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St Augustine on the Gospel 
(Tractate 94  in Vol VII, NPNF (1st))
Chapter 16:4-7 

When the Lord Jesus had foretold His disciples the persecutions they would have to suffer after His departure, He went on to say: "And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you; but now I go my way to Him that sent me." And here the first thing we have to look at is, whether He had not previously foretold them of the sufferings that were to come. And the three other evangelists make it sufficiently clear that He had uttered such predictions prior to the approach of the supper:(1) which was over, according to John, when He spake, and added, "And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you." Are we, then, to settle such a question in this way, that they, too, tell us that He was near His passion when He said these things? Then it was not when He was with them at the beginning that He so spake, for He was on the very eve of departing, and proceeding to the Father: and so also, even according to these evangelists, it is strictly true what is here said, "And these things I said not unto you at the beginning." But what are we to do with the credibility of the Gospel according to Matthew, who relates that such announcements were made to them by the Lord, not only when He was on the eve of sitting down with His disciples to the passover supper, but also at the beginning, when the twelve apostles are for the first time expressed by name, and sent forth on the work of God?(1) What, then, is the meaning of what He says here, "And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you;" but that what He says here of the Holy Spirit who was to come to them, and to bear witness, when they should have such ills to endure, this He said not unto them at the beginning, because He was with themselves? 

2. The Comforter then, or Advocate (for both form the interpretation of the Greek word, paraclète), had become necessary on Christ's departure: and therefore He had not spoken of Him at the beginning, when He was with them, because His own presence was their comfort; but on the eve of His own departure it behoved Him to speak of His coming, by whom it would be brought about that with love shed abroad in their hearts they would preach the word of God with all boldness; and with Him inwardly bearing witness with them of Christ, they also should bear witness, and feel it to be no cause of stumbling when their Jewish enemies put them out of the synagogues, and slew them, with the thought that they were doing God service; because the charity beareth all things,(2) which was to be shed abroad in their hearts by the gift of the Holy Spirit.(3) In this, therefore, is the whole meaning to be found, that He was to make them His martyrs, that is, His witnesses through the Holy Spirit; so that by His effectual working within them, they would endure the hardships of all kinds of persecution, and, set aglow at that divine fire, lose none of their warmth in the love of preaching. "These things," therefore, He says, i "have I told you, that, when their time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them" (ver. 4). These things, I say, I have told you, not merely because ye shall have to endure such things, but because, when the Comforter is come, He shall bear witness of me, that ye may not keep them back through fear, and by whom ye yourselves shall also be enabled to bear witness. "And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you," and I myself was your comfort through my bodily presence exhibited to your human senses, and which, as infants, ye were able to comprehend. 

3. "But now I go my way to Him that sent me; and none of you," He says, "asketh me, Whither goest Thou?" He means that His departure would be such that none would ask Him of that which they should see taking place in broad daylight before their eyes: for previously to this they had asked Him whither He was going, and had been answered that He was going whither they themselves could not then come.(4) Now, however, He promises that He will go away in such a manner that none of them shall ask Him whither He goes. For a cloud received Him when He ascended up from their side; and of His going into heaven they made no verbal inquiry, but had ocular evidence.(5) 

4. "But because I have said these things unto you," He adds, "sorrow hath filled 'your heart." He saw, indeed, what effect these words of His were producing in their hearts; for having not yet within them the spiritual consolation, which they were afterwards to have by the Holy Spirit, what they still saw objectively in Christ they were afraid of losing; and because they could have no doubt they were about to lose Him whose announcements were always true, their human feelings were saddened, because their carnal view of Him was to be left a blank. But He knew what was most expedient for them, because that inward sight, wherewith the Holy Spirit was yet to comfort them, was undoubtedly superior; not by bringing a human body into the bodies of those who saw, but by infusing Himself into the hearts of those who believed. And then He adds, "Nevertheless I tell you the truth, it is expedient for you that I go away. For if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you:" as if He had said, It is expedient for you that this form of a servant be taken away from you; as the Word made indeed flesh I dwell among you; but I would not that ye should continue to love me carnally, and, content with such milk, desire to remain infants always. "It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you." If I withdraw not the tender nutriment wherewith I have nourished you, ye will acquire no keen relish of solid food; if ye adhere in a carnal way to the flesh, ye will not have room for the Spirit. For what is this, "If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you"? Was it that He could not send Him while located here Himself? Who would venture to say so? Neither was it, that where He was, thence the Other had withdrawn, or that He had so come from the Father as that He did not still abide with the Father. And still further, how could He, even when having His own abode on earth, be unable to send Him, who we know came and remained upon Him at His baptism;(1) yea, more, from whom we know that He was never separable? What does it mean, then, "If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you;" but that ye cannot receive the Spirit so long as ye continue to know Christ after the flesh? Hence one who had already been made a partaker of the Spirit says, "Though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we [Him] no more."(2) For now even the very flesh of Christ he did not know in a carnal way, when brought to a spiritual knowledge of the Word that had been made flesh. And such, doubtless, did the good Master wish to intimate, when He said, "If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you." 

