Early Church Fathers
John xvi. 4-6.-"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 none of you asketh Me, Whither goest Thou? But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart."
[1.] Great is the tyranny of despondency, and much courage do we need so as to stand manfully against the feeling, and after gathering from it what is useful, to let the superfluous go. It hath somewhat useful; for when we ourselves or others sin, then only is it good to grieve; but when we fall into human vicissitudes, then despondency is useless. And now when it has overthrown the disciples who were not yet perfect, see how Christ raiseth them again by His rebuke. They who before this had asked Him ten thousand questions, (for Peter said, "Whither goest Thou?" [c. xiii. 36]; and Thomas, "We know not whither Thou goest, and how can we know the way?" [c. xiv. 5 and 8]; and Philip, "Show us Thy Father";) these men, I say, now hearing, "they will put you out of the synagogues," and "will hate you," and "whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service," were so cast down as to be struck dumb, so that they spake nothing to Him. This then He maketh a reproach to them, and saith, "These things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you; but now I go unto Him that sent Me, and none of you asketh Me, Whither goest Thou? but because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart." For a dreadful thing is immoderate sorrow, dreadful and effective of death. Wherefore Paul said, "Lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up by overmuch sorrow." (2 Cor. ii. 7.)
"And these things," saith He, "I told you not at the beginning." Why did He not tell them at the beginning? That none might say that He spake guessing from the ordinary course of events. And why did He enter on a matter of such unpleasantness? "I knew these things," He saith, "from the beginning, and spake not of them; not because I did not know them, but `because I was with you.'" And this again was spoken after a human manner, as though He had said, "Because ye were in safety, and it was in your power to question Me when ye would, and all the storm blew upon Me, and it was superfluous to tell you these things at the beginning." "But did He not tell them this? Did He not call the twelve, and say unto them, `Ye shall be brought before governors and kings for My sake,' and, `they shall scourge you in the synagogues'? (Matt. x. 18, Matt. x. 17). How then saith He, `I told you not at the beginning'?" Because He had proclaimed before the scourgings and bringing before princes, still not that their death should appear so desirable that the action should even be deemed a service to God. For this more than anything was suited to terrify them, that they were to be judged as impious and corrupters. This too may be said, that in that place He spake of what they should suffer from the Gentiles, but here He hath added in a stronger way the acts of the Jews also, and told them that it was at their doors.
"But now I go to Him that sent Me, and no man of you saith, Whither goest Thou? But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart." It was no slight comfort to them to learn that He knew the excess of their despondency. For they were beside themselves from the anguish caused by their being left by Him, and from their awaiting the terrible things which were to come, since they knew not whether they should be able to bear them manfully. "Why then after this did He not tell them that they bad been vouchsafed the Spirit?" That thou mightest learn that they were exceedingly virtuous. For if, when they had not yet been vouchsafed the Spirit, they started not back, though overwhelmed with sorrow, consider what soft of men they were likely to be after having enjoyed the grace.1 If they had heard this at that time, and so had endured, we should have attributed the whole to the Spirit, but now it is entirely the fruit of their own state of mind, it is a clear manifestation of their love for Christ, who applieth a touchstone to their mind as yet defenseless.
Ver. 7. "But I tell you the truth."2
Observe how He consoleth them again. "I speak not," He saith,"to please you, and although you be grieved ten thousand fold, yet must ye hear what is for your good; it is indeed to your liking that I should be with you, but what is expedient for you is different. And it is the part of one caring for others, not to be over gentle with his friends in matters which concern their interests, or to lead them away from what is good for them."
"For if I go not away, the Comforter will not come."3
What here say those who hold not the fitting opinion concerning the Spirit? Is it "expedient" that the master depart, and the servant come? Seest thou how great is the honor of the Spirit?
"But if I depart, I will send Him unto you." And what the gain?
Ver. 8. "He, when He is come, will reprove4 the world."5
That is, "they shall not do these things unpunished if He come. For indeed, the things that have been already done, are sufficient to stop their mouths; but when these things are also done by Him, when doctrines are more perfect and miracles greater, much more shall they be condemned when they see such things done in My Name, which make the proof of the Resurrection more certain. For now they are able to say, `this is the carpenter's son, whose father and mother we know'; but when they see the bands of death loosed, wickedness cast out, natural lameness straightened, devils expelled, abundant supply of the Spirit, and all this effected by My being called on, what will they say? The Father hath borne witness of Me, and the Spirit will bear witness also." Yet He bare witness at the beginning. Yea, and shallalso do it now. But the, "will convince,"
Ver. 9. "Of sin"6
This meaneth, "will cut off all their excuses, and show that they have transgressed unpardonably."
