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Commentary On The Gospel According To Saint John Volumes 1&2

That the dignity of Godhead is inherent in the Son; even though He is said to have received this from the Father, because of His humanity and the form of His humiliation

11 Holy Father, keep them in Thy Name which Thou hast given Me, that they may be one, even as We are.

He still preserves the blending of two things into one: the human element, I mean, which, so far as we are concerned, imparts humiliation, and the Divine element, which is pregnant with the most exalted majesty. For His speech is combined of both; and, just as we stated in our interpretation of the foregoing passage, the Divine element is not perfectly exalted to the height, nor yet is it wholly sundered from the limitations of humanity, holding as it were a middle place by an unspeakable and ineffable fusion of the two, so as not to pass outside the limits of true Godhead, nor yet altogether to leave behind those of humanity. For His ineffable descent from God the Father exalts Him, inasmuch as He is the Word and Only-begotten, into a Divine Nature and the majesty which naturally accompanies it, while His humiliation brings Him down in some sort to our level, not as though it availed perforce to overpower the kingship over the universe which He shares with the Father, for the Only-begotten could never submit to violence against His Will. Rather was His humiliation self-chosen, accepted and maintained from love towards us. For He humbled Himself, that is, of His own Will and not by any compulsion. For He would be proved to have undergone the Incarnation against His Will, if there were any one at all able to prevail over Him, and who bade Him unwillingly take this upon Him. He humbled Himself therefore willingly for our sakes, for we should never have been called His sons and God’s, if the Only-begotten had not undergone humiliation for us and on our account; to Whose Likeness we are conformed by participation in the Spirit, and so become children of God, and God’s. Whenever, therefore, in His sayings, He blends together in some way the human with the Divine, do not be therefore offended, nor lightly relinquish the admiration you ought to feel at the incomparable art displayed in His sayings, skilfully preserving for us in divers ways their twofold character, so that we can see at the same time the God and the Man speaking truly in His Nature, marvellously combining the humiliation of His Humanity with the glory of His ineffable Divinity; preserving wholly blameless and irreproachable the harmonious fusion of the two.

And how is it that, when we say this, we do not affirm that the Nature of the Word is degraded from its original majesty? To think this would indeed display the greatest ignorance; for that which is Divine is altogether and wholly changeless, and endureth no shadow of turning but rather ever remaineth on one stay. We rather make such a statement because the manner of His voluntary degradation, as by necessary inference investing Him with the form of humiliation, causes the Only-begotten, Who is coequal with, and in the Likeness of, the Father, and in Him and proceeding from Him, to be apparently in an inferior position to Him. Be not astonished at hearing this, if the Son appear to fall short of the Father’s majesty because of His Humanity, when for this very reason Paul declared that He was thus inferior even to the angels, in the following words: Him Who hath been made a little lower than the angels, even Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honour, though the holy angels were bidden to worship Him, for when, He says, He bringeth in the Firstborn into the world, He saith, And let all the angels of God worship Him, as well as also the Holy Seraphim, who stood around and fulfilled the office of servants when He appeared unto the prophet sitting on a high and lofty throne. Then, so far as His being begotten and proceeding from God the Father is concerned, His Humanity is not proper to the Son; but it is proper to Him in so far as He is Incarnate Man, and remaineth ever what He was and is, and will be such for evermore, and debaseth Himself to what He was not of old for our sakes.