5. But with Christ's bodily departure, both the Father and the Son, as well as the Holy Spirit, were spiritually present with them. For had Christ departed from them in such a sense that it would be in His place, and not along with Him, that the Holy Spirit would be present in them, what becomes of His promise when He said, "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world;"(3) and, I and the Father "will come unto him, and will make Our abode with him;"(4) seeing that He also promised that He would send the Holy Spirit in such a way that He would be with them for ever? In this way it was, on the other hand, that seeing they were yet out of their present carnal or animal condition to become spiritual, with undoubted certainty also were they yet to have in a more comprehensive way both the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. But in no one are we to believe that the Father is present without the Son and the Holy Spirit, or the Father and the Son without the Holy Spirit, or the Son without the Father and the Holy Spirit, or the Holy Spirit without the Father and the Son, or the Father and the Holy Spirit without the Son; but wherever any one of Them is, there also is the Trinity, one God. But here the Trinity had to be suggested in such a way that, although there was no diversity of essence, yet the personal distinction of each one separately should be presented to notice; where those who have a right understanding can never imagine a separation of natures. 

6. But that which follows, "And when He is come, He will convince the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, indeed, because they believe not on me; but of righteousness, because I go to the Father, and ye shall see me no more; and of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged" (vers. 8-11); as if it were sin simply not to believe on Christ; and as if it were very righteousness not to see Christ; and as if that were the very judgment, that the prince of this world, that is, the devil, is judged: all this is very obscure, and cannot be included in the present discourse, lest; brevity only increase the obscurity; but must rather be deferred till another occasion for such explanation as the Lord may enable us to give. properly to the Jews, and not to the world, did He not say in another place, "If ye were of the world, the world would love his own"? Did He not reprove it of righteousness, when He said, "O righteous Father, the world hath not known Thee"?(2) And did He not reprove it of judgment when He declared that He would say to those on the left hand, "Depart ye into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels"?(3) And many other passages are to be found in the holy evangel, where Christ reproveth the world of these things. Why is it, then, He attributeth this to the Holy Spirit, as if it were His proper prerogative? Is it that, because Christ spake only among the nation of the Jews, He does not appear to have reproved the world, inasmuch as one may be understood to be reproved who actually hears the reprover; while the Holy Spirit, who was in His disciples when scattered throughout the whole world, is to be understood as having reproved not one nation, but the world? For mark what He said to them when about to ascend into heaven: "It is not for you to know the times or the moments, which the Father hath put in His own power. But ye shall receive the power of the Holy Spirit, that cometh upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth."(4) Surely this is to reprove the world. But would any one venture to say that the Holy Spirit reproveth the world through the disciples of Christ, and that Christ Himself doth not, when the apostle exclaims, "Would ye receive a proof of Him that speaketh in me, namely Christ?"(5) And so those, surely, whom the Holy Spirit reproveth, Christ. reproveth likewise. But in my opinion, because there was to be shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Spirit that love(6) which casteth out the fear,(7) that might have hindered them from venturing to reprove the world which bristled with persecutions, therefore it was that He said, "He shall reprove the world:" as if He would have said, He shall shed abroad love in your hearts, and, having your fear thereby expelled, ye shall have freedom to reprove. We have frequently said, however, that the operations of the Trinity are inseparable;(8) but the Persons needed to be set forth one by one, that not only without separating Them, but also without confounding Them together, we may have a right understanding both of Their Unity and Trinity. 

2. He next explains what He has said" of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment." "Of sin indeed," He says, "because they have believed not on me." For this sin, as if it were the only one, He has put before the others; because with the continuance of this one, all others are retained, and in the removal of this, the others are remitted. "But of righteousness," He adds, "because I go to the Father, and ye shall see me no more." And here we have to consider in the first place, if any one is rightly reproved of sin, how he may also be rightly reproved of righteousness. For if a sinner ought to be reproved just because he is a sinner, will any one imagine that a righteous man is also to be reproved because he is righteous? Surely not. For if at any time a righteous man also is reproved, he is rightly reproved on this account, that, according to Scripture, "There is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not." And accordingly, when a righteous man is reproved, he is reproved of sin, and not of righteousness. Since in that divine utterance also, where we read, "Be not made righteous over-much,"(9) there is notice taken, not of the righteousness of the wise man, but of the pride of the presumptuous. The man, therefore, that becomes "righteous over-much," by that very excess becomes unrighteous. For he makes himself righteous over-much who says that he has no sin, or who imagines that he is made righteous, not by the grace of God, but by the sufficiency of his own will: nor is he righteous through living righteously, but is rather self-inflated with the imagination of being what he is not. By what means, then, is the world to be reproved of righteousness, if not by the righteousness of believers? Accordingly, it is convinced of sin, because it believeth not on Christ; and it is convinced of the righteousness of those who do believe. For the very comparison with believers is itself a reproving of unbelievers. And this the exposition itself sufficiently indicates. For in wishing to open up what He has said, He adds, "Of righteousness, because I go to the Father, and ye shall see me no more." He does not say, And they shall see me no more; that is, those of whom He had said, "because they have believed not on me." Of them He spake, when expounding what He denominated sin, in the words, "because they have believed not on me;" but when expounding what He called righteousness, whereof the world is convicted, He turned to those to whom He was speaking, and said, "because I go to the Father, and ye shall see me no more." Wherefore it is of its own sins, but of others' righteousness, that the world is convicted, just as darkness is reproved by the light: "For al things," says the apostle, "that are reproved, are made manifest by the light."(1) For the magnitude of the evil chargeable on those who do not believe, may be made apparent not only by itself, but also by the goodness of those who do believe. And since the cry of unbelievers usually is, How can we believe what we do not see? so the righteousness of unbelievers just required this very definition, "Because I go to the Father, and ye shall see me no more." For blessed are they who see not, and yet do believe.(2) For of those also who saw Christ, the faith in Him that met with commendation was not that they believed what they saw, namely, the Son of man; but that they believed what they did not see, namely, the Son of God. But after His servant-form was itself also withdrawn from their view, then in every respect was the word truly fulfilled, "The just liveth by faith."(3) For "faith," according to the definition in the Epistle to the Hebrews, "is the confidence of those that hope,(4) the conviction of things that are not seen." 