Ver. 10. "Of righteousness, because I go to the7 Father, and ye see Me no more."
That is, "I have exhibited a blameless8 life, and this is the proof, that, `I go to the Father.'" For since they continually urged this against Him, that He was not from God, and therefore called Him a sinner and transgressor, He saith, that the Spirit shall take from them this excuse also. "For if My being deemed not to be from God, showeth Me to be a transgressor, when the Spirit shall have shown that I am gone thither, not merely for a season, but to abide there, (for the, `Ye see Me no more,' is the expression of one declaring this,) what will they say then?" Observe how by these two things, their evil suspicion is removed; since neither doth working miracles belong to a sinner, (for a sinner cannot work them,) nor doth the being with God continually belong to a sinner. "So that ye can9 no longer say, that `this man is a sinner,' that `this man is not from God.'"
Ver. 11. "Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged."
Here again He mooteth the argument concerning righteousness, that He had overthrown His opponent. Now had He been a sinner, He could not have overthrown him; a thing which not even any just man had been strong enough to do. "But that he hath been condemned through Me, they shall know who trample on him hereafter, and who clearly know My Resurrection, which is the mark of Him who condemneth him. For he was not able to hold Me. And whereas they said that I had a devil, and that I was a deceiver, these things also shall hereafter appear to be false;10 for I could not have prevailed against him, had I been subject to sin; but now he is condemned and cast out."
[2.] Ver. 12. "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now."
"Therefore it is expedient for you that I depart, if ye then will bear them when I departed." "And what hath come to pass? the Spirit greater than Thou, that now indeed we bear not, but It will fit us to bear? Is It working more powerful and more perfect?" "Not so; for He too shall speak My words." Wherefore He saith,
Ver. 13-15.11 "He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak; and He will show you things to come. He shall glorify Me; for He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you. All things that the Father hath are Mine."12
For since He had told them, that "`He shall teach you, and bring to your remembrance' (c. xiv. 26), and shall comfort you in your afflictions," (which He Himself did not,) and that "it is expedient for you that I should depart" (ver. 7), and that He should come, and, "`now ye are not able to bear' (ver. 12), but then ye shall be able," and, that "He shall lead you into all truth" (ver. 13); lest hearing these things they should suppose the Spirit to be the greater, and so fall into an extreme opinion of impiety, therefore He saith, "He shall receive of Mine," that is, "whatsoever things I have told you, He shall also tell you." When He saith, "He shall speak nothing of Himself," He meaneth, "nothing contrary, nothing of His own opposed to My words." As then in saying respecting Himself, "I speak not of Myself" (c. xiv. 10), He meaneth that He speaketh nothing beside what the Father saith, nothing of His own against Him, or differing from Him, so also with respect to the Spirit. But the, "of Mine," meaneth, "of what I know," "of My own knowledge"; "for the knowledge of Me and of the Spirit is one."
"And He will tell you things to come." He excited their minds, for the race of man is for nothing so greedy,13 as for learning the future. This, for instance, they continually asked Him, "Whither goest Thou?" "Which is the way?" To free them therefore from this anxiety, He saith, "He shall foretell you all things, so that ye shall not meet with them without warning."
"He shall glorify Me." How? "In My name He shall grant His inward workings." For since at the coming of the Spirit they were about to do greater miracles, therefore, again introducing the Equality of Honor, He saith, "He shall glorify Me."
What meaneth He by, "all truth"? for this also He testifieth of Him, that "He shall guide us into all truth." (Ver. 13.) Because He was clothed with the flesh, and because He would not seem to speak concerning Himself, and because they did not yet know clearly concerning the Resurrection, and were too imperfect, and also because of the Jews, that they might not think they were punishing Him as a transgressor; therefore He spake no great thing continually, nor plainly drew them away from the Law. But when the disciples were cut off from them,14 and were for the future without; and when many were about to believe, and to be released from their sins; and when there were others who spake of Him, He with good reason spake not great things concerning Himself. "So that it proceeded not from ignorance of Mine," He saith, "that I told you not what I should have told you, but from the infirmity of the hearers." On this account having said, "He shall lead you into all truth," He added, "He shall not speak of Himself." For to show that the Spirit needeth not teaching, hear Paul saying, "So also the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God." (1 Cor. ii. 11.) "As then the spirit of man, not learning from another, knoweth; so also the Holy Spirit `shall receive of Mine,'" that is, "shall speak in unison with what is Mine."
