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Wherein Gregory, having in the Preface set forth in few words that the letter of Scripture is at times at variance with itself, and that the imprecations of Job, as of Jeremiah and David, cannot be understood without absurdity according to the sound which they convey, explains the words of Job in historical, mystical, and moral sense, from the commencement of the third chapter to the twentieth verse of the same.




HE who looks to the text and does not acquaint himself with the sense of the holy Word, is not so much furnishing himself with instruction as bewildering himself in uncertainty, in that the literal words sometimes contradict themselves; but whilst by their oppositeness they stand at variance with themselves, they direct the reader to a truth that is to be understood.  Thus, how is it that Solomon says, There is nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink; [Ecc. 2. 24] and adds not long after, It is better to go to the house if mourning than to the house of feasting? [Ecc. 7, 2]  Wherefore did he prefer mourning to feasting, who had before commended eating and drinking?  for if by preference it be good ‘to eat and drink,’ undoubtedly it should be a much better thing to hasten to the house of mirth than to the house of mourning.  Hence it is that he says again, Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; [Ecc. 11, 9] yet adds a little after, for youth and pleasure are vanity. [ver. 10. Vulg.]  What does this mean, that he should either first enjoin practices that are reprehensible, or afterwards reprehend practices that he has enjoined, but that by the literal words themselves he implies that be, who finds difficulty in the outward form, should consider the truth to be understood, which same import of truth, while it is sought with humility of heart, is penetrated by continuance in reading.  For as we see the face of strange persons, and know nothing of their hearts, but if we are joined to them in familiar communication, by frequency of conversation we even trace their very thoughts; so when in Holy Writ the historical narration alone is regarded, nothing more than the face is seen.  But if we unite ourselves to it with frequent assiduity, then indeed we penetrate its meaning, as if by the effect of a familiar intercourse.  For whilst we gather various truths from various parts, we easily see in the words thereof that what they import is one thing, what they sound like is another.  But everyone proves a stranger to the knowledge of it, in proportion as he is tied down to its mere outside.




See here, for instance, in that blessed Job is described as having cursed his day, and said, Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived; [Job 3, 3] if we look no further than the surface, what can we find more reprehensible than these words?  But who does not know that the day, in which he was born, could not at that time be in existence, for it is the condition of time to have no stay of continuance.  For whereas by way of the future it is ever tending to be, so in going out by the past, it is ever hastening not to be. Wherefore then should one so great curse that, which he is not ignorant hath no existence?  But perchance it may be said, that the magnitude of his virtue is seen from hence, that he, being disturbed by tribulation, imprecates a curse upon that, which it is evident has no existence at all.  But this notion is set aside the moment the reasonableness of the thing is regarded, for if the object existed, which he cursed, it was a mischievous curse; but if it had no being, it was an idle one: but whoso is filled with His Spirit, Who declareth, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the Day of Judgment; [Matt. 12, 36] fears to be guilty of what is idle, even as of what is mischievous.  To this sentence it is further added, Let that day be turned into darkness; let not God regard it from above, neither let the light shine upon it.  Let darkness and the shadow of death stain it; let a cloud dwell upon it; let it be enfolded in bitterness.  As for that night, let darkness seize upon it.  Lo, let that night be solitary, let no joyful voice come therein: let it look for light, and have none; neither let it see the dawning of the day.  How is it that that day, which he knows to have gone by with the flight of time, is said ‘to be turned into darkness?’  And whereas it is plain that it has no existence, wherefore is it wished for that ‘the shadow of death might stain it?’ or what cloud dwells upon it, what envelopement of bitterness enfolds it?  or what darkness seizes upon that night, which no stay holds in being?  Or how is it desired that that may be solitary, which in passing away had already become nought?  Or how does that look for the light, which both lacks perception, and doth not continue in any stay of its own self?  To these words he yet further adds,

Why died I not from the womb?  why did I not give up the ghost when I came out of the belly?  Why did the knees prevent me?  or why the breasts that I should suck?  For now I should have lain still and have been quiet, I should have slept, and been at rest. [Job 3, 11-13]




If he had died at once from the womb, would he have got by this very destruction a title to a reward?  Do abortive children enjoy eternal rest?  For every man that is not absolved by the water of regeneration, is tied and bound by the guilt of the original bond.  But that which the water of Baptism avails for with us, this either faith alone did of old in behalf of infants, or, for those of riper years, the virtue of sacrifice, or, for all that came of the stock of Abraham, the mystery of circumcision.  For that every living being is conceived in the guilt of our first parent the Prophet witnesses, saying, And in sin hath my mother conceived me. [Ps.51, 5]  And that he who is not washed in the water of salvation, does not lose the punishment of original sin, Truth plainly declares by Itself in these words, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. [John 3, 5]  How is it then, that he wishes that he had ‘died in the womb,’ and that he believes that he might have had rest by the boon of that death, whereas it is clear that the rest of life could in no wise be for him, if the Sacraments of Divine knowledge had in no wise set him free from the guilt of original sin?  He yet further adds with whom he might have rested, saying, With kings and counsellors of the earth which built desolate [Vulg. solitudines] places for themselves.  Who does not know that the kings and counsellors of the earth are herein far removed from ‘solitude,’ that they are close pressed with innumerable throngs of followers?  and with what difficulty do they advance to rest, who are bound in with the tightened knots of such multifarious concerns!  As Scripture witnesses, where it says, But mighty men shall be mightily tormented. [Wisd. 6, 6]  Hence Truth utters these words in the Gospel; unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much be required. [Luke 12, 48]  He implies besides, whom he would have had as fellows in that rest, in the words, Or with princes that had gold, that filled their houses with silver. [Matt. 19, 23]  It is a rare thing for them that have gold to advance to rest, seeing that Truth saith by Itself, They that have riches shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. [Mark 10, 23]  For what joys in the other life can they look for, who here pant after increase of riches?  Yet that our Redeemer might further shew this event to be most rare, and only possible by the supernatural agency of God, He saith, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible. [Matt. 19, 26] Therefore because these words are, on the surface, at variance with reason, the letter itself thereby points out, that in those words the Saint delivers nothing after the letter.




But if we shall first examine the nature of other curses in Holy Writ, we may the more perfectly trace out the import of this one, which was uttered by the mouth of blessed Job.  For how is it that David, who to those that rewarded him evil, returned it not again, upon Saul and Jonathan falling in war, curses the mountains of Gilboa in the following words, Ye mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew, neither let there be rain upon you, nor fields of offerings; for there the shield of Saul is vilely cast away, as though he had not been anointed with oil? [2 Sam. 1, 21]  How is it that Jeremiah, seeing that his preaching was hindered by the hardness of his hearers, utters a curse, saying, Cursed be the man, who brought tidings to my father, saying, A man child is born unto thee? [Jer. 20. 15]  What then did the mountains of Gilboa offend when Saul died, that neither dew nor rain should fall on them, and that the words of his sentence against them should make them barren of all produce of verdure?  Why, forasmuch as Gilboa is by interpretation ‘running down,’ while by Saul’s anointing and dying, the death of our Mediator is set forth, by the mountains of Gilboa we have no unfit representation of the uplifted hearts of the Jews, who, while they let themselves run down in the pursuit of the desires of this world, were mingled together in the death of Christ, i.e. of 'the Anointed.’  And because in them the anointed King dies the death of the body, they too are left dry of all the dew of grace; of whom also it is well said, that they cannot be fields of first fruits.  Because the high minds of the Hebrews bear no ‘first fruits;’ in that at the coming of our Redeemer, persisting for the most part in unfaithfulness, they would not follow the first beginnings of the faith; for Holy Church, which for her first fruits was enriched with the multitude of the Gentiles, scarcely at the end of the world will receive into her bosom the Jews, whom she may find, and gathering none but the last, will put them as the remnant of her fruits.  Of which very remnant Isaiah hath these words, For though thy people Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, yet a remnant of them shall return. [Is. 10, 22]  However, the mountains of Gilboa may for this reason be cursed by the Prophet's mouth, that whilst, the land being dried up, no fruit is produced, the possessors of the land might be stricken with the woe of that barrenness, so that they might themselves receive the sentence of the curse, who had obtained as the just reward of their iniquities to have the death of the King take place among them.  But how is it that, from the lips of the Prophet, that man received the sentence of cursing, who brought to his father the tidings of his birth?  Doubtless this is so much the more full of deeper mystery within, as it lacks human reason without.  For perchance, if it had sounded at all reasonable without, we should never have been kindled to the pursuit of the interior meaning; and thus he the more fully implies something within, that he shews nothing that is reasonable without.  For though the Prophet had come into this world from his mother's womb to be the subject of affliction, in what did the messenger of his birth do wrong?  But what does the person of the Prophet represent ‘carried hither and thither [fluctuantis]’ except the mutability of man, which came by the dues of punishment, is thereby signified?  and what is expressed by his ‘father’ but this world whereof we are born?  And who is that man, who ‘bring tidings of our birth to our father,’ saving our old enemy, who, when he views us fluctuating in our thoughts, prompts the evil minded, who by virtue of this world's authority have the preeminence, to persuading us to our undoing, and who, when he has beheld us doing acts of weakness, commends these with applause [favoribus] as brave, and tells as it were of male children being born, when he gives joy that we have turned out corrupters of the truth by lying?  He gives tidings to the father that a man child is born, when he shews the world him, whom he has prevailed with, turned into a corrupter of innocence.  For when it is said to any one committing a sin or acting proudly, ‘Thou hast acted like a man,’ what else is this than that a man child is told of in the world?  Justly then is the man cursed, who brings tidings of the birth of a man child; because his tidings betoken the damnable joy of our corrupter.  Thus by these imprecations of Holy Scripture we learn what, in the case of blessed Job, we are to look for in his words of imprecation, lest he, whom God rewards after these wounds and these words, should be presumptuously condemned by the mistaken reader for his words.  As then we have in some sort cleared the points, which were to be the objects of our enquiry in the preface, let us now proceed to discuss and to follow on the words of the historical form.




Ver. 1, 2, 3.  After this Job opened his mouth, and cursed his day, And Job spake, and said, Let the day perish wherein I was born.




1.  That which is here said, He opened his mouth, must not be gone into negligently.  For by the things which Holy Scripture premises but slightly, we are apprised that what comes after is to be expected with reverence.  For as we know nothing what vessels that are closed contain inside, but when the mouth of the vessels is opened, we discover what is contained within; so the hearts of the Saints, which so long as their mouth is closed are hidden, when their mouth is opened, are disclosed to view.  And when they disclose their thoughts, they are said to open their mouth, that with the full bent of our mind we may hasten to find out, as in vessels that are set open, what it is that they contain, and to refresh ourselves with their inmost fragrance.  And hence when the Lord was about to utter His sublime precepts on the Mount, the words precede, And He opened His mouth, and taught them; [Matt. 5, 2] though in that place this too should be taken as the meaning, that He then opened His own mouth in delivering precepts, wherein He had long while opened the mouths of the Prophets.  But it requires very great nicety in considering the expression, After this, namely, in order that the excellence of all that is done may be perceived in its true light by the time.  For first we have described the wasting of his substance, the destruction of his children, the pain of his wounds, the persuasions of his wife, the coming of his friends, who are related to have rent their garments, to have shed tears with loud cries, to have sprinkled their heads with dust, and to have sat upon the ground for long in silence, and afterwards it is acded, After this Job opened his mouth, and cursed his day; clearly that from the very order of the account, duly weighed, it might be concluded that he could never have uttered a curse in a spirit of impatience, who broke forth into a voice of cursing whilst his friends were as yet silent.  For if he had cursed under the influence of passion, doubtless upon hearing of the loss of his substance, and upon hearing the death of his sons, his grief would have prompted him to curse.  But what he then said, we have heard before.  For he said, The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away. [Job 1, 21]  Again, if he had cursed under the impulse of passion, he might well have uttered a curse when he was stricken in his body, or when he was mischievously advised by his wife.  But what answer he then gave we have already learnt; for he says, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh.  What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? [Job 2, 10]  But after this it is set forth that his friends arrive, shed tears, seat themselves, keep silence, whereupon this is immediately subjoined, that he is said to have cursed his day.  It is, then, too great an inconsistency to imagine that it was from impatience that he broke out into a voice of cursing, no man setting him on, no man driving him thereto, when we know that amidst the loss of all his goods, and the death of his children, amidst bodily afflictions, the evil counsels of his wife, he only gave great acknowledgments to his Creator with a humble mind.  It is plain, then, with what feelings he spoke this when he was at rest, who even when stricken uttered such a strain of praise to God.  For afterwards, when no longer stricken, he could not be guilty of pride, whom even his pain under the rod only shewed to be full of humility.  But as we know for certain that holy Scripture forbids cursing, how can we say that that is sometimes done aright, which yet we know to be forbidden by the same Holy Writ?  


2.  But be it known that Holy Writ makes mention of cursing in two ways, namely, of one sort of curse which it commands, another sort which it condemns.  For a curse is uttered one way by the decision of justice, in another way by the malice of revenge.  Thus a curse was pronounced by the decree of justice upon the first man himself, when he fell into sin, and heard the words, Cursed is the ground for thy sake. [Gen. 3, 17]  A curse is pronounced by decree of justice, when it is said to Abraham, I will curse them that curse thee.  Again, forasmuch as a curse may be uttered, not by award of justice, but by the malice of revenge, we have this admonition from the voice of Paul the Apostle in his preaching, where he says, Bless, and curse not; [Rom. 12, 14] and again, nor revilers shall inherit the kingdom of God. [1 Cor. 6, 10]  So then God is said to curse, and yet man is forbidden to curse, because what man does from the malice of revenge, God only does in the exactness and perfection of justice.  But when holy men deliver a sentence of cursing, they do not break forth therein from the wish of revenge, but in the strictness of justice, for they behold God's exact judgment within, and they perceive that they are bound to smite evils arising without with a curse; and are guilty of no sin in cursing, in the same degree that they are not at variance with the interior judgment.