He saith, then: Holy Father, keep them in Thy Name which Thou hast given Me; that they may be one, even as We are. He desires His disciples to be kept by the power and might of the Ineffable Divine Nature, well and suitably attributing the power of saving whomsoever He will, yea, and with ease, to the true and living God; and thereby, again, He glorifies no other nature than His own, as in the Person of the Father, from Whom He proceeded as God. Therefore He saith, Father, keep them in Thy Name which Thou hast given Me; that is, the Name of God. He says again, that the Name of God was not given unto Him as though He had not been God by Nature, and were now called from without to the dignity of Godhead. For then would He be created, and possess a spurious and elective glory and an adulterate nature, which it were impious for us to imagine. For thereby He would be mulcted of His inherent character of Sonship. But since, as the inspired writings prophesy, the Word became flesh, that is, man, He says that He received Divine attributes by gift; for clearly the title and actuality of Divine glory could not naturally attach to man. But consider, and attentively reflect, how He showed Himself the living and inherent Power of God the Father, whereby He doeth all things. For when, addressing His Father, He says, Keep them, He did not indeed suffice for them alone, but suitably brought in Himself as working for their preservation and being for that purpose also the power and instrument of His Father; for He says: Keep them in Thy Name which Thou hast given Me. Note how guarded the saying is. For allotting and attributing as suitable only to the Nature of God providential care over us, He declares at once that to Himself has been given the glory of Godhead, because of the form of manhood, saying that what was His by natural right was given to Him; that is, the Name which is above every name Therefore also we say that this Name belongs to the Son by nature, as proceeding from the Father; but, so far as He is Man, those things are His by gift which He receives as Man, using herein the form of speech applicable to ourselves; for man is not God by nature, but Christ is God by nature, even though He be conceived of as Human because He was amongst us.

He wishes indeed the disciples to be kept in unity of mind and purpose, being blended, as it were, with one another in soul and spirit and the bond of brotherly love; and to be linked together in an unbroken chain of affection, so that their unity may be so far perfected as that their elective affinity may resemble the natural unity which exists between the Father and the Son; and, remaining undebased and invincible, may not be distorted by anything whatever that exists in the world, or by the lusts of the flesh, into dissimilarity of purpose; but rather preserving in the unity of true piety and holiness the power of love intact, which also came to pass. For, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles, the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and soul in the unity that is of the Spirit. And this is what Paul himself also meant, when he said: One body and one Spirit; for we who are many are one body in Christ, for we all partake of the one bread and we have all received the unction of one Spirit, that is, the Spirit of Christ. As, then, they were to be one body, and to partake of one and the selfsame Spirit, He desires His disciples to be preserved in a unity of spirit which nothing could disturb, and in unbroken singleness of mind. And if any man suppose that after this manner the disciples are united even as the Father and the Son are One, not merely in Substance, but also in purpose (for the holy Nature of God has one Will, and one and the selfsame purpose altogether), let him so think. For He will not stray wide of the mark, since we can see identity of purpose among true Christians, though we have not consubstantiality as the Father and the Word That proceeded from Him, and is in Him.

12 While I was with them, I kept them in Thy Name which Thou hast given Me: and I guarded them, and not one of them perished, but the son of perdition; that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I come to Thee.

