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The whole of the fifth chapter, beginning at the third verse, is explained first in a spiritual sense, a few parts in an allegorical, and a great many in a moral sense.







SAVING the historical verity, I proposed to myself to make out the sayings of blessed Job and of his friends by the mystical mode of interpretation: for it is plain to all that are acquainted with the truth, that Holy Writ takes care to hold out in promise the Redeemer of the world in all its statements, and that it has aimed to represent Him by all the Elect as by His members.  And hence blessed Job is in the Latin tongue rendered ‘grieving,’ that both by his name and by his wounds the Passion of our Redeemer might be signified, of Whom the Prophet saith, Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows. [Is. 53, 4]  And the Tempter, having robbed him of every thing, slew both his servants and his children; in that at the time of His Passion he smote with the weapon of faithlessness not only the Jewish people, that served Him out of fear, but the very Apostles also themselves, that were regenerated in His love.  The body of blessed Job is mangled with wounding, for our Redeemer does not disdain to be pierced with nails upon the stock of the Cross.  And he received wounds, from the sole of the foot to the very crown of his head, in that not only in her last and lowest members, but even up to the very highest, Holy Church, which is His Body, is harassed with persecution by the raging Tempter.  Hence also Paul said, And fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ. [Col. 1, 24]  And his wife strives to persuade him to curse, in that all the carnal minds within the pale of Holy Church prove abettors of the cunning Tempter.  For she, who prompts him to cursing, represents the life of the carnal sort; since, as we have already said above, all persons of unchastened habits within the pale of Holy Church, in proportion as they are brought nigh to the good by their faith, pinch them harder by their life.  For because they cannot be avoided, as being of the number of the faithful, they are borne by the faithful as the greater harm, in proportion [see Preface, § 14] as it is nearer home.  But his friends, who come as if to administer consolation, but run out into words of bitter upbraiding, bear the likeness of heretics, who, in striving to defend God against the righteous, only offend Him.


2.  These things then, which have been more fully delivered above, I have endeavoured to gather into a small compass after their mystical representation, that by this very repetition it might be recalled to the recollection of my reader, that I minister to the spiritual understanding.  And yet, when occasion of usefulness demands, I also busy myself to make out with minute exactness the letter of the history, but when it is needed I embrace both at the same time, that the allegory may put forth spiritual fruit, which same nevertheless is produced by the historical verity as from the root.  Now the friends of blessed Job, who, we have said, bear the likeness of heretics, we by no means condemn for their words throughout; for whereas it is delivered against them by the sentence from above, For ye have not spoken before Me the thing that is right; [Job 42, 7] and it is thereupon added, Like My servant Job; it is plainly manifest that that is not altogether set at nought, which is only disapproved by comparison with what is better.  For they incautiously slip into censure of him, but yet, as they are the friends of so great a man, from familiar intercourse with him they learnt many mystical truths.  Whence, as we have also said above, Paul uses their very words, and by taking these in aid of his statement, he testifies that they were delivered from a source of truth.  Which same nevertheless Truth does rightly censure, in that no sentence, however full of force, should be delivered against a holy man.  Accordingly the words of Eliphaz may be considered in a mystical sense, whereby he addresses blessed Job, saying,

Ver. 3.  I have seen the foolish taking root; but suddenly I cursed his  beauty. [so V.]




3.  For the Jewish people shewed itself to be ‘foolish,’ in that it slightly regarded the very Presence of Eternal Wisdom in the flesh.  And it waxed strong, as it were, by taking root, in that it had power over the life of the Elect to the extinction thereof in time.  And Eliphaz despises such an one, cursing him, in that all heretics, whom we have said the friends of blessed Job bear a figure of, while they boast themselves in the name of Christ, censure in a way of authority the unbelief of the Jews.  Concerning which same foolish one it is forthwith added,

Ver. 4.  His children are far from safety, and they are crushed in the gate, neither shall there be any to deliver them.