It is hence that Peter flung back the sentence of a curse upon Simon when he offered him money, in the words, May thy money perish with thee; [Acts 8, 20] for he who said, not does, but may, shewed that he spoke this, not in the indicative, but in the optative mood.  Hence Elias said to the two captains of fifty that came to him, If I be a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee. [2 Kings 1, 10]  And upon what reasonable grounds of truth the sentences of either of the two were established, the issue of the case demonstrated.  For both Simon perished in eternal ruin, and fire descending from above consumed the two captains of fifty.  Thus the subsequent miracle [virtus] testifies with what mind the sentence of the curse is pronounced.  For when both the innocence of him that curseth remains, and he that is cursed is by that curse swallowed up to the extent of utter destruction, from the end of either side we collect, that the sentence is taken up and launched against the offender from the sole Judge of what is within.


3.  Therefore if we weigh with exactness the words of blessed Job, his cursing cometh not of the malice of one guilty of sin, but of the integrity of a judge, not of one agitated by passion, but of one sober in instruction; for he, who in cursing pronounced such righteous sentence, did not give way to the evil of perturbation of mind, but dispensed the dictates of wisdom.  For, in fact, he saw his friends weeping and wailing, he saw them rending their garments, he saw how they had sprinkled their heads with dust, he saw them struck dumb at the thought of his affliction; and the Saint perceived that those whose hearts were set upon temporal prosperity, took him, by a comparison with their own feelings, for one brokenhearted with his temporal adversity.  He considered that they would never be weeping for him in despair, who was stricken with a transient ill, except they had themselves withdrawn their soul in despair from the hope of inward soundness; and while he outwardly burst forth into the voice of grief, he shewed to persons inwardly wounded the virtue of a healing medicine, saying,

Ver. 3.  Let the day perish wherein was born.


4.  For what is to be understood by ‘the day of our birth,’ save the whole period of our mortal state?  So long as this keeps us fast in the corruptions of this our mutable state of being, the unchangeableness of eternity does not appear to us.  He, then, who already beholds the day of eternity, endures with difficulty the day of his mortal being.  And observe, he saith not, ‘Let the day perish wherein I was created,’ but, let the day perish wherein I was born.  For man was created in a day of righteousness, but now he is born in a time of guilt; for Adam was created, but Cain was the first man that was born.  What then is it to curse the day of his birth, but to say plainly, ‘May the day of change perish, and the light of eternity burst forth?’


5.  But inasmuch as we are used to bid perish in two ways, (for it is in one way that we bid perish, when we desire to any thing that it should no longer be, and in another way that we bid it perish, when we desire that it should be ill therewith,) the words that are added concerning this day, Let a cloud dwell upon it: let it be enveloped in bitterness [Vulg.]; clearly shew, that he wishes not this day to perish in such sort as not to be, but so that it may go ill with it; for that can never be ‘enveloped in bitterness,’ which is so wholly destroyed as not to be at all.  Now this period of our mutable condition is not one day to perish, (i.e. to pass away,) in such a way, as to be in an evil plight, but so as to cease to be altogether, as the Angel bears witness in Holy Writ, saying, By Him that liveth for ever and ever, that there should be time no longer. [Rev. 10, 6]  For though the Prophet hath it, Their time shall endure for ever [Ps. 81, 15], yet because time comes to an end with every moment, he designated their coming to an end by the name of ‘time,’ shewing that without every way ending they come to an end, that are severed from the joys of the inward Vision.  Therefore because this period of our mortal condition does not so perish as to be in evil plight, but so as not to be at all, we must enquire what it means that he desires it may perish, not so that it may not be, but that it may be in ill condition.  Now a human soul, or an Angelic spirit, is in such sort immortal, that it is capable of dying, in such sort mortal, that it can never die.  For of living happily, it is deprived whether by sin or by punishment; but its essential living it never loses, either by sin or punishment: it ceases from a mode of living, but it is not even by dying susceptible of an end to every mode of being.  So that I might say in a word, that it is both immortally mortal, and mortally immortal.  Whereas then he wishes that the day may perish, and soon after it is said that it is ‘to be enveloped in bitterness,’ whom should we think the holy man would express by the name of ‘day,’ except the Apostate Spirit, who in dying subsists in the life of essential being?  Whom destruction does not withdraw from life, in that in the midst of pains eternal an immortal death kills, while it preserves, him whose perishing, fallen as he is already from the glory of his state of bliss, is still longed for no otherwise than that being held back by the punishments, which he deserves, he may lose even the liberty of tempting.


6.  Yea, he presents himself as the day, in that he allures by prosperity; and his end is in the blackness of night, for that he leads to adversity; thus he displayed day when he said, In the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as Gods; [Gen. 3, 5] but he brought on night, when he led to the blackness of mortality; the day, therefore, is the proffered promise of better things, but the night is the very manifested experience of evils.  The old enemy is the day, as by nature created good, but he is the night, as by his own deserts sunk down into darkness.  He is day, when by promising good things he disguises himself as an Angel of light to the eyes of men, as Paul witnesses, saying, For Satan himself is transformed as an angel of light; [2 Cor. 11, 14] but he is night, when he obscures the minds of those that consent to him with the darkness of error.  Well then may the holy man, who in his own sorrows bewailed the case of the whole human race, and who viewed nothing in any wise special to himself in his own special affliction, well may he recal to mind the original cause of sin, and soften the pain of the infliction by considering its justice.  Let him look at man, and see whence and whither he has fallen, and exclaim, Let the day perish wherein he was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived.  As if he said in plain words, ‘Let the hope perish, which the apostate Angel held forth, who, disguising himself as day, shone forth with the promise of a divine nature, but yet again shewing himself as night, brought a cloud over the light of our immortal nature.  Let our old enemy perish, who displayed the light of promises, and bestowed the darkness of sin; who as it were presented himself as day by his flattery, but led us to a night of utter darkness by sealing our hearts with blindness.’  It proceeds;

Ver. 4.  Let that day be turned into darkness.




7.  This day shines as it were in the hearts of men, when the persuasions of his wickedness are thought to be for our good, and what they are within is never seen; but when his wickedness is seen as it is, the day of false promises is as it were dimmed by a kind of darkness spread before the eyes of our judgment, in this respect, that such as he is in intrinsic worth, such he is perceived to be in his beguilement, and so ‘the day becomes darkness,’ when we take as adverse even the very things, which he holds out as advantageous whilst persuading them.  ‘The day becomes darkness,’ when our old enemy, even when lurking under the cloak of his blandishments, is perceived by us to be such as he is when ravening after us, that he may never mock us with feigned prosperity, as though by the light of day, dragging us by real misery to the darkness of sin.  It proceeds;

Let not God regard it from above, neither let the light shine upon it.




8.  As Almighty God was able to create good things out of nothing, so, when He would, He also restored the good things that were lost, by the mystery of His Incarnation.  Now he had made two creations to contemplate Himself, viz. the Angelic and the human, but Pride smote both, and dashed them from the erect station of native uprightness.  But one had the clothing of the flesh, the other bore no infirmity derived from the flesh.  For an angelical being is spirit alone, but man is both spirit and flesh.  Therefore when the Creator took compassion to work redemption, it was meet that He should bring back to Himself that creature, which, in the commission of sin, plainly had something of infirmity; and it was also meet that the apostate Angel should be driven down to a farther depth, in proportion as he, when he fell from resoluteness in standing fast, carried about him no infirmity of the flesh.  And hence the Psalmist, when he was telling of the Redeemer's compassionating mankind, at the same time justly set forth the cause itself of His mercy, in these words, And he remembered that they were but flesh [Ps. 78, 39].  As if he said, ‘Whereas He beheld their infirmities, so He would not punish their offences with severity.’  There is yet another respect wherein it was both fitting that man when lost should be recovered, and impossible for the spirit that set himself up to be recovered, namely, in that the Angel fell by his own wickedness, but the wickedness of another brought man down.  Forasmuch then as mankind is brought to the light of repentance by the coming of the Redeemer, but the apostate Angel is not recalled by any hope of pardon, or with any amendment of conversion, to the light of a restored estate, it may well be said, Let not God regard it from above, neither let the light shine upon it.  As though it were plainly expressed, ‘For that he hath himself brought on the darkness, let him bear without end what himself has made, nor let him ever recover the light of his former condition, since he parted with it even without being persuaded thereto.’  It goes on;

Let darkness and the shadow of death stain it.




9.  By ‘the shadow of death,’ we must understand ‘oblivion,’ for as death ends life, so oblivion puts an end to memory.  As therefore the apostate Angel is delivered over to eternal oblivion, he is overclouded with the shadow of death.  Therefore let him say, Let darkness and the shadow of death stain it; i.e. ‘So let him be overwhelmed with the blindness of error, that he never more rise up again to the light of repentance by recollection of God's regard.  The words follow;

Let a cloud dwell upon it [Vulg.]:  and let it be enveloped in bitterness.




10.  It is one thing that our old enemy suffers now, bound by the chains of his own wickedness, and another that he will have to suffer at the end.  For in that he is fallen from the rank of the interior light, he now confounds himself within with the darkness of error; and hereafter he is involved in bitterness, in that by desert of a voluntary blindness, he is tortured with the eternal torments of hell.  Let it be said then, ‘What is it that he, who has lost the calm of the light interior, now endures as the foretaste of his final punishment?  Let a cloud dwell upon it.  Moreover let that subsequent doom be added also, which preys upon him without end.’  Let him be folded up in bitterness; for every thing folded up, shews, as it were, no end any where, for as it shews not where it begins, so neither does it discover where it leaves off.  The old enemy then is said to be folded up in bitterness, in that not only every kind of punishment, but punishment too without end or limit awaits his Pride; which same doom then receives its beginning when the righteous Judge cometh at the last Judgment; and hence it is well added,

Ver. 6.  As for that night, let a dark whirlwind seize upon it.




11.  For it is written, Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence; a fire shall devour before Him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about Him. [Ps. 50, 3]  Thus [Vulg. tenebrosusturbo] a dark whirlwind seizes upon that night, in that the apostate Angel is by that fearful tempest carried off from before the strict Judge to suffer eternal woe; thus this night is seized by a whirlwind, in that his blind Pride is smitten with a strict visitation.  It goes on;

Let it not be joined unto the days of the year; let it not come into the number of the months.




12.  By year we understand not inapplicably the preaching of supreme grace.  For as in a year the period is completed by a connected series of days, so in heavenly grace is a complex life of virtue made complete.  By a year too we may understand the multitude of the redeemed.  For as the year is produced by a number of days, so by the assemblage of all the righteous there results that countless sum of the Elect.  Now Isaiah foretells this year of a completed multitude, in these words; The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because the Lord hath anointed Me to preach good tidings unto the meek: He hath sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord [Is. 61, 1].  For ‘the acceptable year of the Lord is proclaimed,’ in that the future multitude of the faithful is foretold as destined to be illumined with the light of truth.  Now what is meant by ‘the days,’ but the several minds of the Elect?  What by the months, but their several Churches, which constitute one Catholic Church?  So then let not that night be joined unto the days of the year, neither let it come into the number of the months.  For our old enemy, hemmed in with the darkness of his pride, sees indeed the coming of the Redeemer, but never returns to pardon with the Elect.  And hence it is written, For verily He took not on Him the nature of Angels, but He took on Him the seed of Abraham [Heb. 2, 16].  For it was on this account that our Redeemer was made not Angel, but Man, because He must needs be made of the same nature as that which He redeemed, that He might at once let go the lost angel, by not taking his nature, and restore man, by taking his nature in Himself.  These days, which abide in the interior light, may also be taken for the angelic spirits, and the months, for their orders and dignities.  For every single spirit, in that he shines, is a ‘day,’ but as they are distinguished by certain set dignities, so that there are some that are Thrones, some Dominions, some Principalities, and some Powers, according to this distribution of ranks, they are entitled ‘months.’  But forasmuch as our old enemy is never brought back to merit light, and is never restored to the order of the ranks above, he is neither reckoned in the days of the year, nor in the months.  For the blindness of the pride that he has been guilty of is so settled upon him, that he no more returns to those heavenly ranks of interior brightness.  He no longer now mixes with the ranks of light that stand firm and erect, for that, in due of his own darkness, he is ever borne downwards to the depth.  And for that he remains for ever an alien to the company of that heavenly land, it is yet further justly added,

Ver. 7.  Lo, let that night be solitary, let it be worthy of no praise.




13.  That night is made solitary, in that it is divided by an eternal separation from the company of the land above. Yet this may be also taken in another sense, viz. that he loses man, whom he had made his fellow in ruin, and that the enemy perishes alone together with his body [i.e. the wicked], while many that he had destroyed are restored by the Redeemer's grace.  The night then is made solitary, when they that are Elect being raised up, our old enemy is made over alone to the eternal flames of hell.  And it is well said, Let it be worthy of no praise.  For when mankind, encompassed with the darkness of error, took stones for gods, in this, that they worshipped idols, what else did they but praise the deeds of their seducer?  Hence Paul rightly remarks, We know that an idol is nothingBut I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils. [1 Cor. 8, 4; 10, 20]  How else then is it with those that have bowed themselves to the worship of idols, but that they have ‘praised the darkness of night?’  But, lo! we see now that that night is known to be unworthy ‘of any praise,’ since now the worship of idols is condemned by the human race redeemed; and that ‘night is left solitary',’ in that there is none that goeth with the damned apostate spirit to suffer torments.  It proceeds;

Ver. 8.  Let them curse it that curse the day, that are ready to rouse up Leviathan.




14.  In the old translation it is not so written, but, Let him curse it that hath cursed the day, even him who shall take the great whale [so LXX].  By which words it is clearly shewn, that the destruction of Antichrist, to be at the end of the world, is foreseen by the holy man.  For the evil spirit, who by rights is night, at the end of the world passes himself for the day, in that he shews himself to men as God, while he takes to himself deceitfully the brightness of the Deity, and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped. [2 Thess. 2, 4]  The same therefore that curseth the day, curseth the night; in that He at this present time destroys his wickedness, Who will then by the light of His coming also extinguish the power of his strength.  And hence it is well subjoined, Who will take the great whale.  For the strength of this whale is taken as a prey in the water, in that the wiliness of our old enemy is overcome by the Sacrament of Baptism.


