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St Augustine on the Gospel 
(Tractates 92 and 93  in Vol VII, NPNF (1st))


Tractate XCII. 
John XV. 26, 27. 

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 Acts 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. 

Tractate XCIII. 
John XVI. 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.