3. But how are we to understand, "Ye shall see me no more"? For He saith not, I go to the Father, and ye shall not see me, so as to be understood as referring to the interval of time when He would not be seen, whether short or long, but at all events terminable; but in saying, "Ye shall see me no more," as if a truth announced beforehand that they would never see Christ in all time coming. Is this the righteousness we speak of, never to see Christ, and yet to believe on Him; seeing that the faith whereby the just liveth is commended on the very ground of believing that the Christ whom it seeth not meanwhile, it shall see some day? Once more, in reference to this righteousness, are we to say that the Apostle Paul was not righteous when confessing that He had seen Christ after His ascension into heaven,(5) which was undoubtedly the time of which He had already said, "Ye shall see me no more"? Was Stephen, that hero of surpassing renown, not righteous in the spirit of this righteousness, who, when they were stoning him, exclaimed, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God"?(6) What, then, is meant by "I go to the Father, and ye shall see me no more," but just this, As I am while with you now? For at that time He was still mortal in the likeness of sinful flesh.(7) He could suffer hunger and thirst, be wearied, and sleep; and this Christ, that is, Christ in such a condition, they were , no more to see after He had passed from this e world to the Father; and such, also, is the righteousness of faith, whereof the apostle t says, "Though we have known Christ after f the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him f no more."(8) This, then, He says, will be your . righteousness whereof the world shall be reproved, "because I go to the Father, and ye shall see me no more:" seeing that ye shall believe in me as in one whom ye shall not see; and when ye shall see me as I shall be then, we shall not see me as I am while with you meanwhile; ye shall not see me in my humility, but in my exaltation; nor in my mortality, but in my eternity; nor at the bar, but on the throne of judgment: and by this faith of yours, in other words, your righteousness, the Holy Spirit will reprove an unbelieving world. 

4. He will also reprove it "of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged." Who is this, save he of whom He saith in another place, "Behold, the prince of the world cometh, and shall find nothing in me;"(9) that is, nothing within his jurisdiction, nothing belonging to him; in fact, no sin at all? For thereby is the devil the prince of the world. For it is not of the heavens and of the earth, and of all that is in them, that the devil is prince, in the sense in which the world is to be understood, when it is said, "And the world was made by Him;" but the devil is prince of that world, whereof in the same passage He immediately afterwards subjoins the words, "And the world knew Him not;"(10) that is, unbelieving men, wherewith the world through its utmost extent is filled: among whom the believing world groaneth, which He, who made the world, chose out of the world; and of whom He saith Himself, "The Son of man came not to judge the world, but that the world through Him might be saved."(11) He is the judge by whom the world is condemned, the helper whereby the world is saved: for just as a tree is full of foliage and fruit, or a field of chaff and wheat, so is the world full of believers and unbelievers. Therefore the prince of this world, that is, the prince of the darkness thereof, or of unbelievers, out of whose hands that world is rescued, to which it is said, "Ye were at one time darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord:"(12) the prince of this world, of whom He elsewhere saith, "Now is the prince of this world cast out,"(13) is assuredly judged, inasmuch as he is irrevocably destined to the judgment of everlasting fire. And so of this judgment, by which the prince of the world is judged, is the world reproved by the Holy Spirit; for it is judged along with its prince, whom it imitates in its own pride and impiety. "For if God," in the words of the Apostle Peter, "spared not the angels that sinned, but thrust them into prisons of infernal darkness, and gave them up to be reserved for punishment in the judgment,"(1) how is the world otherwise than reproved of this judgment by the Holy Spirit, when it is in the Holy Spirit that the apostle so speaketh? Let men, therefore, believe in Christ, that they be not convicted of the sin of their own unbelief, whereby all sins are retained: let them make their way into the number of believers, that they be not convicted of the righteousness of those, whom, as justified, they fail to imitate: let them beware of that future judgment, that they be not judged with the prince of the world, whom, judged as he is, they continue to imitate. For the unbending pride of mortals can have no thought of being spared itself, as it is thus called to think with terror of the punishment that overtook the pride of angels.