"All things that the Father hath are Mine." "Since then those things are Mine, and He shall speak from the things of the Father, He shall speak from Mine."
[3.] "But why did not the Spirit come before He departed?" Because the curse not having yet been taken away, sin not yet loosed, but all being yet subject to vengeance, He could not come. "It is necessary then," saith He, "that the enmity be put away, that we be reconciled to God, and then receive that Gift." But why saith He, "I will send Him"? (Ver. 7.) It meaneth, "I will prepare you beforehand to receive Him." For, how can that which Is everywhere, be "sent"? Besides, He also showeth the distinction of the Persons. On these two accounts He thus speaketh; and also, since they were hardly to be drawn away from Himself, exhorting them to hold fast to the Spirit, and in order that they might cherish It. For He Himself was able to have wrought these things, but He concedeth to the Spirit15 the working of miracles,16 on this account, that they might understand His17 dignity. For as the Father could have brought into being things which are, yet the Son did so, that we might understand His power, so also is it in this case. On this account He Himself was made Flesh, reserving the inward working18 for the Spirit, shutting up the mouths of those who take the argument of His ineffable love for an occasion of impiety. For when they say that the Son was made flesh because He was inferior to the Father, we will reply to them, "what then will ye say of the Spirit?" He took not the flesh, and yet certainly on this account ye will not call Him greater than the Son, nor the Son inferior to Him Therefore, in the case of baptism also the Trinity is included. The Father is able to effect the whole, as is the Son, and the Holy Ghost; yet, since concerning the Father no man doubts, but the doubt was concerning the Son, and the Holy Ghost, They are included in the rite, that by Their community in supplying those unspeakable blessings, we may also fully learn Their community in dignity. For that both the Son is able by Himself to do that which in the case of baptism19 He is able to do with the Father, and the Holy Ghost the same, hear these things said plainly. For to the Jews He said, "That ye may know that the Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins" (Mark ii. 10); and again, "That ye may become children of light" (c. xii. 36): and, "I give to them eternal life." (c. x. 28.) Then after this, "That they might have life, and might have it more abundantly." (c. x. 10.) Now let us see the Spirit also performing the same thing. Where can we see it? "But the manifestation of the Spirit," it saith, "is given to every man to profit withal" (1 Cor. xii. 7; c. vi. 63); He then that giveth these things, much more remitteth sins. And again, "It is the Spirit that quickeneth"; and, "Shall quicken you20 by His Spirit which dwelleth in you" (Rom. viii. 11); and, "The Spirit is Life because of righteousness" (Rom. viii. 10); and, "If ye are led by the Spirit, ye are not under the Law." (Gal. v. 18.) "For ye have not received the Spirit of bondage again to fear, but ye have received the Spirit of adoption." (Rom. viii. 15.) All the wonders too which they then wrought, they wrought at the coming of the Spirit. And Paul writing to the Corinthians, said, "But ye have been washed, but ye have been sanctified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,21 and by the Spirit of our God." (1 Cor. vi. 11.) Since then they had heard many things of the Father, and had seen the Son work many things, but as yet knew nothing clearly of the Spirit, that Spirit doeth miracles, and bringeth in the perfect knowledge. But (as I said before) that He may not thence be supposed to be greater, on this account Christ saith, "Whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak; and He will show you things to come." Since, if this be not so, how could it be otherwise than absurd, if He was about to hear then, and on account of those who were being made disciples? For according to you,22 He would not even then know, except on account of those who were about to hear. What could be more unlawful than this saying? Besides, what would He have to hear? Did He not speak23 all these things by the Prophets? For if He was about to teach concerning the dissolution of the Law, it had been spoken of: if concerning Christ, His Divinity and the Dispensation, these had been spoken of also. What could He say more dearly after this?
"And shall show you things to come." Here most of all Christ showeth His24 Dignity, for to foretell things to come is especially the propertyof God. Now if He25 also learn this from others, He will have nothing more than the Prophets,but here Christ declareth a knowledge brought into exact accordance with God, that it is impossible that He should speak anything else. But the, "shall receive of Mine," meaneth, "shall receive, either of the grace26 which came into My Flesh, or of the knowledge which I also have, not as needing it, nor as learning it from another, but because it is One and the same." "And wherefore spake He thus, and not otherwise?" Because they understand not yet the word concerning the Spirit, wherefore He provideth for one thing only, that the Spirit should be believed and received by them, and that they should not be offended. For since He had said, "One is your Teacher, even Christ" (Matt. xxiii. 10), that they might not deem that they should disobey Him in obeying the Spirit, He saith, "His teaching and Mine are One; of what I should have taught, of those things shall He also speak. Do not suppose His words are other than Mine, for those words are Mine, and confirm My opinion.27 For One is the will of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Thus also He willeth us to be, when He saith, "That they may be one, as Thou and I are One."28 (c. xvii. 11.)