4.  They all are ‘the children’ of this foolish man, who are generated by the preaching of that unbelief, and these ‘are far from safety,’ for though they enjoy the temporal life without trouble, they are stricken the worse with eternal vengeance, as the Lord says concerning these same sons of such an one, Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made ye make him twofold more the child of hell than, yourselves. [Matt. 23, 15]  It follows, And they are crushed in the gate, neither shall there be any to deliver them.  Who else is to be understood by the name of gate, but the Mediator between God and Man, Who saith, I am the door; by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved. [John 10, 9]  The sons, then, of this foolish man advance without the gate, and they are ‘crushed in the gate,’ for the evil offspring of the Jews, before the Mediator's coming, prospered in the observance of the Law, but in the presence of our Redeemer itself they fell away from the service of the Divine Being, proving outcasts by the deserts of their faithlessness.  And verily there is none ‘to rescue them,’ for while they strive by their persecution to kill the Redeemer Himself, they cut themselves off from the proffered means of their rescue.  And it is well added concerning him,

Ver. 5.  Whose harvest the hungry eateth up, and the armed one shall seize him.




5.  Now ‘the harvest’ of this foolish man was the crop of Sacred Writ.  For the words of the Prophets are like so many grains of the ears, which the foolish man had, but did not eat.  For the Jewish people indeed held the Law as far as the letter, but, from an infatuated pride, as to the sense thereof, they went hungering.  But ‘the hungry eateth the harvest’ of this foolish one, in that the Gentile folk eats by taking in the words of the Law, in which the Jewish people toiled and laboured without taking them in.  These hungry ones of faith the Lord foresaw, when He had said by the Evangelist, Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled. [Matt. 5, 6]  Of these hungry ones Hannah saith prophesying, They that were full, have hired out themselves for bread, and they that were hungry were satisfied. [1 Sam. 2, 5]  And as he lost the harvest, it is rightly added how the foolish man himself too perishes, where it is said, And himself shall the armed one seize.  The old enemy, being ‘armed,’ seized the Jewish people, for he extinguished in them the life of faith by the darts of deceitful counsel, that in the very point, wherein they imagined themselves to be rooted in God, they might resist His dispensation.  And Truth forewarns the Disciples of this, saying, Yea, the time cometh that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. [John 16, 2]  It follows.

And the thirsty shall drink his riches.




6.  The riches of this ‘foolish’ one ‘the thirsty drink,’ in that by the streams of Sacred Writ, which the Jewish people possessed in the display of pride, the converted minds of the Gentiles are watered.  And hence it is said to those same persons by the Prophet, Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no silver, come ye. [Is. 55, 1]  For that the divine oracles are denoted by the word ‘silver,’ is testified by the Psalmist in these words, The words of the Lord are pure words, as silver tried in the fire. [Ps. 12, 6]  They then that ‘have no silver,’ are bidden to the ‘waters,’ in that the Gentile world which had never received the precepts of Holy Writ, is satisfied with the outpouring of Divine Revelation, which they now drink of the more eagerly, in proportion as they thirsted for it long time in a state of drought.  Thus the very same Divine oracles are called at once ‘harvests’ and ‘riches;’ ‘harvests,’ because they refresh the hungering soul; ‘riches,’ because they array us in a rare richness of moral excellences.  The same things are said both to be ‘eaten,’ and to be ‘drunk,’ for this reason, that whereas there are certain things therein that are obscure, which we understand not without they be interpreted, these same we in a manner swallow eating; and whereas certain other things indeed, that are easy to be understood, we so take as we find them, these we drink as if unchewed, in that we swallow them unbroken.  These things we have run through in brief mode under their mystical signification, lest perchance we might seem to have passed over any thing; but because they could not be the friends of blessed Job, except in some points they also shone conspicuous for high moral worth, it remains that in their words we examine the force of their import in a moral sense, that, whilst the weight and substance of their speech is made out, it may be shewn what sort of teaching they were masters of.

Ver.3.  I have seen the foolish taking root, but suddenly I cursed his beauty.




7.  ‘The foolish’ is as it were made fast in the earth by ‘taking root,’ in that he is fixed in the love of earth with all his heart's desire.  And hence Cain is recorded to have been the first that builded a city in the earth, that it might be plainly shewn, that that same man laid a foundation in the earth, who was turned adrift from the firm hold of our heavenly country.  The foolish man as it were lifts himself up by ‘taking root,’ when he is buoyed up in this world with temporal good fortune, so that he obtains whatsoever he desires, is subject to no crosses, prevails against the weak without meeting with resistance, gainsays those that do well with authority, is ever attaining to better circumstances by means of worse practices, so that from the very cause that he is forsaking the path of life, he lives for the time the happier.  But when the weak see that the wicked flourish, they are alarmed, and being troubled in their own breasts by the prosperity of sinners, they inwardly falter in the mind's footsteps.  It was the likeness of these same that the Psalmist took when he declared, But as for me, my feet were almost gone, my step, had well nigh slipped; for I was envious at the sinner, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. [Ps. 73, 2. 3.]