15.  But that which in the Old Translation is spoken of the Author of all things, in this translation, which we get from the Hebrew and Arabian tongues, is related of His elect Angels.  For it is of them that it is said, Let them curse it that curse the day.  For that spirit in his pride desired to pass himself for day even with the Angelic Powers, at that time when as though in the power of the Deity he exalted himself above the rest, and drew after him such countless legions to destruction.  But they, truly, who with humble spirits stood firm in the Author of their being, when they saw there was night in his perverse ways; trod under foot the day of his brightness by thinking humbly of themselves, who do now point out to us the darkness of his disguise, and shew us how we should contemn his false glare. So let it be said of the night of darkness, which blinds the eyes of human frailty; Let them curse it that curse the day; i.e. ‘Let those elect Spirits by condemning denounce the darkness of his erring ways, who see the grandeur of his shining already from the first a deceit.’  And it is well added, Who are ready to rouse up [Vulg. thus] Leviathan.  For ‘Leviathan’ is interpreted to be ‘their addition.’  Whose ‘addition,’ then, but the ‘addition’ of men?  And it is properly styled ‘their addition;’ for since by his evil suggestion he brought into the world the first sin, he never ceases to add to it day by day by prompting to worse things.


Or indeed it is in reproach that he is called Leviathan, i.e. styled ‘the addition of men.’  For he found them immortal in Paradise, but by promising the Divine nature to immortal beings, he as it were pledged himself to add somewhat to them beyond what they were.  But whilst with flattering lips he declared that he would give what they had not, he robbed them cunningly even of what they had.  And hence the [al. The Lord by the P.] Prophet describes this same Leviathan in these words, Leviathan, the bar-serpent [Vulg. serpentem vectem]: even Leviathan that crooked serpent.  For this Leviathan in the thing, which he engaged to add to man, crept nigh to him with tortuous windings; for while he falsely promised things impossible, he really stole away even those which were possible, But we must enquire why he that had spoken of ‘a serpent,’ subjoining in that very place the epithet ‘crooked,’ inserted the word ‘bar,’ except perhaps that in the flexibility of the serpent we have a yielding softness, and in ‘the bar,’ the hardness of an obstinate nature.  In order then to mark him to be both hard and soft, he both calls him ‘a bar’ and ‘a serpent.’  For by his malicious nature he is hard, and by his flatteries he is soft; so he is called ‘a bar [E.V. Piercing],’ in that he strikes even to death; and ‘a serpent,’ in that he insinuates himself softly by deceitful acts.


16.  Now this Leviathan at this present time elect Spirits of the Angelic host imprison close in the bottomless pit.  Whence it is written, And I saw an Angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit, and a great chain in his hand; and he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil and Satan, and bound him a thousand years; [Rev. 20, 1-3] and cast him into the bottomless pit.  Yet at the end of the world they call him back to more open conflicts, and let him loose against us in all his power.  And hence it is written again in the same place; Till the thousand years should be fulfilled, and after that he must be loosed.  For that apostate angel, whereas he was created so that he shone preeminent among all the other legions of the Angels, fell so low by setting himself up, that he is now prostrated beneath the rule of the orders of Angels that stand erect, whether that being put in chains by them, as they minister to our welfare, he should now lie buried from sight, or that they at that time setting him free for our probation, he should be let loose to put forth all his power against us.  Therefore, because the proud apostate Spirit is restrained by those elect Spirits, who being humble would not follow him, and, they being the executioners, it is ordered, that he shall one day be recalled for the purpose of an open conflict, that he may be utterly destroyed, let it be well said, who are ready to rouse up Leviathan; but forasmuch as the artful adversary is not yet raised to wage open war, let him shew how that night now by hidden influences overshadows the minds of some men.  It follows;

Ver. 9.  Let the stars be darkened with the shadow thereof.




17.  In Holy Scripture by the title of stars we have set forth sometimes the righteousness of the Saints which shineth in the darkness of this life, and sometimes the false pretence of hypocrites, who display all the good that they do, that they may win the praise of men; for if well doers were not stars, Paul would never say to his disciples, In the midst of a crooked and perverse 11.ation, among whom ye shine like lights in the world. [Phil. 2, 15]  Again, if among those that seem to act aright, there were not some that sought by their conduct to win the reward of man's esteem, John would never have seen stars falling from heaven, where he says, The dragon put forth his tail, and drew the third part of the stars of heaven. [Rev. 12, 4]  Now a portion of the stars is drawn by the dragon's tail, in that, in the last efforts of Antichrist to win men, some that appear to shine will be carried off.  For to draw the stars of heaven to the earth is by the love of earth to involve those in the froward ways of open error, who seem to be devoted to the pursuit of the heavenly life.  For there are that as it were shine before the eyes of men by extraordinary deeds; but forasmuch as these very deeds are not the offspring of a pure heart, being struck blind in their secret thoughts, they are clouded with the darkness of this night, and these often lose the more outward deeds, which they do not practise with any purity of heart.  And so because the night is permitted to prevail, whenever even amidst good works the purpose of the heart is not cleansed, let it be said with justice, Let the stars be dark with the shadow thereof; i.e. ‘let the dark malice of our old enemy prevail against those who in the sight of men shew as bright by good works, and that light of praise, which in the eye of man's judgment they had taken, let them lay aside;’ for they are ‘overshadowed with the darkness of night,’ when their life is brought to shame by open error, so that verily they may also appear outwardly such in practice, as they do not shrink from appearing to the Divine eye in their secret hearts.  It proceeds; 

Ver. 9.  Let it look for light, but have none; neither let it see the dawning of the day.




18.  In the Gospel Truth declares, I am the light of the world. [John 8, 12] Now as this same Saviour of us men is one Person with the assembly of the good, for He is Himself the Head of the Body, and we all are the Body of this Head, so our old enemy is one person with the whole company of the damned; in that he as a head out-tops them all in iniquity, and they, whilst they minister in the things he prompts, hold fast to him like a body joined below to the head.  And so it is meet that all that is said of this night, i.e. of our old enemy, should be applied to his body, i.e. to all wicked persons.  Wherefore because our Redeemer is the light of mankind, how is it that it is said of this night, Let it look for light, and have none; but that there are some, who exhibit themselves as maintaining by words that faith, which they undo by works?  Of whom Paul saith, They profess that they know God, but in works they deny Him; [Tit. 1, 16] with these, indeed, either the things which they do are bad, or they follow after good deeds with no good heart.  For they do not seek everlasting rewards as the fruit of their actions, but transitory partiality.  And yet, because they hear themselves praised as Saints, they believe themselves to be really Saints, and in proportion as they account themselves unblameable according to the esteem they are in with numbers, they await in greater security the Day of strict account.  Of whom the Prophet well says, Woe unto you that desire the day of the Lord. [Amos 5, 18]  To these blessed Job utters the sentence due to them, saying in the temper of one foretelling the thing, and not as the wish of one that desired it, Let it look for light, but have none.  For that night, I mean the adversary of darkness, in his members doth look for the light, but seeth none; in that whether it be they who retain the faith without works, these, trusting that they may be saved at the final Judgment by right of the same faith, will find their hope prove vain, because by their life they have undone the faith, which in the confession of the lips they have maintained; or they, who for the sake of human applause make a display of themselves in doing well, they vainly look for a reward of their good deeds at the hand of the Judge, when He cometh; for that whereas they do them out of regard to the notoriety of praise, they have already had their reward from the lips of men.  As the Truth testifies, Which saith, Verily I say unto you, they have their reward [Matt. 6, 2. 5.]; and here it is justly added, Neither let it see the dawning of the day.


19.  For the dawn is the title of the Church, which is changed from the darkness of its sins into the light of righteousness.  And hence the Spouse, admiring her in the Song of Solomon, saith, Who is she that goeth forth as the morning arising? [Cant. 6, 10] for like the dawn doth the Church of 'the Elect arise, in that she quits the darkness of her former iniquity, and converts herself into the radiance of new light.  Therefore in that light, which is manifested at the coming of the strict Judge, the body of our enemy when condemned seeth no dayspring of the rising dawn, in that when the strict Judge shall come, every sinner, being overlaid with the blackness of his own deserts, knows not with what wondrous splendour Holy Church rises into the interior light of the heart.  For then the mind of the Elect is transported on high, to be illuminated with the rays of the Divine.  Nature, and in the degree that it is penetrated with the light of that Countenance, it is lifted above itself in the refulgence of grace.  Then doth Holy Church become a full dawn, when she parts wholly and for ever with the darkness of her state of mortality and ignorance.  Thus at the Judgment she is still the dawn, but in the Kingdom she is become the day.  For though together with the renewal of our bodies she already begins to behold the light at the Judgment, yet her vision thereof is more fully consummated in the Kingdom.  Thus the rising of the dawn is the commencement of the Church in light, which the reprobate can never see, because they are closed in upon and forced down to darkness by the weight of their evil deeds from the sight of the Righteous Judge. And hence it is rightly said by the Prophet, Let the wicked be taken out of the way, that he see not the glory of God. [Is. 26, 10. LXX]  It is hence that these words are uttered by the Psalmist concerning this dawn, Thou shalt hide them in the secret of Thy Presence from the pride of men. [Ps. 31, 20]  For every Elect one at the Judgment is hid in the countenance of the Godhead in interior vision, whereas the blindness of the reprobate without is banished and confounded by the strict visitation of justice.


20.  And this too we not irrelevantly interpret with reference to the present time likewise, if we minutely search the hearts of dissemblers.  For the proud and hypocritical look on the deeds of the good on the outside, and they find that such are commended by men for their doings, and they admire their high repute, and they see that these receive praises for their good deeds, but they do not see how studiously they eschew such praises; they regard the overt acts, but are ignorant that these proceed from the principle of the interior hope alone.  For all that shine with the true light of righteousness are first changed from the darkness of the inward purpose of the heart, so that they wholly forsake the interior dimness of earthly coveting, and entirely turn their hearts to the desire of the light above, lest while they seem to be full of light to others, they be in darkness to themselves; thus persons that assume, because they regard the deeds of the righteous, but do not survey their hearts, imitate them in the things from whence they may obtain applause without, but not in the things whereby they may inwardly arise to the light of righteousness; and they as it were are blind to see the dayspring of the rising dawn, because they do not think it worth their while to regard the religious mind's intent.




21.  The holy man, who was filled with the virtue of the prophetic Spirit, may also have his eye fixed upon the faithlessness of Judaea at the coming of the Redeemer, and in these words he may be speaking prophetically of the mischievous effects of her blindness, as though in the character of one expressing a wish, so as to say, Let it look for light, but have none; neither let it see the dawning of the day.  For Judaea ‘looked for the light but had none;’ since by prophecy she waited indeed for the Redeemer of Man that should come, but never knew Him when He came; and the eyes of the mind, which she opened wide to the expectation, she closed to the presence of the Light; neither did she see the dayspring of the rising dawn, in that she scorned to pay homage to those first beginnings of Holy Church, and while she supposed her to be undone by the deaths of her members, was ignorant to what strength she was attaining.  But as, when speaking of the faithless, he signified the members of the wicked head, he again turns his discourse to the head of the wicked itself, saying,

Ver. 10.  Because it shut not up the doors of my mother's womb, nor hid sorrow from mine eyes.




22.  What the womb of his mother is to each individual man, that the primary abode in Paradise became to the whole human race.  For from it came forth the family of man as it were from the womb, and tending to the increase of the race, as if to the growth of the body, it issued forth without.  There our conception was cemented, where the Man, the origin of mankind, had his abode, but the serpent opened the mouth of this womb, in that by his cunning persuading he broke asunder the decree of heaven in man's heart.  The serpent opened the mouth of this womb, in that he burst the barriers of the mind which were fortified with admonitions from above.  Let the holy man then in the punishment which he suffers, cast the eyes of his mind far back to the sin.  Let him mourn for this, which the neglect of darkness, that is, the dark suggestions of our old enemy lodged in man's mind; for this, that man's mind consented to his cunning suggestions to his own betrayal, and let him say, Because it shut not up the doors of my mother's womb, nor hid sorrow from mine eyes.  Nor let this disturb us, that he complains that he only did not shut up, whom he abhors for having opened the gate of Paradise.  For ‘he opened,’ he calls shut not up; and ‘he entailed it,’ nor hid sorrow from me.  For he would as it were have ‘hid sorrow,’ if he had kept quiet, and have ‘shut up,’ if he had forborne from bursting in.  For he is weighing well who it is he speaks of, and he reckons that it would have been as if the evil spirit had bestowed gains upon us if he had only not entailed losses upon our heads.  Thus we say of robbers that they give their prisoners their lives, if they do not take them.




23.  It is well to go over these points again from the beginning, and according to what we remark in practice in the present life, to review it in a moral sense.  Blessed Job, observing how presumptuously mankind, after his soul fell from its original state, was lifted up in prosperity, and with what dismay it was dashed by adverse fortune, falls back in imagination to that unalterable state which he might have kept in Paradise, and in what a miserable light he beheld the fallen condition of our mortal state of being, so chequered with adversity and prosperity, he shewed by cursing the same in these words;

Ver. 3.  Let the day perish wherein I was born; and the night wherein it was said, There is a man child conceived.


24.  It seems as it were like day, when the good fortune of this world smiles upon us, but it is a day that ends in night, for temporal prosperity often leads to the darkness of affliction.  This day of good fortune the Prophet had condemned, when he said, Neither have I desired man's day [‘diem hominis’ Vulg.], Thou knowest it. [Jer. 17, 16]  And this night our Lord declared He was to suffer at the final close of His Incarnation, when he declared by the Psalmist as if in the past, My reins also instructed me in the night season. [Ps. 16, 7]  But by ‘the day’ may be understood the pleasures of sin, and by ‘the night’ the inward blindness, whereby man suffers himself to be brought down to the ground in the commission of sin.  And therefore he wishes the day may perish, that all the flattering arts which are seen in sin, by the strong hand of justice interposing, may be brought to nought.  He wishes also that the ‘night may perish,’ that what the blinded mind executes even in yielding consent, she may put away by the castigation of penance.


