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An Exposition Of The Gospels by The Most Rev. John Macevilly D.D.

In this chapter, our Lord gives the parable of the vine and the branches (1–4). Application of the parable (5).

Necessity of union with Him, the true vine, in order to be able to do good and avoid eternal tortures (6).

He inculcates a mutual and unselfish self-sacrificing love for one another, of which the love He has shown us, should be the model (12–17).

He fortifies them against the hatred the world would manifest in their regard, and He assigns several reasons why they should pay no heed to such hatred (18–25).

He promises to send down upon them, the Paraclete, the Spirit of truth (26, 27).

Commentary

1. In the preceding chapter, our Lord had been consoling His Apostles, who were saddened at the prospect of His near departure, and exhorting them to adhere to Him by charity, shown in the observance of His commandments, even under the pressure of trial and persecution. He now continues to inculcate the same, and under the similitude of the vine and its branches, He continues to show, that His followers should be always united with Him, deriving from Him their spiritual nutriment and support—as the branches derive nutriment, vigour and life from the vine-stock—He in turn, engaging, as far as in Him lies, to sustain and nourish them by His abundant graces, if they closely adhere to Him by faith and good works; thus, placing no obstacle to the operations of His grace.

“I am the true vine,” “true,” in the real spiritual effects I produce. The words are metaphorically put, just as He is called, “the true light,” because, He really enlightens men spiritually, better than the material sun does in the natural order. “A vine,” by similitude, “true,” on account of producing in the members united with Him, in a higher and more exalted spiritual sense, the effects produced by the natural vine in its branches, unlike the false vine, that only produces wild grapes. “True,” may also mean, super-excellent.

He is the “vine,” in His humanity, in which the branches of the same nature are united with Him. But it is from His Divinity, the branches derive the spiritual and life-giving influence that lead to eternal happiness.

In the similitude, the words, “And men united with Me are branches,” would seem to be understood, in order to complete the similitude.

“My Father is the husbandman,” who planted me as a vine upon the earth; and unites to Me My Apostles and faithful followers, whom He tends and cultivates, in a manner, analogous to the process of natural pruning, that they may produce greater fruit. He Himself also, as God, is the husbandman. But as it would not suit the similitude, were He to call Himself the husbandman and the vine, at the same time, He attributes this quality of husbandman, to His Father, to whom the operations of Providence are ascribed, by appropriation.

2. In order to derive profit from their union with Him, they should produce the fruits of good works. “Every branch in Me,” ingrafted on Me, by baptism and faith, “that beareth not fruit,” not producing the fruit of good works, in accordance with the teaching of their faith, “He will take away,” His Father will lop off, sometimes by excluding such from the society of the faithful in His Church, as happens in some public scandalous cases, and lately, in the case of the apostate Judas; but, more generally, by depriving them of the life-giving influence of His grace, of which, by their negligence, they make, themselves unworthy; and finally, by excluding them from His heavenly kingdom, verifying in their regard the curse inflicted on the barren fig tree, “Pluck it up, why any longer encumber the ground!” In this, our Lord, inculcates on His Apostles and all His followers, to bring forth the fruit of good works, by a faithful correspondence with grace.

“He will purge it,” by removing all obstacles to the operation of grace, by sending crosses, afflictions and temporal calamities calculated to wean men from the things of earth, and by other means at the disposal of His gracious Providence, such as terrors and alarms in regard to their ultimate destiny. He will thus prepare them for a more abundant infusion of His heavenly graces, and enable them to bring forth a more abundant crop of good works.

3. Applying this general similitude to those present, He says, they were branches inserted in the mystical vine, members of His mystical body, purged from all defilement. The pruning knife employed was His discourse spoken to them in the two preceding chapters. Thomas (14:6, 7), and Philip (v. 9), were freed from ignorance regarding Him; the rest from unreasonable sadness; (14:1). Peter, from vain confidence (13:36), etc. From this, to verse 12, He employs several motives and considerations to make them persevere in His love.

4. “Abide in Me.” Although now freed from faults, they must persevere in union with Him, by faith, love and good works. For, the purged branches may, possibly, be separated from the vine. “And I in you.” I shall, in turn, abide in you, and enliven you by the influx of My graces, “for, God does not desert us, till He is first deserted” (St. Augustine, Lib. de Natura et Gratia, c. 46). He shows the necessity of this persevering union. As it is only by persevering in the vine, the branch can bear fruit—it cannot, unless it be united to the vine, and draw nutriment from it—so, neither can you, unless you are united to Me, by faith and love, exhibited in good works. The first condition for obtaining eternal life is adhesion to Christ by faith and love.

