the same Greek word, entolé (ἐντολή). But He had already made this same announcement on a former occasion, when, as you ought to remember, I repounded it to you to the best of my ability. For this is what He says there, A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 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. 1 Corinthians 13:13 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. Romans 13:10 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, James 2:19 but does not love: no one loves who does 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 loves not God, how loves he his neighbour as himself, seeing that he loves not even himself? Such an one is both impious and iniquitous; and he that loves iniquity, manifestly loves not, but hates his own soul. 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 loves 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. 1 Corinthians 15:28

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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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