Our Saviour’s speech soon proceeds to illustrate His meaning more plainly; and while at the first dark hints were given, it is now proclaimed and revealed like a storm breaking into sunshine. For the disciples thought that our Saviour’s abandonment of them,—I mean in the flesh,—would inflict on them great loss; for nothing could prevent His being with them as God. But they expected that no one could then save them after Christ’s Ascension into heaven, but that they would fall a prey to those who wished to injure them, and that there would be nothing to restrain the hand of their powerful adversaries, but rather that any one so disposed might work his will on them without hindrance, and involve them in any peril. But wise as they were and fathers in the faith, and bearers of light to the world, we need not shrink from saying that they ought not merely to have regarded the Incarnate Presence of our Saviour Christ, but to have known that even though He were to deprive them of converse with Him in the flesh, and they saw Him not with the eye of the body, yet that it was their duty at any rate to think of Him as present with them for evermore in the power of His Godhead. For will God ever lose the attributes of His Person? Or what power can resist an Omnipotent Nature, or is able perforce to hinder it in the performance of its functions? And it is the power and actuality of God’s Being to be present everywhere, and unspeakably to fill the heavens and also the earth, and to contain all things, but to be contained of none. For God is not bounded by place, nor separated by distance within any sphere, however great; for such like things cannot avail to affect that Nature which has nothing to do with the dimensions of space. Then, since Christ was at the same time God and Man, the disciples ought to have been aware that, though He were absent in the body, yet He would not wholly forsake them, but would be ever with them by reason of God’s unspeakable might. And for this reason also our Saviour Himself said, in the foregoing passage: Holy Father, keep them in Thy Name which Thou hast given Me and here again: While I was with them, I kept them in Thy Name which Thou hast given Me; almost pointing out this fact to His disciples, that the ability to save them suited rather the working of His power as God than His Presence in the flesh: for this very flesh was not sanctified of itself; but when, by His Incarnation, the Word was made one with it, it was in some sort transformed into His inherent power, and is now become the channel of salvation and sanctification to those who partake thereof. We must not then attribute the whole of the Divine activities of Christ to the flesh by itself, but we shall be rather right if we ascribe them to the Divine power of the Word. For does not “keeping the disciples in the Name of the Father” mean this, and nothing else? For they are kept by the glory of God. He removes, then, from His disciples’ minds, the fear which they felt because they thought themselves forsaken; often following the same course of thought, He assures them that they will be in perfect safety, not through living with their Master in the body, but rather because He is by Nature God. Evidently the universal dominion and might which are His have no end; for He can suffer no change or alteration from that state in which He dwells eternally, but will keep them safe with ease for evermore, and rescue them from every peril that may assail them. Consider also the forethought wrapped up in the saying, to our profit and edification. For when He asks that they—I mean His holy disciples—should be kept by God the Father, He declares that He Himself had done this, showing Himself like in power and works to His Father, or rather, His inherent might. For surely He Who is seen to have the same power as God, He Who is acknowledged the true God, must be thought to be wholly inherent in Him, and to possess equality of power and identity of Nature with Him. And how can He Who kept them as God in the Name of God, and as a God crowned them with the glory that proceeded from righteous actions befitting the title, be foreign to God, or of different nature? Is He not in very deed shown to be that which He is, namely, God? For nothing that exists can do those works which are peculiar to God, without being in its own nature that which we imagine God to be. He still preserves in the passage the twofold conception of His character owing to His Incarnation. For He takes away, as it were, from His Nature, as a created Being, the power of saving and preserving all to whom this is due for their piety towards God, and ascribes it to the Name of the Father, attributing to the Divine Nature alone the things which are of God. And for this reason, again, though He says that He kept the disciples, He did not give the honour of taking up the work to His Humanity, but rather says that it was fulfilled in the Name of God; excluding Himself, in a manner, from its accomplishment, so far as He is flesh and is so conceived of, but not excluding Himself from the power of keeping them, and of accomplishing the works of a God, insomuch as He is God, and from God, the all-working power of the Father—a Divine force which even when at rest displays by its very attributes the Nature from which it ineffably proceeded. And if here too, again, He says that the Name of God has been given unto Him, although He is in fact God by Nature, as the Only-begotten Who proceeded from Him, He is not thereby in truth degraded, nor would He thereby exclude Himself from the honour and glory which is His due. Far from it. For to receive is appropriate to His Humanity, and can be fittingly ascribed thereto; for, of itself, humanity possesses nothing.

He says that He so kept His disciples, and had such care for them, that none of them was lost save one, whom He called the son of perdition; as though he were doomed to destruction of his own choice, or rather his own wickedness and impiety. For it is inconceivable that the traitor disciple was by a Divine and irresistible decree entangled, as it were, in the snare of the fowler, and brought within the devil’s noose; for then would he surely have been guiltless when he succumbed to the verdict of heaven. For who shall oppose the decree of God? And now he is condemned and accursed, and it would have been better for him if he had never been born. And why? Surely the wretched man met his doom as a consequence of his own volitions, and is not convicted by destiny. He that was so enamoured of destruction may well be called a son of perdition, inasmuch as he merited ruin and corruption, and ever awaits the day of perdition as fraught with anguish and lamentation.