5. “I am the vine,” etc. Our Lord here applies the similitude to Himself, and accommodates it to His disciples. “He that abideth in Me and I in him,” in whom I abide, enlivening him by the abundant influx of My grace, “the same beareth much fruit.” Although no one can abide in the vine without the vine abiding in Him; still, our Lord employs these latter words to point out their intimate connexion, and also to show, that it is by the influx of the vine, in giving nutriment to the branches, the branches produce fruit.

It is only the man that abides in the vine, that can produce fruit, “for, without Me,” that is, My grace and supernatural assistance, “you can do nothing,” nothing meritorious, nothing conducive to salvation. Without God’s preventing and co-operating actual grace, independently of habitual grace residing in the soul, we cannot do even the beginning of a good work, “we can do nothing,” no work, great or small, in the supernatural order. Man, by his free will, freely assents to or rejects the influence of preventing and co-operating grace. But this assent is effected by grace.

6. As a further motive to cling to Him and remain united with Him, He points out the fate and final punishment of the man who is not united to Him, by faith and love.

“If any man abide not in Me,” by faith and love, “he shall be cast out,” deprived of the society of Christ and His saints, deprived of the saving influence of grace here, and the inheritance of God hereafter. His end, eternal fire, never ending torture.

7. Another motive to cling to Him, “if you abide in Me,” by persevering in My love and grace, “and My words abide in you,” by your faithfully observing My commandments—the surest test of love—then, you shall obtain all the blessings arising from your union and connexion with the vine. But, the means you must adopt to secure such, is prayer. “You shall ask whatever you will,” and, provided it be with the proper dispositions, as your union with the vine implies, “it shall be done unto you” (see 1 John 5:14, Commentary on). Instead of mentioning the blessings in detail, our Lord points out the source whence they are to come—prayer.

8. Another motive for them to adhere to Him by faith and love—they will, thus, advance the glory of God. The word, “glorified,” in the past, is put for the present.

“That you bring forth much fruit,” both in yourselves, by advancing in perfection and sanctification; and in others, by the conversion of the world to embrace the Gospel. This is more fully explained in the words, “So let your light shine before men,” etc. (Matthew 5:16).

“That you bring forth,” etc. “That,” is put for “if.” “IF you bring forth,” etc., “and become My disciples,” or followers, showing yourselves to be faithful imitators and followers of Me, by advancing more and more in perfection, through the continued performance of good works, especially by your zeal in preaching the Gospel and bringing about the conversion of the world.

9. Another motive for adhering to Him. “As the Father hath loved Me,” in an intense degree, conferring on My human nature, the sublime privilege of personal and hypostatic union with the Eternal Word, constituting Me the Redeemer of the human race,—“As,” implies, not equality, but similarity—

“I also have loved you,” with a similar love, choosing you, of My own gratuitous goodness, out of the rest of mankind to the exalted dignity of the Apostleship; thus, becoming my representatives, sharers in my power, in preaching the Gospel to the entire earth, making Jews and Gentiles, partakers of salvation.

Show, then, your gratitude and love for Me, by “abiding in My love,” persevering in the performance of good works; so that, in turn, My love may abide in you. Similar are the words of St. John, “because He loved us first, and sent His Son to be a propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). “Let us, therefore, love God, because God first hath loved us” (1 John 4:19).

Some Expositors (among them Maldonatus), say, that the words, “abide in My love,” instead of being a practical conclusion derived from the two foregoing sentences, “as the Father hath loved Me, I also have loved you, therefore abide in My love,” form rather the second member of the comparison, thus, “As the Father hath loved Me, and as, I also love you; so, do you abide in My love.”

10. “If you keep My commandments.” If we, aided by God’s grace, observe His commandments, which is the surest test of our love for Him, we shall secure a continuance of His abiding love for us as, by faithfully observing His Father’s commandments, our Lord secured a continuance of the love He shows Him as man.

11. Another motive for them to persevere in His love and the observance of His commandments. “That My joy be in you,” that the joy you cause Me, in seeing you as obedient, loving children, observe My commandments—thus, proving your love for Me—may continue, by your persevering in the observance of the same.