25.  But we must enquire why man is said to be born in ‘the day’ and conceived in ‘the night?’  Holy Scripture uses the title ‘man’ in three ways, viz, sometimes in respect of nature, sometimes of sin, sometimes of frailness.  Now man is so called in respect of nature, as where it is written, Let Us make man after Our image and likeness. [Gen. 1, 26]  He is called man in respect of sin, as where it is written, I have said, Ye are all gods, and all of you are children of the Most High: but ye shall die like men. [Ps. 82, 6. 7.]  As though he had expressed it plainly, ‘ye shall perish like transgressors.’  And hence Paul saith, For whereas there is among you envying and strife and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? [1 Cor. 3, 3]  As though he had said, ‘Ye that carry about minds at variance, do ye not still sin, in the spirit of faulty human nature?'  He is called man, in relation to his weakness, as where it is written, Cursed be the man that trusteth in man. [Jer. 17, 5]  As if he had said in plain words, ‘in weakness.’  Thus man is born in the day, but he is conceived in the night, in that he is never caught away by the delightfulness of sin, until he is first made weak by the voluntary darkness of his mind.  For he first becomes blind in the understanding, and then he enslaves himself to damnable delight.  Let it be said then, Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night wherein it was said, There is a man child conceived: i.e. 'Let the delight perish, which has hurried man into sin, and the unguarded frailness of his mind, whereby he was blinded even to the very darkness of consenting to evil.  For while man does not heedfully mark the allurements of pleasure, he is even carried headlong into the night of the foulest practices.  We must watch then with minds alive, that when sin begins to caress, the mind may perceive to what ruin she is being dragged, And hence the words are fitly added,

Ver. 4.  Let that day be darkness.




26.  For ‘the day becomes darkness,’ when in the very commencement of the enjoyment, we see to what an end of ruin sin is hurrying us.  We ‘turn the day into darkness,’ whenever by severely chastising ourselves, we turn to bitter the very sweets of evil enjoyment by the keen laments of penance, and, when we visit it with weeping, whereinsoever we sin in gratification in our secret hearts.  For because no believer is ignorant that the thoughts of the heart will be minutely examined at the Judgment, as Paul testifieth, saying, Their thoughts the meanwhile accusing or else excusing one another; [Rom. 2, 15] searching himself within, he examines his own conscience without sparing before the Judgment, that the strict Judge may come now the more placably disposed, in that He sees his guilt, which He is minded to examine, already chastised according to the sin.  And hence it is well added,

Let not God require it from above.




27.  God requires the things, which He searches out in executing judgment upon them.  He does not require those, which He so pardons as to let them be unpunished henceforth in His own Judgment.  And so ‘this day,’ i.e. this enjoyment of sin, will not be required by the Lord, if it be visited with self-punishment of our own accord, as Paul testifies, when he says, For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged of the Lord. [1 Cor. 11, 31]  ‘God's requiring our day,’ then, is His proceeding against our souls at the Judgment by a strict examination of every instance of taking pleasure in sin, in which same ‘requiring’ He then smites him the harder, whom He finds to have been most soft in sparing himself.  And it follows well, Neither let the light shine upon it.  For the Lord, appearing at the Judgment, illumines with His light all that He then convicts of sin.  For what is not then brought to remembrance of the Judge, is as it were veiled under a kind of obscurity.  So it is written, But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light. [Eph. 5, 13]  It is as though a certain darkness hid the sins of penitents, of whom the Prophet saith, Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. [Ps. 32, 1]  Therefore, as every thing that is veiled is as it were hidden in darkness, that which is not searched out in vengeance, is not illumined with light at the Day of final account.  For all those actions of ours, which He would not then visit with justice, the mercy of God in wotting of them still hideth in some sort from itself, but all is displayed in light, that is at that time manifest in the sight of all men.  Let, then, this day be darkness, in this way, viz. that by penance we may smite the evil that we do.  Let not the Lord require this day, neither let the light shine upon it, in this way, viz. that while we smite our own sin, He may not Himself fall thereupon with the visitations of the Final Judgment.


28.  But the Judge will come Himself to pierce all things, and strike all things to the core.  And because He is every where present, there is no place to flee to, where He is not found.  But forasmuch as He is appeased by the tears of self-correction, he alone obtains a hiding-place from His face, who after the commission of a sin hides himself from Him now in penance.  And hence it is with propriety yet further added of this day of enjoyment,

Ver. 7.  Let darkness and the shadow of death stain it.




29.  Then indeed darkness stains the day, when the delight of our inclinations is smitten through with the inflictions of penance.  By darkness moreover may be signified secret decisions.  For what we see in the light we know, but in the dark we either discern nothing at all, or our eyes are bewildered with an uncertain sight.  Secret decrees then are like a certain kind of darkness before our eyes, being utterly inscrutable to us.  And hence it is written of God, He made darkness His secret place; [Ps. 18, 11] and we know well that we do not deserve pardon, but, by the grace of God preventing us, we are freed from our sins by His secret counsels.  Darkness, therefore, stains the day, when the joy of gratification, which is a proper subject of tears, is in mercy hidden from that ray of just wrath by His secret determinations.  And here the words aptly follow, and the shadow of death.


30.  For in Holy Scripture, the shadow of death is sometimes understood of oblivion of mind, sometimes of imitation of the devil, sometimes of the dissolution of the flesh.  For the shadow of death is understood of the oblivion of the mind, in that, as has been said above, as death causes that that which it kills should no longer remain in life, so oblivion causes that whatsoever it seizes should no longer abide in the memory.  And hence too, because John was coming to proclaim to the Hebrew people That God, Whom they had forgotten, he is justly said by Zacharias, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death; for ‘to sit in the shadow of death,’ is to turn lifeless to the knowledge of the love of God in a state of oblivion.  The shadow of death is taken to mean the imitating our old enemy.  For, since he brought in death, he is himself called death, as John is witness, saying, and his name is death. [Rev. 6, 8]  And so by the shadow of death is signified the imitating of him.  For as the shadow is shaped according to the character of the body, so the actions of the wicked are cast in a figure of conformity to him.  Hence when Isaiah saw that the Gentiles had fallen away after the likeness of our old enemy, and that they rose up again at the rising of the true Sun, he justly records, as though in the past, what his eyes beheld as certain in the future, saying, They that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a great light hath shined.  Moreover, the shadow of death is taken for the dissolution of the flesh, in that, as that is the true death whereby the soul is separated from God, so the shadow of death is that whereby the flesh is separated from the soul.  And hence it is rightly said by the Prophet in the words of the Martyrs, Though Thou hast sore broken us in the place of dragons, and covered us with the shadow of death. [Ps. 44, 19]  For those, who, we know, die not in the spirit, but only in the flesh, can in no wise say that they are ‘covered with the true death,’ but with the shadow of death.


31.  How is it then that blessed Job demands the shadow of death, for putting out the day of evil enjoyment, but that for the obliterating of our sins in God's sight he calls for the Mediator between God and man, who should undertake for us the death of the flesh alone, and Who by the shadow of His own death, should do away the true death of transgressors?  For He comes to us, who were held in the bands of death, both of the spirit and of the flesh, and His own single Death He reckoned to our account, and our two deaths, which He found, He dissolved.  For if He had Himself undertaken both, He would never have set us free from either.  But He took one sort in mercy, and condemned them both with justice.  He joined His own single Death to our twofold death, and by dying He vanquished that double death of ours.  And hence it was not without reason that He lay in the grave for one day and two nights, namely, in that He added the light of His own single Death to the darkness of our double death.  He, then, that took for our sakes the death of the flesh alone, underwent the shadow of death, and buried from the eyes of God the sin that we have done. Therefore let it be truly said, Let darkness and the shadow of death stain it.  As though it were said in plain words; ‘Let Him come, Who, that He may snatch from the death of the flesh and of the spirit, us, that are debtors thereto, may, though no debtor, discharge the death of the flesh.’  But since the Lord lets no sin go unpunished, for either we visit it ourselves by lamenting it, or God by judging it, it remains that the mind should ever have a watchful eye to the amendment of itself.  Therefore, in whatever particular each person sees that he is succoured by mercy, he must needs wipe out the stains thereof in the confession of it.  And hence it is fitly added,

Let a shade dwell upon it.




32.  For because the eye is perplexed in the shade, therefore the perplexity of our mind in penitence is itself called shade, for as the shade obscures the light of day with a mass of clouds, so confusion overclouds the mind with troubled thoughts.  Of which it is said by one, There is a shame which is glory and grace. [Ecclus. 4, 21]  For when in repenting we recall our misdoings to remembrance, we are at once confounded with heaviness and sorrow, the throng of thoughts clamours vociferously in our breast, sorrow wears, anxiety wastes us, the soul is turned to woe, and, as it were, darkened with the shade of a kind of cloud.  Now this shade of confusion had oppressed the minds of those to their good, to whom Paul said, What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? [Rom. 6, 21]  Let shade, then, seize this day of sin, i.e. ‘Let the chastening of penance with befitting sorrow discompose the flattery of sin.’  And hence it is added with fitness,

Let it be enfolded in bitterness.




33.  For the day is enfolded in bitterness, when, upon the soul returning to knowledge, the inflictions of penance follow upon the caresses of sin.  We ‘enfold the day in bitterness,’ when we regard the punishments that follow the joys of forbidden gratification, and pour tears of bitter lamenting around them.  For whereas what is folded up is covered on every side, we wish ‘the day to be folded in bitterness,’ that each man may mark on every side the ills that threaten crooked courses, and may cleanse the wantonness of self-gratification by the tears of bitter sorrow.


34.  But if we hear that day, which we have rendered the ‘gratification of sin,’ assailed with so many imprecations, that, surely, our tears poured around it may expiate whatsoever sin the soul is become guilty of by being touched with gratification through negligence, with what visitings of penitence is the night of that day to be stricken, i.e. the actual consent to sin?  For as it is a less fault when the mind is carried away in delight by the influence of the flesh, yet by the resistance of the Spirit offers violence to its sense of delight; so it is a more heinous and complete wickedness not only to be attracted to the fascination of sin by the feeling of delight, but to pander to it by yielding consent.  Therefore the mind must be cleansed from defilement by being wrung harder with the hand of penitence, in proportion as it sees itself to be more foully stained by the yielding of the consent.  And hence it is fitly subjoined,

Ver. 6.  As for that night, let a black tempest seize it.


35.  For the awakened spirit of sorrow is like a kind of tempestuous whirlwind.  For when a man understands what sin he has committed, when he minutely considers the wickedness of his evil doings, he clouds the mind with sorrow, and the air of quiet joy being agitated, as it were, he sweeps away all the inward tranquillity of his breast, by the whirlwind of penitence.  For unless the heart, returning to the knowledge of itself, were broken by such a whirlwind, the Prophet would never have said, Thou breakest the ships of Tarshish with a strong wind. [Ps. 48, 7]  For Tarshish is rendered, ‘the exploring of joy.’  But when the strong blast of penitence seizes the mind, it disturbs therein all the ‘explorings’ after a censurable joy, that it now takes pleasure in nought but to weep, minds nought but what may fill it with affright.  For it sets before the eyes, on the one hand, the strictness of justice, on the other the deserts of sin, it sees what punishment it deserves, if the pitifulness of the sparing Hand be wanting, which is wont by present sorrowing to rescue from eternal woe.  Therefore, ‘a strong wind breaks the ships of Tarshish,’ when a mighty force of compunction confounds, with wholesome terrors, our minds which have abandoned themselves to this world, like as to the sea.  Let him say then, As for that night, let a black tempest seize it, i.e. let not the softness of secure ease cherish the commission of sin, but the bitterness of repentance burst on it in pious fury.


36.  But we are to bear in mind, that when we leave sins unpunished, we are ‘taken possession of by the night,’ but when we correct those with the visitation of penitence, then we ourselves ‘take possession of the night,’ that we have made.  And the sin of the heart is then brought into our right of possession, if it is repressed in its beginning.  And hence it is said by the voice of God to Cain, harbouring evil thoughts, Thy sin will lie at the door.  But under thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.  For ‘sin lieth at the door,’ when it is knocking in the thoughts, and ‘the desire thereof is under,’ and man ‘ruleth over it,’ if the wickedness of the heart, being looked to, be quickly put down, and before it grows to a state of hardness, be subdued by a strenuous opposition of the mind.  Therefore that the mind may be quickly made sensible of its offence by repenting, and hold in under its authority the usurping power of sin, let it be rightly said, As for that night let a black tempest seize it; as though it were said in plain words, ‘Lest the mind be the captive of sin, let it never leave a sin free from penance.’  And because we have a sure hope that what we prosecute with weeping, will never be urged against us by the Judge to come, it is rightly added,

Let it not be joined unto the days of the year; let it not come into the number of the months.




37.  The year of our illumination is then accomplished, when at the appearing of the Eternal Judge of Holy Church, the life of her pilgrimage is completed.  She then receives the recompense of her labours, when, having finished this season of her warfare, she returns to her native country.  Hence it is said by the Prophet, Thou shalt bless the crown of the year with Thy goodness.  For the Crown of the year is as it were ‘blessed,’ when, the season of toil at an end, the reward of virtues is bestowed.  But the days of this year are the several virtues, and its months the manifold deeds of those virtues.  But observe, when the mind is erected in confidence, to have a good hope that, when the Judge comes, she will receive the reward of her virtues, all the evil things that she has done are also brought before the memory, and she greatly fears lest the strict Judge, Who comes to reward virtues, should also examine and weigh exactly those things, which have been unlawfully committed, and lest, when ‘the year’ is completed, the ‘night’ also be reckoned in.  Let him then say of this night, Let it not be joined unto the days of the year, let it not come into the number of the months.  As though he implored that strict Judge in such words as these; ‘When, the time of Holy Church being completed, Thou shalt manifest Thyself for the final scrutiny, do Thou so recompense the gifts Thou hast vouchsafed, that Thou require not the evil we have committed.  For if that ‘night be joined unto the days of the year,’ all that we have done is brought to nought, by the accounting of our iniquity.  And the days of our virtues no longer shine, if they be overclouded in Thine eyes by the dark confusion of our night being added to the reckoning.’


38.  But if we would not then have inquest made on our night, we must take especial care now to exercise a watchful eye in examining it, that no sin whatever may remain unpunished by us, that the froward mind be not bold to vindicate what it has done, and by that vindication add iniquity to iniquity.  And hence it is rightly added,

Ver. 7.  Lo, let that night be solitary, and worthy of no praise.