And as Christ added to the words He used concerning him, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, we have given an explanation which may be useful to readers of this passage. For it was not because of any prophecy in Scripture that the traitor was lost, and became so vile as to barter for a few coins the precious Blood of Christ, but rather, as through his own innate wickedness he betrayed his Lord, and was infallibly destined to destruction on that account, the Scripture, which cannot lie, foretold that so it would be. For the Scripture is the Word of God, Who knows all things, and carries in His own consciousness the character and life of each one of us, and his conversation from the beginning to the end. Moreover, the Psalmist, attributing to Him knowledge of all things, of the past as well as of the future, thus addresses Him: Thou understandest all my thoughts afar off; Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. The Divine Word, then, Which had complete foreknowledge, and saw the future as though it were already present, besides all the rest which It told us about Christ, revealed unto us that he that was ranked a disciple would also die the death of a traitor. Still, the foreknowledge and foretelling of the future indicated not the pleasure and commandment of God; nor yet was the prophecy directed to compel the actual fulfilment of the evil that was foreshadowed and the conspiracy against the Saviour, but rather to avert it. For when Judas had this knowledge he might, at any rate, if he had so chosen, have shunned and avoided the result, as he was free to determine his inclinations in any direction.

Put perhaps you will say, “How, then, can Christ be said to have kept His disciples, if merely in pursuance of the inclinations and volitions of their own wills the rest escaped the devil’s net, while Judas alone was taken, ill-fated beyond the others? How, then, can the safekeeping here spoken of be said to have been of profit?

Nay, my good friend, we answer, soberness is indeed a good thing, and the keeping guard over our minds profiteth much, together with an earnest endeavour towards the doing of good works and stablishing ourselves in virtue, for so shall we work out our own salvation but this alone will not avail to save the soul of man. For it stands in urgent need of assistance and grace from above, to make what is difficult of achievement easy to it, and to render the steep and thorny path of righteousness smooth. And to prove to you that we are not able to do anything at all of ourselves without the aid of Divine grace, hearken to the voice of the Psalmist: If the Lord build not the house, their labour is in vain that build it: and if the lord keep not the city, the watchman waketh but in vain

I say, then, that it is our bounden duty to foster and practise a home-bred self-denial and a religious frame of mind; but in so doing also to ask help of God, and, receiving the aid that comes from above as a panoply proof against every assault, to acquit ourselves like men. When God has once for all vouchsafed to grant our prayer, and it is therefore in our power to subdue the might of our adversaries, and conquer the power of the devil, if we do not choose to follow him when he allures us to pleasure or any other kind of sin; then, I say, if we let our wills comply with him, and, yielding to our wicked inclinations, are entangled in his noose, how can we any more with justice accuse any one else, or fail to attribute our doom to our own folly? For is not this what Solomon said long ago: The foolishness of man perverteth his way, and his heart fretteth against the Lord? And this is unquestionably the case. If, however, the traitor was unable to enjoy the succour of the Saviour as much as the other disciples, let any man only prove this, and we submit; but if, while he was, in common with the rest, encompassed by the Divine grace, of his own will he relapsed into the abyss of perdition, how can Christ be said not to have kept him, when He vouchsafed him the riches of His mercy, and increased, so far as it was possible in any man’s case, his chance of safety, if he had not chosen his doom of his own will? His grace, moreover, was conspicuous in the rest, continually keeping in safety those who made their own free-will, as it were, co-operate therewith. For this is the manner in which the salvation of each one of us is achieved.