[4.] There is nothing equal to unanimity and concord; for so one is manifold. If two or ten are of one mind, the one is one no longer, but each one is multiplied tenfold, and thou wilt find the one in the ten, and the ten in the one; and if they have an enemy, he who attacks the one, as having attacked the ten, is vanquished; for he is the mark not for one, but for ten opponents.29 Is one in want? No, he is not in want, for he is wealthy in his greater part, that is, in the nine; and the needy part, the lesser, is concealed by the wealthy part, the greater. Each of these hath twenty hands, twenty eyes, and as many feet. For he sees not with his own eyes alone, but with those of others; he walks30 not with his own feet alone, but with those of others; he works not with his own hands alone, but with theirs. He hath ten souls, for not only doth he take thought for himself, but those souls also for him. And if they be made a hundred, it will still be the same, and their power will be extended. Seest thou the excess of love, how it makes the one both irresistible and manifold, how one can even be in many places, the same both in Persia and in Rome, and that what nature cannot do, love can? for one part of him will be here, and one there, or rather he will be wholly here and wholly there. If then he have a thousand or two thousand friends, consider again whither his power will extend. Seest thou what an increase-giving thing is love? for the wonderful thing is this, its making one a thousand. Why then do we not acquire this power and place ourselves in safety? This is better than all power or riches,31 this is more than health, than light itself, it is the groundwork of good courage. How long do we set our love on one or two? Consider also the action in the contrary way. Suppose a man without a friend, a mark of the utmost folly, (for a fool will say, "I have no friend,") what sort of life will such a one lead? For though he be infinitely rich, in plenty and luxury, possessed of ten thousand good things, yet is he desolate and bare of all. But in the case of friends not so; though they be poor men, yet are they better provided than the wealthy; and the things which a man undertakes not to say for himself, a friend will say for him, and whatever gratifications he is not able to procure for himself, he will be enabled to obtain by means of another, and much more; and it will be to us the groundwork of all enjoyment and safety, since one who is guarded by so many spearmen cannot suffer harm. For the king's body guards are not equal in their strictness to these. The one perform their watch through compulsion and fear, the others through kindness and love; and love is far mightier than fear. The king fears his own guards; the friend is more confident in them than in himself, and by reason of them fears none of those that plot against him. Let us then engage in this traffic; the poor man, that he may have consolation in his poverty; the rich, that he may possess his wealth in safety; the ruler, that he may rule with safety;32 the ruled, that he may have benevolent rulers. This is the source of kindness, this the groundwork of gentleness; since even among beasts, those are the most fierce and untamable which are not gregarious. For this cause we dwell in cities, and have public places, that we may converse with one another. This also Paul commanded, saying, "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together" (Heb. x. 25); for no evil is so great as solitariness, and the state which is without compact and intercourse. "What then," saith some one, "of the solitaries, and of those who have occupied the summits of the mountains?" That neither are they without friends; they have indeed fled froth the turmoil of common life, but they have many of one soul with them, and closely bound together one to another; and they have retired that they might rightly accomplish this thing.33 For since the rivalry of business causes many disputes, therefore, removing from among men, they cultivate34 love with much exactness. "But how," saith some one, "if a man be alone can he have ten thousand friends?" I, for my part, desire, if it be possible, that men should know how to dwell one with another; but for the present let the properties of friendship remain unshaken.35 For it is not place which makes friends. They, for instance, have many who admire them; now these would not have admired had they not loved them. Again, they pray for all the world, which is the greatest proof of friendship. For this cause we salute one another at the Mysteries, that being many we may become one; and in the case of the uninitiated,36 we make our prayers common, supplicating for the sick, and for the produce of the world, for land and sea. Seest thou all the power of love? in the prayers, in the Mysteries, in the exhortations? This is that which causeth all good things. If we hold carefully to this, we shall both rightly dispense things present, and also obtain the Kingdom; which may we all obtain through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom, to the Father and the Holy Ghost, be glory, for ever and ever. Amen.