Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VII:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Lectures or Tractates on the Gospel...: Tractate LXVIII
on the same passage.
1. We acknowledge, beloved brethren, that we are owing you, and ought now to repay, what was left over for consideration, how we can understand that there is no real mutual contrariety between these two statements, namely, that after saying, “In my Fathers house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you, that I go to prepare a place for you;”—where He makes it clear enough that He said so to them for the very reason that there are many mansions there already, and there is no need of preparing any; 1261 —the Lord again says: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” How is it that He goes and prepares a place, if there are many mansions already? If there were not such, He would have said, “I go to prepare.” Or if the place has still to be prepared, would He not then also properly have said, “I go to prepare”? Are these mansions in existence already, and yet needing still to be prepared? For if they were not in existence, He would have said, “I go to prepare.” And yet, because their present state of existence is such as still to stand in need of preparation, He does not go to prepare them in the same sense as they already exist; but if He go and prepare them as they shall be hereafter, He will come again and receive His own to Himself: that where He is, there they may be also. How then are there mansions in the Fathers house, and these not different ones but the same, which already exist in a sense in which they can admit of no preparation, and yet do not exist, inasmuch as they are still to be prepared? How are we to think of this, but in the same way as the prophet, who also declares of God, that He has [already] made that which is yet to be. For he says not, Who will make what is yet to be, but, “Who has made what is yet to be.” 1262 Therefore He has both made such things and is yet to make them. For they have not been p. 323 made at all if He has not made them; nor will they ever be if He make them not Himself. He has made them therefore in the way of fore-ordaining them; He has yet to make them in the way of actual elaboration. Just as the Gospel plainly intimates when He chose His disciples, that is to say, at the time of His calling them; 1263 and yet the apostle says, “He chose us before the foundation of the world,” 1264 to wit, by predestination, not by actual calling. “And whom He did predestinate, them He also called;” 1265 He hath chosen by predestination before the foundation of the world, He chooses by calling before its close. And so also has He prepared those mansions, and is still preparing them and He who has already made the things which are yet to be, is now preparing, not different ones, but the very mansions He has already prepared: what He has prepared in predestination, He is preparing by actual working. Already, therefore, they are, as respects predestination; if it were not so, He would have said, I will go and prepare, that is, I will predestinate. But because they are not yet in a state of practical preparedness, He says, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself.”
2. But He is in a certain sense preparing the dwellings by preparing for them the dwellers. As, for instance, when He said, “In my Fathers house are many dwellings,” what else can we suppose the house of God to mean but the temple of God? And what that is, ask the apostle, and he will reply, “For the temple of God is holy, which [temple] ye are.” 1266 This is also the kingdom of God, which the Son is yet to deliver up to the Father; and hence the same apostle says, “Christ, the beginning, and then they that are Christs in His presence; then [cometh] the end, when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father;” 1267 that is, those whom He has redeemed by His blood, He shall then have delivered up to stand before His Fathers face. This is that kingdom of heaven whereof it is said, “The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man who sowed good seed in his field. But the good seed are the children of the kingdom;” and although now they are mingled with tares, at the end the King Himself shall send forth His angels, “and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” 1268 The kingdom will shine forth in the kingdom when [those that are] the kingdom shall have reached the kingdom; just as we now pray when we say, “Thy kingdom come.” 1269 Even now, therefore, already is the kingdom called, but only as yet being called together. For if it were not now called, it could not be then said, “They shall gather out of His kingdom everything that offends.” But the realm is not yet reigning. Accordingly it is already so far the kingdom, that when all offences shall have been gathered out of it, it shall then attain to sovereignty, so as to possess not merely the name of a kingdom, but also the power of government. For it is to this kingdom, standing then at the right hand, that it shall be said in the end, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, receive the kingdom;” 1270 that is, ye who were the kingdom, but without the power to rule, come and reign; that what you formerly were only in hope, you may now have the power to be in reality. This house of God, therefore, this temple of God, this kingdom of God and kingdom of heaven, is as yet in the process of building, of construction, of preparation, of assembling. In it there will be mansions, even as the Lord is now preparing them; in it there are such already, even as the Lord has already ordained them.