13 And these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.

Keep in mind once more what we were just now saying, and you will easily understand the drift of the passage. For He on all occasions preserved the juxtaposition of the two aspects of His character, at the same time displaying the Divine majesty for which He was pre-eminent, and not discarding the proper limitations of the Human Nature which He assumed at His Incarnation. For there would be something absurd in the supposition that He wished to disown what He had willingly taken upon Himself. For being Himself in lack of nothing, but the all-perfect Son of a perfect Father, He emptied Himself of His glory, not to do Himself any service, but rather to convey to us the blessing which would result from His humiliation. Showing Himself, then, to them as at the same time both God and Man, He, as it were, induces His disciples to reflect that absent, as well as present, He would work the things which made for their salvation in God; and that, as He had them in His keeping while He was yet with them on the earth in the form of Man, so also would He keep them while absent from them as God, through the excellency of His Substance. For that which is Divine is not bounded by space, and is not far from anything that exists, but fills and pervades the universe, and though present in all things is contained of none. When, addressing His own Father, He says: Holy Father, keep them, He at once refers, by right of its existence, to the universal working of the power of the Father; and at the same time shows that He standeth not apart from His Nature, but, being in it and proceeding from it, is indivisibly united with it, though He be conceived of as independently existing. Keep them, He says, in Thy Name which Thou hast given Me; and again: While I was with them, I kept them in Thy Name which Thou hast given Me We are bound, therefore, to think that, if He had kept them hitherto in the Name given Him by the Father, that is, in the glory of Godhead, for He gave unto Him the Name which is above every name; and if He wishes the Father Himself also to keep them in the Name given unto Him, He will not be excluded from acting in the work; for the Father will keep those who are knit to Him by faith through the agency of the Only-begotten, Who is His power and might. For He will not exercise His power in any way save through Him. Then, if even in the flesh He kept them, by the power and glory of His Godhead, how can we think that He will fail to think His disciples worthy of the mercy which they need; and how can they ever lose His sure support while the Divine power of the Only-begotten abideth evermore, and the power which is His by Nature is for ever firmly established? For that which is Divine admits of no variance at all, or of any change into any evil agency, but shines forth for ever in those attributes which belong to it eternally.

I have spoken then, He says, these things in the world, that My disciples might have My joy fulfilled in them. What kind of joy is meant we will proceed to show, putting away from us fear of dispute, because of the obscurity of the expression. The blessed disciples, then, thought indeed that while Christ was present with them in their daily lives, I mean, of course, in the flesh, they could easily rid themselves of every calamity and readily escape danger from the Jews, and that they would remain proof against every assault of their foes; but that when He was separated from them, and had gone up to heaven, they would fall an easy prey to perils of every sort, and would have to bear the attack of the king of terrors himself, as there was no one any more with them who was strong to save, and who could scare away the temptations that assailed them. For this cause, then, our Lord Jesus Christ neither disavowed the Manhood He had once for all taken upon Himself, nor yet showed Himself deficient in Divine power; speaking plainly to this intent, and saying that the Name of God had been given to Him as Man, but that through Him, and in Him, the Father showed mercy to those who worshipped Him, and had them in safe keeping. What, then, was the wise object that He here had in view? It was that the blessed disciples might understand and know well, if they only slightly considered this saying, that even when He was in the flesh, it was not through the flesh that He was working for their salvation, but in the omnipotent glory and might of His Godhead. My absence in the flesh then, He says, will do My disciples no harm, while the Divine power of the Only-begotten can easily keep them safe, even though He be not visibly present in the body.

We give this explanation, not as making of no account the holy Body of Christ—God forbid; but because it were more fitting that the accomplishment of His Word should be ascribed to the glory of the Godhead. For even the Body Itself of Christ was sanctified by the power of the Word made one with it, and it is thus endowed with living force in the blessed Eucharist, so that it is able to implant in us its sanctifying grace. Therefore also our Saviour Christ Himself, once conversing with the Jews, and speaking many things concerning His own Body, calling it the true Bread of Life, said: The bread which I will give you is My Flesh, which I will give for the life of the world And when they were sore amazed and perplexed to know how the nature of earthly flesh could be to them the channel of eternal life, He answered and said: It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I spake unto you are spirit, and are life For here, too, He says that the flesh can profit nothing, that is, to sanctify and quicken those who receive it, so far, that is, as it is mere human flesh; but when it is understood and believed to be the temple of the Word, then surely it will be a channel of sanctification and life, but not altogether of itself, but through God, Who has been made one with it, Who is holy and Life. Ascribing everything, then, to the power of His Godhead, He says that His disciples will suffer no loss from His departure in the body, with reference, at any rate, to their seeking to be in His keeping. For the Saviour, though He be vanished into heaven, will yet not be far from those who love Him, but will be with them by the power of His Godhead.