39.  There are some men that not only never bewail what they do, but who do not cease to uphold and applaud it, and verily a sin that is upheld, is doubled.  And against this it is rightly said by one, My son, hast thou sinned? add not again thereto. [Ecclus. 21, 1]  For he ‘adds sin to sin,’ who over and above maintains what he has done amiss; and he does not ‘leave the night alone,’ who adds the support of vindication also to the darkness of his fault.  It is hence that the first man, when called in question concerning the ‘night’ of his error, would not have the same ‘night’ to be ‘solitary,’ in that while by that questioning he was called to repentance, he added the props of self-exculpation, saying, The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat; i.e. covertly turning the fault of his transgression upon his Maker; as if he said, ‘Thou gavest me occasion of transgressing, Who gavest me the woman.’  It is hence that in the human race the branch of this sin is drawn out from that root so far as to this present time, that what is done amiss should be yet further maintained.  Let him say then, Let that light be solitary, and not worthy of any praise.  As though he besought in plain words, ‘Let the fault that we have done remain alone, lest while it is praised and upheld, it bind us a hundredfold more in the sight of our Judge.  We ought not indeed to have sinned, but would that, by not adding others, we would even leave those by themselves, which we have committed.'


40.  But here it is to be impressed upon our minds, that he in a true sense bears hard upon his sin, whose heart is no longer set to the love of the present state of being by any longing for prosperity, who sees how deceitful are the caresses of this world, and reckons its smiles as a kind of persecution; and hence it is well added,

Ver. 8.  Let them curse it that curse the day.




41.  As if he said in plain words; ‘Let them strike the darkness of this night by truly repenting, who henceforth despise and tread upon the light of worldly prosperity.’  For if we take ‘the day,’ for the gladness of delight, of this ‘night’ it is rightly said, Let them curse it that curse the day.  In that, indeed, they do truly chastise the misdeeds committed with the visitations of penance, who are henceforth carried away by no sense of delight after deceitful goods.  For of those whom other mischievous practices still delight, it is all false whereinsoever they are seen to bewail one set they have been guilty of.  But if, as we have said above, we understand thereby the crafty suggestion of our old enemy, those are to be understood to curse the ‘night,’ that curse the ‘day,’ in that surely they all really punish their past sins, who in the mere flattering suggestion itself detect the snares of the malicious deceiver.  But it is well added;

Who are ready to rouse up Leviathan.




42.  For all they that with the spirit tread under foot the things which are of the world, and with a perfect bent of the mind desire the things that belong to God, rouse up Leviathan against themselves, in that they inflame his malice, by the incitements of their life and conduct.  For those that are subject to his will, are as it were held in possession by him with an undisturbed light, and their tyrannizing king, as it were, enjoys a kind of security, while he rules their hearts with a power unshaken, but when the spirit of each man is quickened again to the longing after his Creator; when he gives over the sloth of negligence, and kindles the frost of former insensibility with the fire of holy love; when he calls to mind his innate freedom, and blushes that his enemy should keep him as his slave; because that enemy marks that he is himself contemned, and sees that the ways of God are laid hold of, he is stung that his captive struggles against him, and is at once fired with jealousy, at once pressed to the conflict, at once raises himself to urge countless temptations against the soul that withstands him, and stimulates himself in all the arts of mangling, that launching the darts of temptation he may pierce the heart, which he has long held with an undisputed title.  For he slept, as it were, whilst he reposed at rest in the corrupt heart.  But he is ‘roused,’ in challenging the fight, when he loses the right of wicked dominion.  Let those then curse this light, that are ready to rouse up Leviathan, i.e. ‘let all those gather themselves resolutely to encounter sin with the stroke of severe judgment, who are no wise afraid to rouse up Leviathan in his tempting of them.’  For so it is written, My son, if thou come to serve the Lord, stand in righteousness and in fear; and prepare thy soul for temptation.  For whosoever hastes to gird himself in the service of God, what else does he than prepare against the encounter of the old adversary, that the same man set at liberty may take blows in the strife, who, when slaving in captivity under tyrannizing power, was left at rest?  But in this very circumstance that the mind is braced to meet the enemy, that some vices it has under its feet, and is striving against others, it sometimes happens that somewhat of sin is permitted to remain, nevertheless not so as to do any great injury.


43.  And often the mind, which overcomes many and forcible oppositions, is unable to master one within itself, and that perchance a very little one, though it be most earnestly on the watch against it.  Which doubtless is the effect of God's dispensation, lest being resplendent with virtue on all points, it be lifted up in self-elation, that while it sees in itself some trifling thing to be blamed, and yet has no power to subdue the same, it may never attribute the victory to itself, but to the Creator only, whereinsoever it has power to subdue with resolution; and hence it is well added,

Ver.9.  Let the stars thereof be overshadowed with darkness.




44.  For the stars of this night are overshadowed with darkness, when even they that already shine with great virtues, still bear something of the dimness of sin, while they struggle against it, so that they even shine with great lustre of life, and yet still draw along with unwillingness some remains of the night.  Which as we have said is done with this view, that the mind in advancing to the eminence of its righteousness, may through weakness be the better strengthened, and may in a more genuine manner shine in goodness by the same cause, whereby, to the humbling of it, little defects overcloud it even against its will.  And hence when the land of promise now won was to be divided to the people of Israel, the Gentile people of Canaan are not said to be slain, but to be made tributary to the tribe of Ephraim; as it is written, The Canaanites dwelt in the midst of Ephraim under tribute. [Jos. 16, 10. V.]  For what does the Canaanite, a Gentile people, denote saving a fault?  And oftentimes we enter the land of promise with great virtues, because we are strengthened by the inward hope that regards eternity.  But while, amidst lofty deeds, we retain certain small faults, we as it were permit the Canaanite to dwell in our land.  Yet he is made tributary, in that this same fault, which we cannot bring under, we force back by humility to answer the end of our wellbeing, that the mind may think meanly of itself even in its highest excellencies, in proportion as it fails to master by its own strength even the small things that it aims at.  Hence it is well written again, Now these are the nations which the Lord left, to prove Israel by them. [Jud. 3, 1]  For it is for this that some of our least faults are retained, that our fixed mind may ever be practising itself heedfully to the conflict, and not presume upon victory, forasmuch as it sees enemies yet alive within it, by whom it still dreads to be overcome.  Thus Israel is trained by the Gentile people being reserved, in that the uplifting of our goodness meets with a check in some very little faults, and learns, in the little things that withstand it, that it does not subdue the greater ones by itself.


45.  Yet this that is said, Let the stars thereof be overshadowed with darkness, may also be understood in another sense; for that night, viz.  consent to the sin, which was derived to us by the transgression of our first parent, has smitten our mind's eye with such a dimness, that in this life's exile, beset by the darkness of its blinded state, with whatever force it strain after the light of eternity, it is unable to pierce through; for we are born condemned sinners after punishment has begun [post poenam], and we come into this life together with the desert of our death, and when we lift up the eye of the mind to that beam of light above, we grow dark with the mere dimness of our natural infirmity.  And indeed many in this feeble condition of the flesh have been made strong by so great a force of virtue, that they could shine like stars in the world.  Many in the darkness of this present life, while they shew forth in themselves examples above our reach, shine upon us from on high after the manner of stars; but with whatsoever brilliancy of practice they shine, with whatever fire of compunction they enkindle their hearts, it is plain that while they still bear the load of this corruptible flesh, they are unable to behold the light of eternity such as it is.  So then let him say, Let the stars thereof be overshadowed with darkness; i.e. ‘let even those in their contemplations still feel the darkness of the old night, of whom it appears that they already spread the rays of their virtues over the human race in the darkness of this life, seeing that, though they already spring to the topmost height in thought, they are yet pressed down below by the weight of the first offence.  And hence it comes to pass that at the same time that without they give specimens of light, like the stars, yet within, being closely encompassed by the darkness of night, they fail to mount up to the assuredness of an immoveable vision.  Now the mind is often so kindled and inflamed, that, though it be still set in the flesh, it is transported into God, and every carnal imagination brought under; and yet not so that it beholds God as He is, in that, as we have said, the weight of the original condemnation presses upon it in corruptible flesh.  Oftentimes it longs to be swallowed up, just as it is, that if it might be so, it might attain the eternal life without the intervention of the bodily death.  Hence Paul, when he ardently sought for the inward light, yet in some sort dreaded the evils [damna] of the outward death, said, For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burthened, for that we would not be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. [2 Cor. 5, 4. Vulg.]  Therefore holy men long to see the true dawn, and, if it were vouchsafed, they would even along with the body attain that deep of inmost light.  But with whatever ardour of purpose they may spring forth, the old night still weighs upon them, and those eyes of our corruptible flesh, which the crafty enemy has opened to concupiscence, the just Judge holds back from the view of His inward radiance.  And hence it is well added,

Let it look for light and have none, neither let it see the dawning of the day.




46.  For with whatever strength of purpose the mind, while yet in this pilgrimage, labours to see the Light as It is, the power is withheld, in that this is hidden from it by the blindness of its state under the curse.  [Now the ‘rising of the dawn’ is the brightness of inward truth, which ought to be ever new to us.  And this the night assuredly seeth not, because our infirmity, blind by reason of sin, and still placed in the corruptible flesh, mounts not up to that light wherewith our fellow citizens above are already irradiated.  For the rising of this dawn is in the interior, where the brightness of the Divine Nature is manifested ever new to the spirits of the Angels, and where that bliss of light is as it were ever dawning, which is never brought to an end.] [Note: this bracketed portion is found only in the Edition of Gussanville, and there without any notice to shew where it comes from.  (Ben.)  It is not in the Oxford Mss.]  But the rising of the dawn, is that new birth of the Resurrection, whereby Holy Church, with the flesh too raised up, rises to contemplate the sight of Eternity; for if the very Resurrection of our flesh were not as it were a kind of birth, Truth would never have said of it, In the Regeneration, when the Son of Man shall sit upon the throne of His glory. [Matt. 19, 28]  This then, which He called a regeneration, He beheld as a rising.  But with whatever virtue the Elect now shine forth, they cannot pierce to see what will be that glory of the new birth, wherewith they will then mount up together with the flesh to contemplate the sight of Eternity.  Hence Paul says, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. [1 Cor. 2, 9]  Let him say then, Let it look for light and have none, neither let it see the dawning of the day.  For our frail nature, darkened by its spontaneous fault, penetrates not the brightness of inward light, unless it first discharge its debt of punishment by death.  It goes on;

Ver. 10.  Because it shut not up the doors of my mother's womb, nor took away sorrow from mine eyes.




47.  As has been likewise remarked above, the words, it shut not up, are ‘it opened,’ and it took not away, ‘it brought upon me.’ So that this night, i.e. sin, opened the door of the womb, in that to man, conceived unto sin, it unsealed the lust of concupiscence [m], whereof the Prophet says, Enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors. [Isa. 26, 20]  For we ‘enter our chambers,’ when we go into the recesses of our own hearts.  And we ‘shut the doors,’ when we restrain forbidden lusts; and so whereas our consent set open these doors of carnal concupiscence, it forced us to the countless evils of our corrupt state.  And so now we henceforth groan under the weight of mortality, though we came [n] thereunto by our own free will, in that the justice of the sentence against us requires thus much, that what we have done willingly, we should bear with against our will.  It proceeds; Ver. 11, 12.  Why died I not from the womb?  Why did I not give up the ghost when I came out of the belly?  Why did the knees prevent me?  or why the breasts that I should suck?




48.  Be the thought far from us, that blessed Job, who was endued with such high spiritual knowledge, and who had such a witness of praise from the Judge within, should wish that he had perished in abortive birth!  But seeing, what we also learn by the reward which he received, that he has within the witness of his fortitude, the weight of his words is to be reckoned within.


49.  Now sin is committed in the heart in four ways, and in four ways it is consummated in act.  For in the heart it is committed by the suggestion, the pleasure, the consent, and the boldness to defend.  For the suggestion comes of the enemy; the pleasure, of the flesh; the consent, of the spirit; and boldness to uphold, of pride.  For the sin, which ought to fill the mind with apprehension, only exalts it, and in throwing down uplifts, while by uplifting it causes its more grievous overthrow; and hence that upright frame, wherein the first man was created, was by our old foe dashed down by these four strokes.  For the serpent tempted, Eve was pleased, Adam yielded consent, and even when called in question he refused in effrontery to confess his sin.  The serpent tempted, in that the secret enemy silently suggests evil to man's heart.  Eve was pleased, because the sense of the flesh, at the voice of the serpent, presently gives itself up to pleasure.  And Adam, who was set above the woman, yielded consent, in that whilst the flesh is carried away in enjoyment, the spirit also being deprived of its strength gives in from its uprightness.  And Adam when called in question would not confess his sin, in that, in proportion as the spirit is by committing sin severed from the Truth, it becomes worse hardened in shamelessness at its downfall.  Sin is likewise completed in act by the self-same four methods; for first the fault is done in secret, but afterwards it is done openly before men's eyes without the blush of guilt, and next it is formed into a habit, finally, whether by the cheats of false hope, or the stubbornness of reckless despair, it is brought to full growth.


50.  These four modes of sin then, which either go on secretly in the heart, or which are executed in act, blessed Job views, and bewails the many stages of sin wherein the human race was fallen, saying, Why died I not from the womb? Why did I not give up the ghost when I came out of the belly?  Why did the knees prevent me?  or why the breasts that I should suck?  For ‘the womb of conception’ at the first was the tongue of the evil suggestion.  Now the sinner would ‘perish in the womb,’ if only man knew in the very suggestion itself that he would bring death upon himself. Yet ‘he came forth from the belly,’ in that, as soon as the tongue had conceived him in sin by its suggestions, the pleasure likewise, immediately hurried him forth; and after his coming forth, ‘the knees prevented him,’ in that having issued forth in the carnal gratification, he then completed the sin by the consent of the spirit, all the senses being made subservient like knees underneath.  And ‘the knees preventing him, the breasts did also give him suck.’  For whereas, in the spirit's consenting to the sin, the senses were drawn into the service, the many reasonings of vain confidence followed, which nourished the soul thus born, in sin with poisoned milk, and lulled it with soothing excuses, that it should not fear the bitter punishment of death.  And hence the first man waxed bolder after his sin, saying, The women whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. [Gen. 3, 12]  And truly, he had fled to hide himself out of fear, yet when he was called in question, he made it appear how swoln he was with pride while he feared; for when punishment is feared as the present consequence of sin, and the face of God being lost is not loved, the fear is one that proceeds from a high stomach [timor ex tumore], and not from a lowly spirit.  For he is full of pride who does not give over his sin, if be may go unpunished.