“And your joy,” at having so good a parent and such a benign, heavenly master, “may be fulfilled,” may merit its final consummation in eternal happiness. As branches would have cause to rejoice in being inserted in the vine, and in producing fruit on account of the aliment and vitality, the present stock imparts; so, the vine, in turn, would have cause to rejoice at seeing the abundant fruits produced, through its vivifying influence, by the branches.

Others understand the words thus: that the joy I feel from the prospect of the advancement of My Father’s glory and the salvation of man, through My instrumentality, “may be in you,” transfused and communicatad to you, My Apostles, and co-operators in the ministry.

“And your joy,” the joy imparted to you by Me, thus becoming “YOUR JOY,” “may be filled,” increased and strengthened in this life, amidst your sufferings and afflictions, and receive its full completion in the life to come.

12. Having spoken of the observance of His commandments, which He made the test of His love, and their abiding in His love (v. 10), He specifies one commandment peculiarly His own, viz., that they should “love one another.” He calls it “My commandment,” having already termed it a “new commandment” (13:34).

“As I have loved you.” Having inculcated love of one another, He points to His own example, as having Himself first done what He asks others to do; and thus, shows one leading characteristic of their mutual love. It should resemble His love for us, both as to the end, viz.: the enjoyment of God; the mode, involving the sacrifice of life itself for their salvation; a love, therefore, of unselfish disinterestedness, of self-sacrifice, not even excepting the sacrifice of life. The Apostles, therefore, and their successors, as well as all Christians, should exhibit this spirit of sacrifice. Their mutual co-operation would be their firmest support amidst trials and difficulties, and help them to overcome all obstacles. Hence, we are told (Proverbs 18:19), “a brother that is helped by a brother is like a strong city,” also (Ecclesiastes 4:12), “a threefold cord is not easily broken.”

13. He describes in general terms, with an implied special application to His own case, His love for them, referred to above, a love exhibiting self-sacrifice and disinterestedness in the highest degree, even involving the sacrifice of life for His friends. The greatest proof of love one friend can show for another is to die for him. Our Lord thus implicitly exhorts them to follow His example by being ready to sacrifice their lives, if necessary, for the salvation of their brethren.

St. Paul, in a special manner, extols the excessive charity of Christ in dying for us, when we were His enemies. That hardly comes in here; nor does our Lord intend the comparison to extend to death for our enemies. He is only speaking of the death of a friend for a friend, in which relation he here considers His Apostles. Our Lord died, no doubt, for His enemies; however, He rendered them friends by the effusion of His blood, and died for them as such. The Apostles, too, should be prepared, if they loved, as He did—so should all Christians—to sacrifice their temporal life for the eternal salvation of the souls of their brethren. Some understand the word, “friends,” of those loved by us, although they may not love us in turn, and may be, in a certain sense, our enemies.

14. When speaking of dying for friends, I refer to you, for whom as My friends I am about to sacrifice My life. But, in order to continue in My friendship permanently, I require it as a condition, that you return love for love, and persevere in the performance of “the things which I command you,” especially with reference to fraternal charity.

15. “I will not now,” on the eve of My departure from you, when I am disposed to show you special tenderness and affection, “call you servants.” The Greek is in the present, “I DO not call you,” or treat you as servants. “For the servant knoweth not what his master doth.” Servants are not usually made the depositaries of their masters’ secrets or designs. “What his master doth.” The master does not ordinarily—there may be exceptions—communicate to his servants his secret counsels, nor the end he may have in view in the performance of his actions. Not so, however, with Me, in your regard.

“But, I have called you friends.” I have treated you as friends, I have made you fully acquainted with My secret designs, made you My confidants. “All things whatever I have heard of My Father, I have made known to you.” All the counsels of God that are known to Me I have communicated to you, as far as was expedient, or as far as you were capable of receiving them and profiting by them. Although by nature and condition you are My servants; still, I treated you as My intimate friends, making known to you what I heard as ambassador from My Father, and not to the crowds or to the Scribes and Pharisees.