In order, then, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves, He says, I have spoken these things in the world. What, then, is this joy which is fulfilled and perfect? It is the knowledge and belief that Christ was not a mere Man as we are, but that, besides being as we are, yet without sin, He is also the true God. It is clear, then, and beyond dispute, that He will always have the power to save those who worship Him at any time He will, even though He be not present in the body. For this knowledge will involve the perfect fulfilment of our own joy, inasmuch as we have an ally ever near us, Who is strong enough to rescue us from every evil.

14 I have given them Thy Word; and the world hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15 I pray not that Thou shouldest take them from the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil one.

He points out to us the most needful increase of favour from above and from the Father, which, He says, is almost owed by Him to those who incur danger for His sake, as a just and well-deserved return. For the world hateth on God’s account those who worship Him, and who are obedient to the laws that He has laid down, and who lightly esteem worldly pleasure, and who also, as is most right, will receive succour and grace from Him, and continuance in well-being. For surely they who after a manner rely upon Him, and are of good courage and engage in warfare on His account, will receive a recompense in harmony with the aim they have in view. Therefore the Saviour says: I have given them Thy Word; and the world hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. For they received with great gladness, He says, Thy Word given unto them by Me, that is, the Gospel message, which easily extricates from a worldly life and thoughts of earth, those who welcome it. Therefore also are they hated of the world, that is, of those who choose to have at heart the things of this world, and who love this pleasure-loving and most impure life. For the conversation of Saints is displeasing to worldlings; ever making light as it does of the hardships of this life, and pointing out how abominable is a worldly career, and accusing its vileness, and assailing with bitter rebukes those who think that pleasure consists in succumbing to temptation, and in having continual intercourse with the evil of this world, and triumphing over all selfish desire, and contemning ambition, and teaching men to abhor covetousness the mother of all evils, and to cast it far from them, and furthermore bidding those who are ensnared in the net of the devil to escape from old deceits, and to betake themselves to the God of the universe.

For this cause, therefore, O Father, He says, are they hated. For they are in ill odour with the world, not because they have been convicted of any crime or impiety, but because I have given unto them Thy Word, so that they are also out of the world even as I am. For the life and conduct that is in Christ is wholly dissevered from earthly thoughts and worldly conversation; that life, by following after which we shall ourselves also, so far as possible, escape being reckoned among the men of this world. Therefore the inspired Paul enjoins us to follow His steps and we shall then best follow Him, when we love only the things that are not of this world, and, lifting our minds above fleshly thoughts, gaze only on heavenly things. He ranks Himself, too, with His disciples because of His Manhood, by imitating which, in the conception of Him as Man, we attain every kind of virtue, as we just now said; passing unscathed through all the wickedness of the world, and showing ourselves strangers and aliens to its wickedness. Just so, then, the Divine Paul indeed himself exhorts us; and, with reference to himself and Christ, through Which the world hath been crucified unto me, and I unto the world bids us, speaking in another place, Be ye imitators of me, even as I also am of Christ. Paul did not indeed imitate Christ in so far as our Lord is Creator of the world; for he did not establish a new firmament, nor did he ever reveal to us new seas, or a new earth. How, then, did he imitate Him? Surely it was by moulding in his own character and conduct an admirable pattern of the life of which Christ was Himself the exemplar, so far at least as Paul could attain to it; for who can be equal to Christ?

Putting Himself, then, on a level with us, because of His Human Nature, or, to speak more accurately, as first presenting us with the blessing of taking ourselves out of the world by the life which transcends worldly things, for the life and teaching of the Gospel is above the world, He says that He Himself is not of the world, and that we are even as He is, since His Divine Word has taken up its abode in our hearts. Furthermore, He declares that as the world hated Him so will it also hate them. The world indeed hateth Christ, because it is in conflict with His words, and accepts not His teaching, men’s minds being wholly yielded up to base desires; and even as the world hates our Saviour Christ, it hath hated also the disciples who carry through Him His message, as Paul also did, who said: We are ambassadors, therefore, on behalf of Christ, as though God were intreating by us: we beseech you on behalf of Christ, be ye reconciled to God