8.  But when the strong see their glory, they forthwith fix their minds upon the punishment which is to follow after that glory, and with deep thought of heart within they contemn that, which swells the proud without with the bigness of empty inflation.  It is then well said, I have seen the foolish taking root, but suddenly I cursed his beauty.  For to ‘curse the beauty’ of the fool is to condemn his glory by an advised sentence, for he is the more frightfully drowned in torments, the higher he is lifted up in sins; for the being lifted up is transient, but the being punished is perpetual; for he, that meets with honour on his road, will meet with condemnation on his arrival; and he is as it were coming to a prison through pleasant meadows, who is going on to ruin through this world's prosperity.  But it is to be observed, that, when he says that he ‘cursed the beauty of the fool,’ he directly adds, suddenly; for it is the way with man's weak mind to vary according to the modification of the objects which it beholds.  Thus it often happens that his judgment is led by the mere appearance of the object presented, and his bias and feeling are framed according to the thing which is before his eyes.  For often persons, while they see the glory of certain individuals, are charmed with the appearances thereof, and account it something great, and heartily wish they might themselves obtain the like; but when they see the children of glory severally either overthrown of a sudden, or perchance even brought to death, they acknowledge with a sigh that human glory is altogether nought, so as to exclaim at once, ‘See what a nothing is man!’  Which indeed they would say with more propriety, if when they saw man in possession of glory, then thinking of his destruction, they had felt that transitory power is nought.  For it is then that we are to reflect what a nothing human exaltation is, when by its successes it mounts above others; then we ought to reflect with what speed happiness will flee away, when it flourishes, as if for ever, before the eyes of men.  For that the glory of a perishable being is nothing in the actual hour of death, any of the weak sort can presently consider.  For then even they hold it cheap, who even until death follow after it with affection.  So that it is well said, I have seen the foolish taking root, but suddenly I cursed his beauty.  As if he said plainly; ‘Against the beauty of the foolish I admitted no delay in my cursing, for as soon as I discerned it, I saw along with it the punishment that comes after; for I should not have cursed suddenly, if any delight in that glory had kept hold of me, but I cursed without tardiness, for beholding his punishments which are destined to endure, I condemned his power without hesitating.’ But because in every case the more the wicked make way in this world, the greater numbers they drag to destruction, it is rightly subjoined, Let his children be [al. his children shall be] far from safety.  For the children of the foolish one are they, that after his copy are brought forth in this world's ambition; who truly are so much the further from safety, in proportion as in the practice of iniquity they are stricken by no infirmity.  Of these it is well added,

Ver. 4.  And they shall be crushed in the gate; neither shall there be any to deliver them. 




9.  For as the entrance of a city is called the ‘gate,’ so is the day of Judgment the gate of the Kingdom, since all the Elect go in thereby to the glory of their heavenly country.  And hence when Solomon saw this day approaching for the recompensing of Holy Church, he said, Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land. [Prov. 31, 23]  For the Redeemer of mankind is the ‘husband’ of Holy Church, Who shews Himself ‘renowned’ in the gates.  Who [a.b.c.d. ‘because he’] first came to sight in degradation and in mockings, but shall appear on high at the entering in of His kingdom: and ‘He sitteth among the elders of the land,’ for that He shall decree sentence of condemnation together with the holy preachers of that same Church, as Himself declares in the Gospel, Verily I say unto you, Ye which leave followed Me, in the Regeneration, when the Son of Man shall sit on the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. [Matt. 19, 28]  Which same Isaiah also foretelling long before uses these words, The Lord will enter into judgment with the ancients of His people. [Is. 3, 14]  Of these gates Solomon says again, Give her of the fruit if her hands, and her own works shall praise her in the gates. [Prov. 31, 31]  For Holy Church then receives of ‘the fruit of her hands,’ when the recompensing of her labours lifts her up to the entertainment of heavenly blessings, for her ‘works then praise her in the gates,’ when the words are spoken to her members in the very entrance to His kingdom; For I was an hungred, and ye gave Me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took Me in; naked, and ye clothed Me. [Matt. 25, 35]  The children then of this foolish man are lifted up before ‘the gate,’ but ‘in the gate they shall be crushed;’ in that the followers of this world carry themselves proudly in the present life, but in the very entrance of the kingdom they are struck with an everlasting visitation.  And it is well added, Neither is there any to deliver them.  For ‘Truth’ delivers from eternal woe those whom in temporal weal She straitens by discipline.  He, then, that now refuses to be straightened, is left then without the means to be ‘delivered,’ For Him, Whom they care not to have as a Father in training, the wicked in the season of their calamity never find a deliverer in succouring.  It proceeds;

Whose harvest the hungry one shall eat up.