51.  But, as we have said, sin is committed in these four ways, as in the heart, so also in the deed; for he saith, Why died I not in the womb? For the womb to the sinner is the secret fault in man, which conceives the sinner under cover, and as yet hides its guilt in the dark.  Why did I not give up the ghost, when I came out of the belly?  For there is ‘a coming out of the womb from the belly,’ when the sinner does not blush to do openly as well the things, which he has been guilty of in secret, Thus they had as it were come out of the womb of their hiding place, of whom the Prophet spake it; And they declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not, Why did the knees prevent me?[Is. 3, 9]  In that the sinner, when he is not confounded at his wickedness, is strengthened in the same by the further stays of most heinous custom.  The sinner is as it were nursed on the knees, till he grow bigger, so long as the sin is confirmed by habitual acts, till it acquires strength. Or why the breasts that I should suck?  For when the sin has once begun to issue into habit, then, alas! the sinner feeds himself either with the fallacious hope of God's mercy, or with the open recklessness of despair, that he never may return back to self-amendment, in so far as he either extravagantly colours to himself the pitifulness of his Maker, or is extravagantly terrified at the sin that he has done.  Let the blessed man, then, take a view of man's fall, and mark down what precipice he has plunged himself into the pit of iniquity, saying, Why died I not in the womb?  i.e. ‘Why would I not, in the very secret act of sin in the heart, kill myself to the life of the flesh?'  Why did I not give up the ghost, when I came out of the belly?  i.e. ‘Why, when I came forth in the overt act, died I not, was I not then at least instructed that I was undone?’  For he would have ‘given up the ghost’ in his condemnation of himself, if he had known that he was lost.  Why did the knees prevent me?  i.e. ‘Even after the open act of sin, why, yet further, did the custom too take me up in it, to make me stronger to commit sin, and to nurse and sustain me with habitual wicked acts?’ Why the breasts, that I should suck?  i.e. ‘After I entered into the habit of sin, why did I rear myself to a more tremendous pitch of iniquity, either by reliance on false hope, or by the milk of a miserable despair?’  For when the fault has been brought into a habit, the mind, even if it be inclined, by this time resists more feebly: for it becomes bound upon the mind by as many chains, as there are recurrences of the evil practice that clench it fast, Whence it happens that the mind, being sapped of strength, when it has no power to get free, turns to some resource or other of fallacious consolation, so as to flatter itself that the Judge, Who is to come, is of so great mercy, that even those, whom He shall find deserving of condemnation, He will never wholly destroy.  Whereunto there is this worst addition, that the tongue of many like him abets him, since there are many who magnify with their praises these very misdeeds; whence it comes to pass that the fault is continually growing, nourished by applauses.  Also then we neglect to heal the wound, which is counted worthy of the meed of praise, Hence Solomon says well, My son, if sinners give thee suck, consent thou not. [Prov. 1, 10. V.]  For the wicked ‘give suck,’ whenever they either put wicked acts in our way to be done by their enticements, or applaud them with marks of favour when done.  Does not he suck of whom the Psalmist says, For the wicked man is commended in his heart's desire; and he that doeth iniquity receives a blessing,? [Ps. 10, 3. Vulg. 9, 24]


52.  We must also know, that those three modes of being sinners are more easily corrected as they come in their order downwards; but the fourth is not corrected but with difficulty.  And hence our Saviour raises the damsel in the house, the young man without the gate, while Lazarus He raises in the grave; for he that sins in secret is as yet lying dead in the house, he is already being carried without the gate, whose iniquity is done openly, even to the shamelessness of commission in public; but he is pressed with the sepulchral mound, who, in the commission of sin, is over and above pressed and overlaid with the use of habit.  But all these in mercy He restores to life; in that it is often the case that Divine grace enlighteneth with the light of its regard those that are dead not only in secret sins, but likewise in open evil practices, and that are overlaid with the weight of evil habit.  But our Saviour knows indeed of a fourth being dead from the disciple's lips, yet never raises him to life; in that it is hard indeed for one, whom, after continuance in bad habit, the tongues of flatterers too get hold of, to be recovered from the death of the soul; and of such an one it is said with justice, Let the dead bury their dead. [Luke 9, 60]  For ‘the dead bury the dead,’ as often as sinners load sinners with their approval.  For what else is it to ‘sin,’ but to lie down in death? and to ‘bury,’ except it be to hide?  But they that pursue the sinner with their applauses, bury the dead body under the mound of their words.  Now Lazarus too was dead, yet he was never buried by the dead.  For the believing women, who also gave tidings of his death to the Quickener, had laid him under the ground.  And hence he forthwith returned back to the light; for when the soul is dead in sin, it is soon brought back, if anxious thoughts live over it.  But sometimes, as we have likewise said above, it is not false hope that cuts off the mind, but a more deadly despair pierces it.  And whereas this totally cuts off all hope of pardon, it supplies the soul with the milk of error in greater abundance.


53.  Let the holy man then consider, what wickedness man has been guilty of, yet for the worse, after the first sin, and, after he had lost paradise, to what broken steeps he descended in this place of exile, and let him say, Why died I not in the womb?  i.e. ‘When the suggestion of the serpent conceived me a sinner, O that I had then known the death that would come upon me; lest the suggestion should transport me to the length of delight, and should link me more closely to death.’  Why did I not give up the ghost when I came out of the belly?  As though he said, ‘O that when I came out to the external gratification, I had known that I was parting with the internal light; so that I had at least died [i.e. died from sinning] at the point of this gratification only, that death might not inflict a sharper sting through the consent.’  Why did the knees prevent me?  As though he said, ‘O that the consent had never caught me, my senses being made to bear up my frowardness, that my own consenting might not hurry me yet for the worse into shamelessness.’  Or why the breasts that I should suck?  As though he said, ‘O that I had at least refused to flatter myself, after ill acts committed, that I might not attach myself thereby the more wickedly to my fault, the more softly I dealt with myself therein.’  So then in these words of reproach, he charged himself with having sinned in our first parent.  But had man never been brought down to the wretchedness of this place of banishment, by committing sin, let him say what peace he might have had.  It proceeds;

Ver. 13.  For now should I have lain still and been quiet; I should have slept, then had I been at rest.




54.  For this was man set in Paradise, that, had he attached himself by the chains of love to an obedient following of his Creator, he might one day be transported to the heavenly country of the Angels, and that, without the death of the flesh.  For he was made immortal in such sort, that, if he sinned, he would yet be capable of dying, and in such wise mortal, that, if he sinned not, he should even be capable of never dying, and that, by desert of a free choice, he might attain the blessedness of those realms, wherein there is neither possibility of sinning nor of death.  There then, where, since the time of the Redemption, the Elect are conveyed, with the death of the flesh intervening, to the same place our first parents, if they had remained stedfast in the state of their creation, would undoubtedly have passed, and that, without the death of the body.  Man then would have lain still and been quiet, he would have ‘slept and been at rest,’ in that being brought to the rest of his eternal country, he would have found as it were a retreat from these clamours of human frailty.  For since sin, he, as it were, is kept awake and crying aloud, who bears with struggling opposition the strife of his own flesh.  This stillness of peace man, when he was created, enjoyed, when he received the freedom of his will, to encounter his enemy withal.  And because he yielded himself up to him of his own accord, he forthwith found in himself what was to rise in clamours against him, forthwith met in the conflict with the riotings of his frail nature; and though he had been created by his Maker in peaceful stillness, yet, once of his own will laid low under the enemy, he had to endure the clamours of the fight.  For the very suggestion of the flesh is a kind of outcry against the mind's repose, which man was not sensible of before the transgression, plainly because there was nought that he could be exposed to undergo from infirmity of his own.  But since he has once voluntarily subjected himself to his enemy, now being bound with the chains of his sins, he serves him in some things even against his will, and suffers clamours in the mind, when the flesh strives against the Spirit.  Did not clamours within meet his ears, who was pressed with the words of an evil law at variance with himself, saying, But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. [Rom. 7, 23]  Let then the holy man reflect in what a peace of mind he would have reposed, if man had refused to entertain the words of the serpent, and let him say, For now should I have lain still and been quiet, I should have slept, then had I been at rest; i.e.  I should have withdrawn into the retirement of my breast to contemplate my Creator, had not the fault, the first sin of consent, betrayed me out of myself to the riotings of temptation; and let him add to the joys of this state of tranquillity, whom he would have had for his fellows in the enjoyment thereof saying,

Ver. 4.  With the kings and counsellors of the earth.




55.  From things without sense we learn what to think of beings endowed with sense and understanding.  Now the earth is rendered fruitful by the air, while the air is governed by the quality of the heaven.  In like manner man is over the beasts, the Angels over man, and the Archangels are set over the Angels.  Now that man has sovereignty over the beasts, we both perceive by the common use, and are instructed by the words of the Psalmist, who says, Thou hast put all things under his feet; all sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field. [Ps. 8, 6. 7.]  And that the Angels are placed over man is testified by the Prophet, in these words, But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me. [Dan. 10, 13]  And that the Angels are under the governance of authority in superior Angels, the Prophet Zechariah declares; And, behold, the Angel that talked with me went forth, and another angel went out to meet him, and he said unto him, Run, speak to this young man, saying, Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls. [Zech. 2, 3. 4.]  For in the actual ministration of the holy spirits, if the superior Powers did not direct the inferior, one Angel would never have learnt from the lips of another what he should say to a man.  Therefore, forasmuch as the Creator of the Universe holdeth all things by Himself alone, and yet for the purpose of constituting the defined order characterizing a universe of beauty, He rules one part by the governance of another; we shall not improperly understand the kings to be the Angelic spirits, who the more devotedly they serve the Maker of all beings, have things subject to their rule the more.  He would then have been ‘at rest with kings;’ in that, surely, man would have already had peace in company with the Angels, if he had refused to listen to the tongue of the Tempter.  These too are rightly called ‘counsellors,’ for they ‘consult’ for the spiritual commonwealth, while they unite us to the kingdom as fellow-heirs with themselves.  They are justly called ‘counsellors;’ for, whereas, from their lips we are made acquainted with the will of the Creator, it is in them assuredly that we find counsel to extricate ourselves from the misery that besets us here.


56.  But since blessed Job is full of the Holy Spirit of Eternity, and since Eternity knows neither to have been nor to be about to be, whereto, as we know, neither things past depart, nor things future approach, as seeing all things in the present, he may, in the present inspiration of the Spirit, have his eyes fixed on the future preachers of the Church, who, when they leave the body, are separated by no intervals of delay from the inheritance of the heavenly country, as the fathers of old were.  For as soon as they are parted asunder from the ties of the flesh, they enter into rest in their heavenly habitation, as Paul bears witness, who saith, For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. [2 Cor. 5, 1] But before our Redeemer by His own death paid man's penalty, those even that followed the ways of the heavenly country, [see Book xiii. §. 49.] the bars of hell held fast after their departure out of the flesh, not so that punishment should light on them, but that while resting in regions apart, they should find the guilt of the first sin a bar to their entrance into the kingdom, in that the Intercession of the Mediator was not yet come.  Whence, according to the testimony of the same Mediator, the rich man, that is tormented in hell, beholds Lazarus at rest in the bosom of Abraham.  Now if these had not been in the lower regions, he, in the place of his torment, would not have seen them; and hence this same Redeemer of us men, in dying to pay the debt of our sin, goes down into hell, that He may bring back to the realms of heaven all His followers, who had been held in that debt.  But where man in a state of redemption now ascendeth, thither, if he had refused to sin, he might have reached even without the help of the Redemption.  Let then the holy man consider that if he had not sinned, he would have ascended to that place, even without redemption, whereunto the holy Preachers, since the Redemption, must fain arrive at the cost of much labour, and let him shew in company with whom he would now be at peace, saying, With kings and counsellors of the earth. For the kings are the holy Preachers of the Church, who know both how to order aright those that are committed to them, and to regulate their own bodies; who, while they check the motions of lust in themselves, rule over their thoughts, kept in due subjection according to the law of virtue.  These too are rightly entitled, counsellors of the earth.  For they are ‘kings’ in that they rule themselves, but counsellors of the earth, because they yield lifegiving counsel to the lifeless sinner.  They are kings in that they know how to govern themselves, and counsellors of the earth, in that they lead earthly minds up to heavenly things by advice of their admonitions.  Was not he ‘a counsellor of the earth,’ that said, Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord, yet I give my judgment; and again, but she is happier if she so abide, after my judgment.  [1 Cor. 7, 25. 40.]  It is justly added,

Which build desolate places for themselves.