What, then, is His prayer, after that He has shown that the disciples are hated by those who are fast bound by the evil things of the world? I pray not, He saith, that Thou shouldest take them from the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil one. For Christ does not wish them to be quit of human affairs, or to be rid of life in the body, when they have not yet finished the course of their apostleship, or distinguished themselves by the virtues of a godly life; but he wishes them, after they have lived their lives in the company of men in the world, and have guided the footsteps of those who are His to a state of life well pleasing to God, then at last, with the glory they have achieved, to be carried into the heavenly city, and to dwell with the company of the holy angels. We find, moreover, one of the Saints approaching the God Who loves virtue with the cry: Take me not away in the midst of my days; for pious souls cannot, without a pang, put off the garment of the flesh before they have perfected their life in holiness above their fellows. Therefore also the Law of Moses, teaching us that sinners are visited as in wrath, and by way of penalty, with premature death, often reiterates the warning to stand aloof from evil, that thou diest not before thy time. Besides, if the Saints chose to keep themselves apart from our daily life, it would infer no small loss to those who are unstable in the faith; nay, they could in nowise be guided in the way of righteousness, without the aid of those who are able to lead them therein. Paul knew this when he said, To depart and be with Christ is far better for me, yet to abide in the flesh is more needful for your sake. Christ, therefore, in His care for the salvation of the uninstructed, says that those who are in the world ought not to be left desolate without the Saints, who are men of light, and the salt of the earth; but prays rather for the safe keeping of His holy ones, and that they may be ever untouched by the malice of the evil one, shunning the assault of temptations by the power of His Omnipotent Father.

We must also remark that He calls the Word, which is His, and came forth from Him—I mean the Gospel—the Word of God the Father, showing that He is not separate from the Father, but Consubstantial with Him. For we shall find in the writings of the Evangelists that the people of the Jews were amazed at Him, because He taught them as one having authority, and not as their Scribes. For these latter were seen to apply the teaching of the Law in every case in their discourses to them; while our Lord Jesus Christ did not at all follow slavishly the types shadowed forth in those writings, but, illumining His own Word by Divine power, exclaimed: It was said to them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: but I say unto you Thou shalt not covet; though the Law expressly says, with reference to the statutes of God, that none should add thereto or take away therefrom: but Christ took away from, and also added unto them, changing the type into truth. Therefore He cannot be reckoned among those under the Law, that is, among creatures; for on whomsoever Nature has put the brand of slavery, on him is imposed the necessity of being under the Law. Christ, then, represented His own Word as the Word of the Father. For He is the Word That is in the Father and proceedeth from Him, and That enunciates the Will of the Godhead—I mean the only true Godhead Which is in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17 Holy Father, keep them in truth: Thy Word is truth.

By these words He indicates once more, and makes clear to us, the reason why He requires to ascend to God the Father, and why so to do becomes Him, while He is still our Mediator, and High Priest, and Advocate, according to the Holy Scripture; and shows us that it is in order that, if at any time we encounter failure, or miss the straight path in thought or action, or are assailed by unexpected perils or buffeted by the tempest of the devil’s malice, He may approach His Father on our behalf in His appropriate character as Mediator; and may join with Him in granting good gifts to those who are worthy. For it would well become Him so to do, as He is God by Nature. Those then, He says, who have received Thy Word, O Father, through Me, show forth My Likeness in themselves and are conformed to the pattern of Thine own Son, who, like Him, pass unscathed through the ocean of the world’s wickedness, and have shown themselves foreigners and strangers to the love of pleasure in this life, and every kind of vice. Therefore keep them in Thy truth, for exceeding purity is inherent in Christ. For He is truly God, and cannot be subject to sin nor endure it, but is rather the fountain of all goodness, and the beauty of holiness. For the Divine Nature, that ruleth over all, can do nothing but what is in truth suitable and belongeth thereto. And the holy disciples, I mean all who believe on Him, cannot otherwise exhibit purity unspotted by the wickedness of this world than by means of forgiveness and grace from above, which putteth away the defilement of previous offences and the accusing sins of their past lives; and, further, conferring on them the glory of a life of sanctification, though their continuance therein be not free from conflict, as Paul wisely teaches us, saying: Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. For our life is cast upon the deep, and we are tossed by divers storms, as the devil tempts without ceasing, and continually assails and strives to defile if he can, by the insidious inventions of malice, even those who have been already made pure. For his meat is well chosen as the prophet says. Having then borne witness to His disciples that their life was out of the world, and that they were conformed to the likeness of His own essential purity, He proceeds to pray to His Father to keep them. It is almost as though He said: O Holy Father, if they were in the world—that is, if they lived the life that has honour in this world—if, sowing the seed of earthly and temporary pleasure in their hearts, they imprinted on themselves the foul image of the evil one, he would not have attacked them with temptation, nor have armed himself against his own children, for he would have in them the likeness of his own inherent wickedness. But since they, following after Me, laugh to scorn the deceitfulness of this world, and are out of the world, and, moreover, in their conduct show most clearly the impress of My incomparable holiness, and on that account have Satan, who is ever murmuring against the Saints, for their bitter foe, ever lying in wait for them; therefore of necessity I desire them to be in Thy safe keeping. And to be in Thy safe keeping is not to be far from Thy truth, that is, from Me. For I am by Nature Thy truth, O Father, the Essential, True, and Living Word.