10.  Even the foolish man has a ‘harvest,’ when any wicked man is vouchsafed the gift of a right understanding, is instructed in the sentences of Holy Writ, speaks good words, yet never in any wise does the thing that he says; gives forth the words of God, yet does not love them; by his praise magnifies them, by his practice tramples on them.  Thus because this foolish man both understands and speaks that, which is right, yet does not love this in his doings, while he has a harvest, he goes starving.  Which same ‘the hungry eateth up,’ in that he, who pants after God with holy desires, learns what he hears, and practises what he has learnt.  And, whilst he is invigorated by the right preaching of a wrong teacher, what else is this than that he is filled with the produce of the foolish?  Did not ‘Truth’ charge His ‘hungry ones’ to eat up the ‘harvest’ of the foolish, when, they being inflamed by holy desires, He charged them concerning the Pharisees, saying, All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, observe and do; but do not ye after their works. [Matt. 23, 3]  As though He said plainly; ‘By speaking they rear the harvest of the word, but by evil living they touch it not.  Let this harvest then be the refreshment for your hunger, for it is for you that they reserve it in their own infatuated loathing.’  And it is well added,

Ver. 5.  And the armed man shall seize him.




11.  For our old enemy is conquered as an unarmed man, when, by openly prompting evil things to the mind of man, he aims to destroy all the good together.  But he comes ‘armed,’ when, leaving some good things untouched, he covertly works the ruin of others.  For often he does not tempt some people in the understanding, nor oppose them in their meditation on Holy Writ, yet he undoes the life of those in practice, who, while they are praised for the excellence of knowledge, neglect to have regard to the shortcomings of their works, and while the mind is decoyed in the delightfulness of good esteem, no remedy is applied to the wounds of the life; and thus the ‘armed’ enemy has swallowed up this man, whom under the cloak of deceit, whilst leaving on one side, he has got the better of on another.  It goes on,

And the thirsty shall drink [so. V.] his riches.




12.  Often the foolish man has a fountain of inward liquid, but he does not drink thereof; in that he is vouchsafed parts to understand, yet he disdains to acquaint himself with the sentences of Holy Writ by the reading of them; he knows that he has ability to understand by studying, yet he gives over in disdain all study of the lessons of truth.  ‘The riches’ of the mind too are the words of Divine utterance, yet the foolish man regards these riches with his eyes, while he never applies them to the purpose of his own adornment.  For on hearing the words of the law he sees indeed that they are great, yet he does not put himself to pains to understand them with any earnestness of love.  But, reversely, another man has a thirst, but has not ability; love draws him to meditation, but the dulness of his sense withstands him, and often in the science of the Divine law, he from time to time finds out that by application, which the man of parts remains ignorant of from carelessness.  Thus ‘the thirsty drink up the riches of this foolish man,’ as often as those precepts of God, which the quickwitted know nothing of from disdaining them, the duller sort follow after with warm affection.  In these verily the eye of love lights up the shades of dulness; for thirst uncloses that to the slower sort, which disdain shuts up to the quicker.  And they for this reason get to the depths of understanding, because they do not scorn to practise even the very least things that they have learnt, and while they aid the understanding with the hands, they lift themselves above the level of the clever.  Hence it is well said by Solomon, The lizard climbeth with his hands, and is in kings’ palaces. [Prov. 30, 28]  For commonly ‘birds,’ which have a wing that lifts them up to fly, dwell in the bushes, and the ‘lizard,’ which has no wings for flying, ‘climbing with hands,’ occupies the abode of royalty, in that often any that are quickwitted, while they grow slack from carelessness, continue in bad practices, and the simple folk, which have no wing of ability to stand them in stead, the excellency of their practice bears up to attain to the walls of the eternal kingdom.  Whereas then ‘the lizard climbeth with his hands,’ he ‘is in kings’ palaces;’ in that the plain man, by earnestness of right practice, reaches that point, whereunto the man of ability never mounts.  But having heard this, a question occurs to our mind, wherefore either the gift of understanding is bestowed on a heedless man, or any earnest mind is hindered by its slowness?  To which an answer is speedily given, in that it is forthwith added,

Ver. 6.  There is nothing in the earth without cause. [so Vulg.]