57.  For all that either seek forbidden things, or that desire to appear somewhat in this world, are inwardly beset with a countless throng of thoughts, and while they stir up in their own bosom a host of desires, their mind, being laid prostrate, is miserably trodden by the foot of crowded resort.  Thus one man has subjected himself to the law of lust, and he paints to his mind's eye representations of impure acts, and when the execution of the deed is not in his power, the thing is the more often done in the inward intent; the consummating of pleasure is sought, and the mind being struck powerless, borne hither and thither, disquieted at once and blinded, looks out eagerly for an opportunity of the foulest fulfilment in practice.  That mind then, which is disordered by a rabble riot of thoughts, suffers as it were a kind of crowded population.  Another man has submitted his neck to the dominion of Anger, and what does he employ himself about in imagination but quarrels which do not even exist?  Such a man is often overlooking those that are before him, contradicting the absent, giving and receiving insults in imagination, making his reply severer than the insult received, and when there is none there to encounter him, he makes up a quarrel in his own breast with much uproar.  He then that is pressed down by an intolerable weight of angry thoughts, has the misfortune of a rabble in his own bosom.  Another has delivered himself over to the law of avarice, and, out of conceit with his own possessions, hankers after what belongs to another: it often happens that being unable to obtain what he longs for, he spends the day indeed in idleness, but the night in thought; he is a sluggard in useful work, because he is harassed with unlawful devices; he multiplies his schemes, and stretches his bosom the wider by all the contrivances and expedients of his invention; he is busy to reach the desired objects, and in order to obtain them he casts about for the most secret windings to serve for his occasions, and the moment that he reckons himself to have hit upon any crafty contrivance on an occasion, he is now in high glee as having obtained possession of his object, and now he is contriving what he may even add further to the thing when gotten, and is considering how it ought to be improved to a better condition; and whereas he is now in possession, and is bringing it to wear a better appearance, he is next considering the snares of those that are envious of him, and pondering what dispute they may fasten upon him, and making out what answer to give, and at the time he has nothing in his hands, the empty handed disputant is wearing himself out in defence of the thing which he desires.  Thus although he has not got a particle of the object desired, yet he has already in his breast the fruit of his desire in the troublesomeness of the quarrel; and so he, that is overcome by the tumultuous instigations of avarice, has a vast population besetting him. Another one has subjected himself to the empire of pride, and while he lifts himself up against his fellow-creatures, he submits his heart to the vice, to his great misery.  He covets the wreaths of elevated honours, he aims to exalt himself by his successes, and all that he desires to be, he represents to himself in the secret thoughts of his own breast.  He is already as it seems seated on the judgment-seat, already sees the services of his subjects at his command, already shines above others, already brings evil upon one party, or recompenses another for having done this.  Already in his own imagination he goes forth into public surrounded by throngs, already marks with what observance he is sustained in his high position; yet while fancying this, he is creeping by himself alone.  Now he is treading one set under his feet, now he is elevating another, now he is gratifying his dislikes upon those he treads under foot, now he is receiving applause from the other whom he has elevated.  What else is that man doing, who has such a multitude of fanciful imaginations pictured in his heart, save gazing at a dream with waking eyes?  and thus, since he undergoes the misery of so many combinations of cases, which he pictures to himself, he plainly carries about within him crowds, that are engendered of his desires.  Another has by this time learnt to eschew forbidden objects, yet he dreads lest he should lack the good things of this world, he is anxious to retain the goods vouchsafed him; he is ashamed to appear inferior among men, and he is full of concern lest he should become either a poor man at home, or an object of contempt in public.  He anxiously inquires what may suffice for himself, what the needs of his dependants may require; and that he may sufficiently discharge the rights of a patron towards his dependants, he searches for patrons whom he may himself wait upon; but whilst he is joined to them in a relation of dependence, he is undoubtedly implicated in their concerns, wherein he often consents to forbidden acts, and the wickedness, which he has no mind for on his own account, he commits for the sake of other objects which he has not forsaken.  For often, while dreading the diminution of his reputation in the world, he gives his approval to those things with his superiors, which in his own secret judgment he has now learnt to condemn.  Whilst he anxiously bethinks himself what he owes to his patrons, what to his dependants, what gain he may make for himself, how he may promote his inclinations, he is in a manner overlaid with resort of crowds, as many in number as the demands of the cases whereby he is distracted.


58.  But holy men, on the other hand, because their hearts are not set upon any thing of this world, are assuredly never subject to the pressure of any tumults in their breast, for they banish all inordinate stirrings of desire from the heart's bed, with the hand of holy deliberation.  And because they contemn all transitory things, they do not experience the licentious familiarities of the thoughts springing therefrom.  For their desires are fixed upon their eternal country alone, and loving none of the things of this world, they enjoy a perfect tranquillity of mind; and hence it is said with justice, Which built desolate places for themselves.  For to ‘build desolate places' is to banish from the heart's interior the stirrings of earthly desires, and with a single aim at the eternal inheritance to pant in love of inward peace.  Had he not banished from himself all the risings of the imaginations of the heart, who said, One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord? [Ps. 27, 4]  For he had betaken himself from the concourse of earthly desires to no less a solitude than his own self, where he would be the more secure in seeing nought without, in proportion as there was no insufficient object that he loved.  For from the tumult of earthly things he had sought a singular and perfect retreat in a quiet mind, wherein he would see God the more clearly, in proportion as he saw Him alone with himself also alone.


59.  Now they, who ‘build for themselves solitary places,’ are very properly also called ‘consuls,’ for they set up the mind's solitude in themselves in such wise, that whereinsoever they have the greater ability, they never cease to consult for the good of others through charity.  Accordingly let us consider a little more particularly the case of him, whom we just now noticed as ‘a consul,’ and see in what manner he casts abroad the counters [b] of the virtues, for the setting forth examples of a sublime life to the lines of people under him.  Observe, in order to inculcate the returning good for evil, he makes confession on his own person, saying, If I have returned on them that requited me evil, then should I deserve to fall empty before mine enemies. [Ps. 7, 4]  To excite the love of our Maker, he introduces himself saying, But it is good for me to draw near to [to cleave] God.  To work an impression of holy humility, he shews the secrets of his heart, saying, Lord, mine heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty. [Ps. 131, 1]  He excites us by his own example to imitate his unswerving zeal, saying, Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee, and am not I grieved with them that rise up against thee?  I hate them with perfect hatred, I count them mine enemies. [Ps. 139, 21. 22.]  To light up in us the desire of our eternal home, he laments the length of this present life, and says, Woe is me that my sojourn is prolonged. [Ps. 120, 5. V.]  Surely he shone forth in the magnificence of the consulship, who, by the example of his own conversation, casts before us so many of virtue's counters.


60.  But let this counsellor tell whether he too builds a solitary place for himself, For he says, Lo, I fled far off and remained in the wilderness.  He ‘fleeth far off,’ in that he raises himself from the throng of earthly desires in high contemplation of God; and he ‘remains in the wilderness,’ in that he persists in the retiring purpose of his mind.  Of this solitude Jeremiah saith well to the Lord, I sat alone from the face of Thy hand, because Thou hast filled me with threatening. [Jer. 15, 17]  For the ‘face of God's hand,’ is the stroke of His righteous judgment, whereby He cast man out of Paradise, when he waxed proud, and shut him out into [caecitatem A.B.C.D.E.] the darkness of his present place of banishment.  But ‘His threatening' is the farther dread of a subsequent punishment.  Accordingly after ‘the face of His hand,’ we are yet further terrified with ‘His threats,’ because both the penalty of our present banishment has already fallen upon us in the actual experience of His judgment, and, if we do not leave off from sinning, He further consigns us to everlasting punishments.  Let the holy man then, here cast away, consider whence it was that man fell, and whither the justice of the Judge yet further hurries him, if he goes on to sin afterwards, and let him dismiss from his breast the countless hosts of temporal desires, and bury himself in the deep solitude of the mind, saying, I sat alone from the face of Thy Hand; for Thou hast filled me with threatening.  As though he said in plain words, ‘when I consider what I already suffer in experience of Thy judgment, I seek with trembling the withdrawal of my mind from the tumult of temporal desires; for I dread even still worse those eternal punishments, which Thou dost threaten.’  Well then is it said of ‘kings and counsellors,’ which built desolate places for themselves.  In that they, who know both how to govern themselves, and to advise for others, being unable as yet to obtain admission to that interior tranquillity, fashion a resemblance to it within themselves by pursuit of a quiet mind.

Ver. 15.  Or with princes that have gold, who fill their houses with silver.




61.  Whom does he call princes, but the rulers of holy Church, whom the Divine economy substitutes without intermission in the room of their predecessors?  Concerning these the Psalmist, speaking to the same Church, says, Instead of thy fathers thou hast children born to thee, whom thou mayest make princes in all lands. [Ps. 45, 16]  And what does he call gold, saving wisdom; of which Solomon saith, A treasure to be desired lieth at rest in the mouth of the wise? [Prov. 21, 20]  That is, he saw wisdom as gold, and therefore called it a treasure: and she is well designated by the name of ‘gold,’ for that, as temporal goods are purchased with gold, so are eternal blessings with wisdom.  If wisdom had not been gold, it would never have been said by the Angel to the Church [p] of Laodicea, I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire.  For we ‘buy ourselves gold,’ when we pay obedience first, to get wisdom in exchange, and it is to this very bargain that a certain wise man rightly stimulates us, in these words, If thou desire wisdom, keep the commandments, and the Lord shall give her unto thee. [Ecclus. 1, 26]  And what is signified by the ‘houses,’ but our consciences?  Hence it is said to one that was healed, Go unto thine house. [Matt. 9, 16]  As though he had heard in plain words, ‘After the outward miracles, turn back into thine own conscience, and weigh well what kind of person within thou shouldest shew thyself before God.’  And what too is represented by silver but the divine revelations, of which the Psalmist says, The words of the Lord are pure words, as silver tried in the fire? [Ps 12, 6]  The word of the Lord is said to be like silver tried in the fire, because God's word, when it is fixed in the heart, is tried with afflictions.


62.  Let the holy man then, full of the Spirit of Eternity, both sum up the things that shall be, and gather together in the open bosom of his mind all those, whom ages long after should give birth to, and consider with wonder and astonishment those Elect souls, with whom he would be enjoying rest in life eternal without the weariness of labour, had none ever been led into sin by the passion of pride, and let him say, For now should I have lain still and been quiet; I should have slept; then had I been at rest with kings and counsellors of the earth, which built desolate places for themselves, or with princes that had gold, who filled their houses with  silver.  For as, if no decay of sin had ever ruined our first parent, he would not have begotten of himself children of hell, but they all, who must now be saved by the Redemption, would have been born of him Elect souls, and none else, let him look at these, and reflect how he might have been at rest in their company.  Let him see the holy Apostles so ruling the Church they had undertaken, that they never ceased to give it counsel by the word of preaching, and so call them kings and counsellors.  After these let him behold rulers arise in their room, who by living according to wisdom should have gold, and by preaching right ways to others should shine with the silver of sacred discourse, and let him call them real princes, the houses of whose conscience are full of gold and silver.  But as it is not enough sometimes for the Spirit of Prophecy to foresee future events, unless at the same time it presents to the view of the prophet the past and by-gone, the holy man opens his eyes below and above, and not only fixes them on the future, but also recalls to mind the past.  For he forthwith adds,

Ver. 16.  Or as an hidden untimely birth I had not been; as infants which  never saw light.




63.  An abortive child, because it is born before the full period, being dead is forthwith put out of sight.  Whom then does the holy man term ‘abortives,’ with whom he might ‘have been at rest,’ he reflects, saving all the Elect, who from the beginning of the world lived before the time of the Redemption, and yet studied to mortify themselves to this world.  Those who had not the tables of the Law, ‘died’ as it were ‘from the womb,’ in that it was by the natural law that they fear their Creator, and believing the Mediator would come, they strove to the best of their power, by mortifying their pleasures, to keep even those very precepts, which they had not received in writing.  And so that period, which at the beginning of the world produced our fathers dead to this life, was in a certain sense the ‘womb of an abortive birth.’  For there we have Abel, of whom we read not that he resisted his brother when he slew him.  There Enoch, who approved himself such that he was carried up to walk with the Lord.  There Noah, who hereby, that he was acceptable to the searching judgment of God, was, in the world, the world's survivor.  There Abraham, who, while a pilgrim in the world, became the friend of God.  There Isaac, who, by reason of his fleshly eyes waxing dim, by his age had no sight of things present, but by the efficacy of the prophetic Spirit lighted up future ages even with his extraordinary luminousness of sight.  There Jacob, who in humility fled his brother's indignation, and by kindness overcame the same; who was fruitful indeed in his offspring, but yet being more fruitful in richness of the Spirit, bound that offspring with the chains of prophecy.  And this untimely birth is well described as hidden, in that from the beginning of the world, while there are some few, whom we are informed of by Moses' mention of them, by far the largest portion of mankind is hidden from our sight.  For we are not to imagine that during all the period up to the receiving of the Law, only just so many righteous men came forth, as Moses has run through in the most summary notice.  And thus, forasmuch as the multitude of the righteous born from the beginning of the world is in great measure withdrawn from our knowledge, this untimely birth is called hidden.  And it is also said, not to have been, because a few only being enumerated, the generality of them are not preserved among us by any written record for their memorial.


64.  Now it is rightly added; As infants which never saw light.  For they, who came into this world after the Law was received, were conceived to their Creator, by the instruction of the same Law; yet, though conceived, they never saw light, in that these never could attain to the coming of the Lord's Incarnation, which yet they stedfastly believed; for the Lord Incarnate saith, I am the Light of the world [John 8, 12]; and that very Light declareth, Many Prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them. [Matt. 13, 17]  Therefore the fruit ‘conceived never saw light,’ in that, although quickened to entertain the hope of a future Mediator by the plain declarations of the Prophets, they were never able to behold His Incarnation.  In all these then the inward conception brought forth a form of faith, but never carried this on so far as to the open vision of God's Presence; for that death intervening hurried them from the world before Truth made manifest had shed light thereon.


65.  Thus the holy man then, full of the spirit of Eternity, fixes to his memory by the hand of the heart all that is transient; and because every creature is little in regard to the Creator, by the same Spirit, Which hath nought either in Itself or about Itself saving always to be, he views both what shall be, and what hath been, and directs the eye of his mind both below and above, and regarding things that are coming as past, he burns in the core of his heart toward eternal Being, and says, For now I should have lain still and been quiet.  For ‘now’ belongs to the present time, and what else is it for one to seek a rest always placed in the present, but to pant after that bliss of eternity, whereunto there is nought in coming or in going?  Which always Being The Truth, by the lips of Moses, shews to be His own attribute, so as to communicate it to us in some degree in the words, I AM THAT I AM, and He said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, HE THAT IS hath sent me unto you; and now, that he is contemplating things transient, and seeking an ever present bliss, and making mention of the light to come, and enumerating and considering the orders of the Elect children thereof, let him now shew us in a little plainer terms the rest itself that appertains to this light, and let him shew in plainer words, what is brought to pass therein every day relating to the life and conduct of the wicked.  It proceeds;

Ver. 17.  There the wicked cease from disturbance, and there the weary in strength be at rest.




66.  We have already said above, that herein, viz. that the hearts of sinners are possessed with a tumult of desires, they are grievously oppressed by a host of goading thoughts, but in this light, which the ‘infants conceived’ never saw, the wicked are said to ‘cease from their disquietude' for this reason, that the coming of the Mediator, which the fathers under the Law had long waited for, the Gentiles found to the peace of their life, as Paul testifies, who saith, Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for, but the election hath obtained it. [Rom. 11, 7]  In this light then ‘the wicked cease from disquietude,’ inasmuch as the minds of the untoward, when they have come to the knowledge of the truth, eschew the wearisome desires of the world, and find rest in the quiet haven of interior love.  Does not the Light Itself call us to this rest when It says, Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest; take My yoke upon You and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto Your souls; For My yoke is easy, and My burthen is light. [Matt. 11, 28-30]  For what heavy yoke does He put upon our mind's neck, Who bids us shun every desire that causes disquietude?  What heavy burthen does He lay upon His followers, Who warns us to decline the wearisome ways of the world?  Now, by the testimony of the Apostle Paul, Christ died for the ungodly; [Rom. 5, 6] and it was for this reason that the Light Itself condescended to die for the ungodly, that these might not continue in the disorderment of their state of darkness.  So let the holy man consider with himself, that by the mystery of the Incarnation ‘the Light’ rescues the wicked from heavy toil, while It takes clean away all the aims of wickedness from their hearts; let him reflect how every converted person has already here below a taste, by inward tranquillity, of that rest which he desires to have throughout eternity, and let him say, There the wicked cease from, disturbance, and the weary in strength are at rest.