We must suppose that this is what He thinks right to say. See how, in all His sayings, so to speak, He insinuates His own Person into the action of the Father, whatever that action has reference to, and puts Himself altogether side by side with Him, wishing probably to show how true the statement is: All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made. In the previous passage, indeed, He briefly besought His Father to keep the disciples in the Name which had been given unto Himself. In this, however, He desires His prayer on their behalf to be fulfilled in the truth of the Father. What, then, does this mean; or what does the change in the language signify? Is it meant to show that the working of the Father, shown through Him in mercy to the Saints, is not uniform? For in the first passage, when He says that His disciples ought to be kept in the Name of the Father, that is to say, in the glory and power of His Godhead, so that they should be out of the power of the enemy, He declares that aid is vouchsafed to the Saints in whatever happens unto them, after the secret fashion that Christ at the proper season revealed to His disciples when He said: Simon, Simon, behold, Satan asked to have you, that he might sift you as wheat: but I made supplication for thee, that thy faith fail not For many of God’s dealings concerning us are in secret, Christ taking thought for the life of each of us, and covering us as with a shield. But here, when He says Keep them in the truth, He signifies clearly their being led by revelation of the truth to apprehend it. For no man can attain to the knowledge of truth without the light of the Spirit, nor can he at all, humanly speaking, work out for himself an accurate comprehension of the Divine doctrines. For the mysteries of Holy Writ exceed our understanding, and glorious is the blessing of having even a moderate knowledge concerning Christ.

The blessed Peter, moreover, when he confessed that the Lord was in truth the Son of the living God, heard the words: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father Which is in heaven For He reveals to the Saints His Son, Who is truth, and does not allow Satan to lead the mind of His believers astray to false knowledge; relying on whom, in their season, Hymenœus and Alexander have made shipwreck concerning the faith, rejecting the true doctrine of the faith. Of great avail, then, towards a right continuance in the straight path of thought and action, is our safe keeping by the Father in the Name of God and in truth; that we may not fail in making our light shine forth in action, nor, by turning aside to folly, stray far away from the doctrines of true holiness. And this may easily be our lot, if we are seen to be out of the world while not disavowing our birth in the world; for of the dust of the earth are we all framed, as the Scripture saith, but by the quality of our deeds we rid ourselves of life in the world. For while they walk upon earth, those who love conformity with Christ are citizens of heaven.

We must also remark that He very appropriately here calls the Father holy, almost, as it were, reminding Him that, as He is holy, He takes pleasure in those that are holy. And all men are holy, whosoever are seen to be unspotted by the world, and whosoever are by nature in Christ, in the Father’s likeness adopted, and chosen to be His disciples by the sanctification according to grace, and the light and goodness of their lives. For a man may thus be conformed to the Image of God, Which transcends the world.








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