3. But why is it that He went away to make such preparation, when, as it is certainly we ourselves that are the subjects in need of preparation, His doing so will be hindered by leaving us behind? I explain it, Lord, as I can: it was surely this Thou didst signify by the preparation of those mansions, that the just ought to live by faith. 1271 For he who is sojourning at a distance from the Lord has need to be living by faith, because by this we are prepared for beholding His countenance. 1272 For “blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God;” 1273 and “He purifieth their hearts by faith.” 1274 The former we find in the Gospel, the latter in the Acts of the Apostles. But the faith by which those who are yet to see God have their hearts purified, while sojourning at a distance here, believeth what it doth not see; for if there is sight, there is no longer faith. Merit is accumulating now to the believer, and then the reward is paid into the hand of the beholder. Let the Lord then go and prepare us a place; let Him go, that He may not be seen; and let Him remain concealed, that faith may be exercised. For then is the place preparing, if it is by faith we are living. Let the believing in that place be desired, that the place desired may itself be possessed; the longing of love is the preparation of the mansion. Prepare thus, Lord, p. 324 what Thou art preparing; for Thou art preparing us for Thyself, and Thyself for us, inasmuch as Thou art preparing a place both for Thyself in us, and for us in Thee. For Thou hast said, “Abide in me, and I in you.” 1275 As far as each one has been a partaker of Thee, some less, some more, such will be the diversity of rewards in proportion to the diversity of merits; such will be the multitude of mansions to suit the inequalities among their inmates; but all of them, none the less, eternally living, and endlessly blessed. Why is it that Thou goest away? Why is it Thou comest again? If I understand Thee aright, Thou withdrawest not Thyself either from the place Thou goest from, or from the place Thou comest from: Thou goest away by becoming invisible, Thou comest by again becoming manifest to our eyes. But unless Thou remainest to direct us how we may still be advancing in goodness of life, how will the place be prepared where we shall be able to dwell in the fullness of joy? Let what we have said suffice on the words which have been read from the Gospel as far as “I will come again, and receive you to myself.” But the meaning of what follows, “That where I am, there ye may be also; and whither I go ye know, and the way ye know,” we shall be in a better condition—after the question put by the disciple, that follows, and which we also may be putting, as it were, through him—for hearing, and more suitably situated for making the subject of our discourse.
The apparent contrariety that Augustin here deals with, partly arises from a mistaken interpretation of the second half of verse 2, as given above. His Latin version read, si quo minus, dixissem vobis quia vado,etc., and is a close verbal rendering of the original text, as found in several mss.,—εἰ δὲ μὴ, εἶπον ἂν ὑμῖν, ὅτι πορεύομαι,—although some others omit the ὅτι. But while verbally exact, grammatical accuracy and a fair exegesis will admit of a pause after ὑμῖν (vobis), as the general sense of the passage requires. ῞Οτι might thus be used in the sense of “because;” or, as it often is, as a particle introducing a direct statement.—Tr.322:1262
Isa. xlv. 11, according to the Septuagint, whose reading, as usual, is followed by Augustin, although here a very manifest mistranslation of the Hebrew. The words are, “Thus saith Jehovah, the Holy One of Israel (ויצּרו האיתות שאלוני) and his Maker, Ask me of things to come,” etc. This is the rendering really in accordance with the usual Hebrew idiom, with the sense of the passage itself, and with the frequent use of Yotser (Maker) by Isaiah. It is that also approved by the Masoretic pointing, and followed generally by the other translations, including the Vulgate, which has: plastes ejus: ventura interrogate me, etc. The LXX., however, make haothiyyoth dependent on yotsro (notwithstanding its own suffix), instead of the verb that follows, and reads, ὁ ποιήσας (αὐτὸν in some copies) τὰ ἐπερχόμενα, which Augustin renders in the text: qui fecit quæ futura sunt.—Tr.323:1263
Luke vi. 13.323:1264
Eph. i. 4.323:1265
Rom. viii. 30.323:1266
1 Cor. iii. 17.323:1267
1 Cor. 15:23, 24.323:1268
Matt. 13:24, 38.323:1269
Matt. vi. 10.323:1270
Matt. xxv. 34.323:1271
Rom. i. 17.323:1272
2 Cor. v. 6-8.323:1273
Matt. v. 8.323:1274
Acts xv. 9.324:1275
Next: Tractate LXIX
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