67.  For all they that are strong in this world are by their might in one way strong, not wearied out in strength; but they that are endued with might in the love of their Maker, the more they be strengthened in the love of God, which is their object of desire, become in the same degree powerless in their own strength, and the stronger their longing for the things of eternity, the more they are wearied as to earthly objects by a wholesome failure of their strength.  Hence the Psalmist, being wearied with the strength of his love, said, My soul hath fainted in [al. toward as V.] Thy salvation. [Ps. 119, 81]  For his soul did faint while making way in God's salvation, in that he panted with desire of the light of eternity, broken of all confidence in the flesh.  Hence he says again, My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord. [Ps. 84, 2]  Now when he said ‘longeth,’ he added rightly, and ‘fainteth,’ since that longing for the Divine Being is little indeed, which is not likewise immediately followed by a fainting in one's self.  For it is but meet that he who is inflamed to seek the courts of eternity, should be enfeebled in the love of this temporal state.  So that he should be cold to the pursuit of this world, in proportion as he rises with soul more inflamed to the love of God.  Which love if he completely grasps, he then at the same time completely quits the world, and the more entirely dies to temporal things, the higher he is made to soar after the life to come by the inspirations of Eternity.  Had not that soul found itself wearied in its own strength, which exclaimed, My soul [so V.] was melted when he spake; [Cant. 5, 6] clearly in that while the soul is touched by the inspirations of the secret communication, weakened in the seat of its own strength, it is ‘melted’ by the desire wherewith it is swallowed up, and finds itself wearied in itself by the same step whereby it is brought to see that there is a might without itself to which it soars.  Hence when the Prophet was telling that he had seen a vision of God, he adds, And I, Daniel fainted and was sick certain days; [Dan. 8, 27] for when the soul is held fast to the power of God, the flesh waxes faint in respect of its own strength.  Thus Jacob, who held an Angel in his hold, immediately afterwards halted upon one foot; for he that regards things on high with a genuine love, already forswears to walk in this world with a doubleminded affection.  For he rests upon one foot, who is strong in the love of God alone; and it must needs be that the other should wither, for when the virtue of the soul gains increase, it behoves assuredly that the strength of the flesh wax dull.  Let blessed Job, then, review the deep recesses of the hearts of the faithful, and consider the haven of inward peace that they find, while in advancing unto God they are enfeebled in their own strength, and let him say, There the weary in strength be at rest.  As if he taught in plain words, ‘there the repose of light is the reward of those, whom the advancement of inward restoration wearies here.’  Nor ought it to influence us, that after naming light he did not subjoin, in this, but there, for that which he beholds encompassing the Elect, he discovers to be our place as it were.  Whence then the Psalmist, when contemplating the unchangeableness of Eternity, and saying, But Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail; [Ps. 102, 28] proclaims that this is the place of the Elect, by adding, But the children of Thy servants shall dwell there.  For God, Who without position containeth all things, remains a place without locality to us who come to Him.  And when we reach this place, our eyes are opened to see, what infinite vexation even our very repose of mind was in this life, for though the righteous by comparison with the bad already enjoy rest, yet in estimating the inmost Rest, they are altogether not at rest. Hence it is well added;

Ver. 18.  There the former prisoners are alike without vexation.




68.  For though the just are possessed by no riot of carnal desires, yet the clog of corruption binds them down in this life with hard chains; for it is written, For the corruptible body presseth down the soul, and the earthly tabernacle weigheth down the mind that museth upon many things. [Wisd. 9, 15]  So herein even, that they are still mortal beings, they are weighed down by the burthen of their state of corruption, and chained and bound by its clogs, in that they are not yet risen in that liberty of an incorruptible life.  For they meet with one thing from the mind, and another from the body, and they are spent every day in the inward conflict with themselves.  Are they not indeed bound with the hard chain of vexation, whose mind, without labour, is dissolved in ignorance, and is not trained without the strivings of labour?  When forced it stands erect, of itself it lies prostrate, and yet as soon as raised up, it forthwith falls, by conquering itself with laborious effort, its eyes are opened to see heavenly things, but recoiling, it flees the light, which had illuminated it.  Are they not bound fast with the hard chain of vexation, who when their fired soul draws them with a perfect desire to the bosom of inward peace, suffer perturbation from the flesh in the heat of the conflict?  And though this now no longer encounters it face to face, as though drawn up with hostile front, yet it still goes muttering like a captive in the rear of the mind, and, though with fears, it yet defiles with vile clamouring the form of fair tranquillity in the breast.  Therefore, though the Elect subdue all enemies with a strong hand, since they long for the security of inward peace, it is yet a grievous vexation to them to have something still to vanquish.  And leaving these out of the question, they endure over and above those chains too, which a sore necessity outwardly fastens upon them; for to eat, to drink, and to be tired, are chains of corruption, and chains too, which can never be unloosed, save when our mortal nature is turned into the glory of an immortal nature; for we fill our body with food to sustain it, lest it fail from extenuation; and we thin it down by abstinence, lest it oppress by repletion.  We quicken it by motion, lest it be killed by lying motionless, but by setting it down we soon stop its motions, that by that very activity it may not give under.  We clothe it with garments as a succour to it, lest the cold destroy it, and cast off these succours so sought after, lest the heat should parch it.  Exposed then to so many vicissitudes and chances, what else do we, but drudge to the corruptibility of our state of being, that howsoever the multiplicity of the services rendered to it may sustain that body, which the fretting care of a frail nature subject to change weighs to the ground.  Hence Paul says well, For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope.  Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the sons of God. [Rom. 8, 20. 21.]  For ‘the creature is made subject to vanity, not willingly,’ in that man, who willingly left the footing of inborn firmness, being pressed down by the weight of a deserved mortality, is the unwilling slave of the corruption of his changeful condition.  But this creature is then rescued from the slavery of corruption, when in rising again it is lifted uncorrupt to the glory of the sons of God.  Here then the Elect are bound with vexation, in that they are still pressed down by the curse of their corrupt condition.  But when we are stripped of our corruptible flesh, we are as it were loosened from those chains of vexation, whereby we are now held bound.   For we already long to come into the presence of God, but we are still hindered by the clog of a mortal body.  So that we are justly called ‘prisoners,’ in that we have not as yet the advance of our desire to God free before us.  Hence Paul, whose heart was set upon the things of eternity, yet who still carried about him the load of his corruption, being in bonds exclaims, Having a desire to be unloosed and to be with Christ. [Phil. 1, 23]  For he would not desire to be ‘unloosed,’ unless, assuredly, he saw himself to be in bonds.  Now because he saw that these bonds were most surely to be burst at the Resurrection, the Prophet rejoiced as if they were already burst asunder, when he said, Thou hast loosed my bonds. I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving. [Ps. 116, 16]  Let the holy man then reflect that inward light is the haven that receives converted sinners, and let him say, There the wicked cease from trouble.  Let him reflect, that holy men, being awearied with the exercising of desire, enjoy the deeper repose in that inmost bosom, and let him say, And there the weary in strength are at rest.  Let him reflect, that being absolved from all the bonds of corruption at once and together, they attain those uncorrupt joys of liberty.  And the former prisoners are alike without vexation.  And it is wel1 said, the former prisoners, for while that ever present bliss is in his view, all that shall be, and is going [B. ‘and shall be gone’], seems as though past.  For whilst the end of all things is awaited, all that passes away is accounted already to have been.  But let him tell what all they, for whom the interior rest is there in store, shall meanwhile have done here.  It goes on;

They have not heard the voice of the exactor.  [non exaudierunt]




69.  Who else is to be understood by the title of the ‘exactor,’ saving that insatiate prompter, who for once bestowed the coin of deceit upon mankind, and from that time ceases not daily to claim the debt of death?  Who lent to man in Paradise the money of sin, but by the multiplying of wickedness is daily exacting it with usury?  Concerning this exactor, Truth saith in the Gospel, And the Judge deliver thee to the officer [V. ‘exactori’]. [Luke 12, 58]  Therefore the voice of this exactor is the tempting of persuasion to our hurt.  And we hear the voice of the exactor, when we are smitten with his temptation, but we do not bear it effectually [exaudimus] if we resist the hand that smites, for he ‘hears’ that feels the temptation, but he hears effectually who yields to the temptation.  So let it be said of the righteous, They have not heard the voice of the exactor; for though they hear his prompting in that they are tempted, they do not hear it effectually, for that they take shame to yield thereto, but because whatsoever the mind loves with great affection, it is often repeating even in utterance of the lips; blessed Job, in that he views the crowds of inward peace with fulness of affection, again employs himself about the description [al. the distinguishing of them] of it, saying,

Ver. 19.  The small and great are there; the servant is free from his master.


70.  Forasmuch as there is to us in this life a difference in works, doubtless there will be in the future life a difference in degrees of dignity, that whereas here one surpasses another in desert, there one may excel another in reward.  Hence Truth says in the Gospel, In My Father's house are many mansions. [John 14, 2]  But in those ‘many mansions,’ the very diversity of rewards will be in some measure in harmony.  For an influence so mighty joins us together in that peace, that what any has failed to receive in himself, he rejoices to have received in another.  And thus they that did not equally labour in the vineyard, equally obtain all of them a penny.  And indeed with the Father are ‘many mansions,’ and yet the unequal labourers receive the same penny, in that the blessedness of joy will be one and the same to all, yet not one and the same sublimity of life to all.  He had seen the small and great in this light, who said in the voice of the Head; Thine eyes did see My substance, yet being imperfect, and in Thy book were all My members written. [Ps. 139, 16]  He beheld ‘the small and the great together,’ when he declared, He will bless them that fear the Lord, both small and great. [Ps. 115, 13]  And it is well added, And the servant is free from his master.  For it is written, Everyone that sinneth is the servant of sin [John 8, 34].  For whosoever yields himself up to bad desire, submits the neck of his mind, till now free, to the dominion of wickedness.  Now we withstand this master, when we struggle against the evil whereby we had been taken captive, when we forcibly resist the bad habit, and treading under all froward desires, maintain against the same the right of inborn liberty, when we strike our sin by penitence, and cleanse the stains of pollution with our tears.  But it oftentimes happens, that the mind indeed already bewails what it remembers itself to have done amiss, that already it not only forsakes its misdeeds, but even chastises them with the bitterest lamentations, yet while it recalls to memory the things that it has done, it is affrighted and sorely dismayed against the Judgment.  It already turns itself with a perfect intention, but does not yet lift itself up in a perfect state of security, for while it weighs the rigid exactness of the final scrutiny, it trembles with anxiety between hope and fear, for it knows not, when the righteous Judge comes, what He will reckon, what He will remit of the deeds done.  For it remembers what evil deeds it has committed, but it cannot tell whether it has worthily bewailed the commission of them, and it dreads lest the vastness of the sin exceed the measure of penance.  And it is very often the case that ‘Truth’ already remits the sin, yet the troubled soul, whilst it is full of anxiety for itself, still trembles for the pardon thereof.  So that in this present life the servant already escapes from his master, yet he is not free from him, in that by chastisement and penance man already forsakes his sin, yet he still fears the strict Judge for the recompensing of it.  There then ‘the servant will be free from his master,’ when there will be no longer misgiving about the pardon of sin, when the recollection of its sin no longer condemns the soul, now secured, where the conscience does not tremble under a sense of guilt, but exults in the pardon of the same in a state of freedom.


72.  But if man is reached there by no remembrance of his sin, how does he congratulate himself that he has been saved therefrom?  Or how does he return thanks to his Benefactor for the pardon, which he has received, if by an intervening forgetfulness of his past wickedness, he knows not that he is a debtor to suffer punishment?  For we must not pass over negligently that which the Psalmist says, I will sing of the mercies of the Lord for ever. [Ps. 89, 1]  For how does he ‘sing of the mercies of God for ever,’ if he knows not that he has been miserable; and if he has no recollection of past misery, whence does he answer with praises the bestowal of mercy?  And again, we must enquire how the mind of the Elect can be in perfect bliss, if amidst its joys the memory of its guilt reaches it?  Or how does the glory of indefectible light shine out, when it is overcast by the sin that is recalled to mind?  But be it known, that just as oftentimes now in joy we call to mind sad things, so in the future life, we bring back the memory of past sin without any hurt to our bliss.  For it very often happens, that in the season of health, we recall to mind past pains without feeling pain, and in proportion as we remember ourselves sick, the more we hug ourselves in health.  And so in that blissful estate there will be a remembrance of sin, not such as to pollute the mind, but to attach us the more closely to our joy, that while the mind without pain remembers itself of its pain, it may the more clearly perceive itself to be a debtor to the physician, and so much the more cherish the health it has received, in proportion as it remembers what it has escaped of uneasiness.  And so then, placed in that state of bliss, we so regard our evil deeds without loathing, as now being set in light, without any inward blindness of the heart, we see the darkness with our mind; for though that be dim which we perceive with the imagination, this comes from the sentence of light, not from the misfortune of blindness.  And thus throughout eternity we render to our Benefactor the praise of His mercy, yet are in no degree oppressed with the consciousness of wretchedness; for whilst we review our evils without any evil betiding the mind, on the one hand there will never be ought to defile, the hearts that render praise on the score of past wickednesses, and again there will always be somewhat to inflame them to the praise of their Deliverer.  Therefore, because the repose of inward light does in such sort transport the great ones into itself, that yet it does not leave the little ones, let it be rightly said, the small and great are there.  Now forasmuch as the mind of the converted sinner is there touched by the recollection of his sin in such sort that he is not overwhelmed by any confusion at that recollection, it is fitly subjoined, And the servant is free from his master.