Our Lord told His Apostles, afterwards (16:12), there were some things they could not hear so as to profit by them. “I have many things to say to you; bat you cannot bear them now.” Hence, there would seem to be an apparent contradiction in saying here: “All things whatever I heard of My Father, I have made known,” etc. Some explain it, “all things,” expedient and profitable for you to know; “all things,” according to the measure of your capacity, or, which you could “bear.” Others, give the words a future signification. I shall make known to you, after a few days, when I shall send you the plenitude of My Spirit at Pentecost. Maldonatus interprets the words, “I have made known,” to mean, I have decreed to make known, just as it is said here, “the servant knoweth not what his master does,” (i.e.), is resolved on doing.

16. In order to point out the utter gratuitousness of their call to the high dignity of chosen friends and Apostles, and thus elicit their gratitude, and, perhaps, inspire them with due feelings of humility on account of the utter gratuitousness of their call, independently of any claim or merit on their part; He tells them.

“You have not chosen Me” (first), to be your friend and master; “but, I have chosen you.” I, first, by My preventing grace inspired you and enabled you to become My followers; and this of My own gratuitous free will and choice, “and have appointed you,” have firmly placed and immovably constituted you in your Apostolic office with authority of which no power can deprive you; “that you should go,” forth into the entire world to preach My Gospel, “and should bring forth fruit,” in your own sanctification and the conversion of the world. “And your fruit should remain,” in the successful conversion of the world and the sanctification of men, in this life, till the end of time; and in the life to come, in the enjoyment of everlasting happiness. He, thus, shows His love; and wishes, by placing before them the contemplation of the lofty dignity, to which He gratuitously raised them, to stimulate them to labour hard for the salvation of His people; as the fruit of their labour is to endure for ever.

“That whatsoever you shall ask of the Father.” “That,” expresses not the cause, since it was not for the purpose of obtaining requests, they were chosen, but the consequence. The consequence of their labouring so hard in His service will be, that they will be inspired with a firm confidence of obtaining from God, whatever they may ask “in My name,” that is to say, with the proper dispositions. It is to the grace of God, secured by prayer, that the success of their labours must be attributed. They may plant and may water; but He alone gives the increase (1 Cor. 3:6).

“He may give it you.” The Greek, δῶ, may be in the first person. “I may give,” as in (14:13) that I will do.

17. “These things,” etc., may mean, all My preceding mandates are summed up in this, “that you should love one another.” Or, My object in giving you the preceding instructions is not to upbraid you with want of love of Myself; but, simply to stimulate you to love one another, by submitting to all hardships and sacrifices for the salvation of your brethren, as I show My love for you.

18. Having inculcated mutual love for one another, which would stand as a powerful wall of defence against privations and trials, He now arms them against hatred and persecutions from the world. In the hatred and persecutions from the world now before them, He consoles them with the thought, that He, their chief and captain, had to endure similar trials. “The world,” the selfish lovers of the world, Jews and Gentiles, “hated Me before you.”

19. He consoles them with the further reflexion, that this hatred on the part of the world should be a source of joy and honour to them, since, it is a testimony, that in their lives, they conform not to the corrupt ways and maxims of the world. “The world would have loved its own.” Similarity of manners and of love is the cause of affection; dissimilarity, the cause of hatred and aversion (Aristotle in Ethics, St. Augustine and others).

“But, because you are not of the world.” Far from embracing and acting on the leading maxims of the world, viz., the concupiscence of the flesh, the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life. Far from loving riches, honours, and forbidden pleasures, you show the contrary.

“But I have chosen you out of the world,” calling you to My Faith and Apostleship, segregating you from the world, giving you grace and strength to trample under foot all that the world loves, and to value only the never-ending goods of the world to come. My spirit, My teaching, are opposed to the world. “Therefore, the world hateth you,” because opposed to their works. “Circumveniamus justum … contrarius est operibus nostris” (Wisdom 11:12).

20. “Remember My word that I spoke to you” (13:16; also, Matthew 10:24, 25). “The servant is not greater than his master,” and must be, therefore, prepared to endure the same treatment.

“If they persecuted Me,” as they have done, “they will,” etc. You must be prepared for the same unworthy treatment.

“If they kept My word,” by simply trampling it under foot, as you know they did; “they will keep yours also.” They will treat your instructions with similar indignity.

21. Rejoice that it is on My account, “for My name’s sake;” because you are My disciples and faithful, loving followers, you are thus treated. They treat you and Me thus, “because”—through their own fault and wilful blindness—“they knew not Him who sent Me.” They know not that I am the Son of the Eternal Father who sent Me into the world, though they should know it, from the many proofs I gave them. In persecuting you, therefore, and Me, they are warring against My Heavenly Father, at the same time.

22. Their incredulity is inexcusable. “Had I not come and spoken to them,” giving so many proofs of My Divinity and My mission from My Father, “they would not have sin”—that is, the sin of incredulity, although they might have other sins to answer for. The Pharisees and the Scribes before our Lord’s coming had faith in God and in the coming of Christ. But, after He came and gave so many proofs of His Divinity; they, by obstinately refusing to receive Him, wilfully closing their eyes against all evidence, lost the faith, owing to their obstinate incredulity. “Now, they have no excuse for their sin,” of incredulity, while blindly and obstinately rejecting Me, even the pretext of ignorance being taken away from them.

23. “He that hateth Me,” by rejecting My works, My doctrine, “hateth My Father also,” who sent Me. It is His words, His works, they reject; since we work in common, the Father and I being one. The contumely offered to the Legate is offered to Him whose Legate He is.

24. Having shown that they were inexcusable for not believing His words, He now shows how much more inexcusable they were for rejecting His Divine works.

“If I had not done among them,” in their very presence, “the works which no other man hath done,” both as to quality and number, done by My own innate power; such as none of the Prophets laid claim to, and this not unfrequently in attestation of My Divine power and equality with My Father; works, too, predicted Me by the ancient Prophets (Isaias 35:3).

“They would not have sin,” the sin of incredulity and black ingratitude.

“But now they have both seen.” The words, “My Father and Me,” are understood, and to be added. They have seen Me in the flesh, proving by stupendous miracles, that I am the Son of God. They have seen My Father also, since they should know that no one could perform the works I performed unless God were with him.

“And hated both Me and My Father,” by rejecting all faith in us, and shutting their eyes against the miracles wrought by us.

25. “But,” they hated us, so that as a consequence the words contained in their own inspired Scriptures are verified in their regard. “They hated Me without cause” (Psa. 34:19). These words were spoken by David of himself, in the first instance. But, in this he represented our Lord, respecting whom, these words, were verified in the person of David, as describing beforehand the hatred shown our Lord by the Jews. He wishes to convey, that their own inspired Scriptures had beforehand reproached the Jews with their gratuitous causeless hatred of Christ.

26. “But when the Paraclete cometh,” to be your comforter under all tribulations. He adds this, to let them know that, however the Jews may endeavour to palliate their hatred of Him (which hatred was predicted by the Prophet), under the plea of zeal for God, this mendacious pretext will not be allowed to pass. In due time, it shall be exposed and refuted.

“Whom I will send to you”—as proceeding from Me—“from the Father,” from whom, as well as from Me, jointly, He proceeds. “The Spirit of truth,” whose testimony, therefore, is beyond all doubt or question.

“Who proceedeth from the Father,” the great original fountain of the Divinity, who begot His Son equal to Him, in all things, by an eternal generation; the Holy Ghost equal in all things to the Father and the Son, proceeding from both by a common active spiration.

To the words “Who proceedeth from the Father,” our Lord omits adding and from Me; because, He was referring to the testimony of the Holy Ghost in favour of Himself. Hence, to avoid all suspicion, or rather, lest He might weaken His argument, He omits all mention of the procession of the Holy Ghost from Himself, as well as from the Father, though this procession is clearly contained in the words, “I will send.”

The error of the Greeks regarding the procession of the Holy Ghost from the Father only, receives no confirmation from this passage. For, the words, “whom I shall send you,” show, that He proceeds from the Son also.

“He will give testimony,” regarding My innocence, My Divinity. He will testify that I have given no cause of hatred to the Jews.

“Of Me,” as the Messiah, just and veracious, as consubstantial with the Father. This testimony He will bear by His miraculous descent on the Apostles, by the wonderful gifts to be bestowed on the infant Church, by the prodigies to be wrought by the Apostles and faithful men, at all ages of the Church.

27. “And you”—filled with the Holy Ghost—“will give testimony,” of My Divinity. The Greek for, “you will give,” will also bear an Imperative construction, thus: “Do you give testimony,” etc. The future Indicative is equivalent to the Imperative.

“Because, you are with Me from the beginning,” witnesses of My coming in and going out (Acts 1:21), and, therefore, entitled to all belief.








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