13.  For on this account it often happens that even a slothful man receives ability, that he may be the more deservedly punished for his carelessness, because he scorns to acquaint himself with that which he might attain to without labour.  And on this account the earnest person is straitened with slowness of understanding, that he may obtain so much the larger rewards of compensation, the more he toils in anxiety to find out.  Therefore ‘there is nothing in the earth without cause,’ since slowness stands the earnest mind in stead for a reward, and to the slothful quickness only thrives for punishment.  But for the understanding of those things that be right, we are at one time instructed therein by earnestness of labour, at another time by pains of affliction.  Hence after it has been said, There is nothing in the earth without cause, it is fitly added thereupon,

Neither doth trouble spring out of the ground.




14.  For ‘trouble springeth out of the ground,’ as it were, when man, being created after the image of God, is scourged by things without sense.  But because it is by reason of the hidden deserts of men's souls that the open scourges of chastisements are sent forth, it happens at the same time that ‘trouble springeth not out of the ground,’ since it is the perversity of our sense, which requires that it should be stricken by things that have no sense.  For thus we see that for our correction the looked for rain is withheld from the parched earth, and the vaporous air is scorched by the fiery heat of the sun; the sea rages with bursting tempests, and some embarked to cross its bosom it cuts off, and others are debarred the longed-for passage by the rampant water; the earth not only yields sparingly the produce of her fertility, but also destroys the seeds she has received.  In all which circumstances we clearly discern that which a wise man testifies concerning God, And the world shall fight with Him against the unwise. [Wisd. 5, 20]  For ‘the world fights with the Lord against the unwise,’ when even the very contrariety of the elements does service in the chastisement of offenders.  Yet neither doth ‘trouble Spring out of the ground,’ for each insensate thing is put in motion to our annoyance, only by the impulse of our own doings.  ‘Trouble does not spring out of the ground,’ for chastisement never a whit springs from that creature that strikes the blow, but from that one, without doubt, which, by committing sin, drew forth the severity of the stroke.  But we must take great and diligent heed, that, when in outward circumstances we are afflicted with a weight of grief, we reach forward in hope to things above; that the mind may attain the heights above, in proportion as we are chastened by the external punishment.  And hence it is justly subjoined,

Ver. 7.  Man is born to labour, and the bird to flying.




15.  For ‘man is born to labour,’ in that he, who is furnished with the gift of reason, bethinks himself that it is wholly impossible for him to pass through this season of his pilgrimage without sorrowing.  Hence when Paul was recounting his woes to his disciples, he justly added, For yourselves know that we are appointed thereto. [1Thess. 3, 3]  But even in that the flesh is afflicted with scourges, the mind is lifted up to seek higher things, as Paul again bears witness, saying, But though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. [2 Cor. 4, 16]  So then, ‘man is born to labour, and a bird to flying,’ for the mind flies free on high for the very same reason that the flesh toils the sorer below. 


16.  By the designation of ‘man’ too, may be represented the life of the carnal sort.  And hence Paul says, For whereas there is among you envying and strife and divisions, are ye not carnal? [1 Cor. 3, 3]  Soon after which he subjoins and says, Are ye not men? [ver. 4, Vulg.]  In this life, then, ‘man is born to labour,’ for every carnal person, in seeking to obtain transitory things, is overcharging himself with the burthen of his desires.  For it is sore labour to be seeking this same glory of the present life, at times to win it so sought, and to guard it with diligence when won.  It is sore labour, with infinite pains to lay hold of that, which he, that shall lay hold, knows can never remain for long.  But holy men, forasmuch as they have no fondness for transitory objects, are not only laid under no burthen of temporal desires, but even, if crosses on any occasion arise, in these very straits and faintings are free from trouble.  For what is there more severe than scourges?  and yet it is written concerning the Apostles when scourged, And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His Name. [Acts 5, 41]  What then can be labour to the minds of those, to whom even the chastisement of stripes is not labour?  Man then is ‘born to labour,’ for he really feels the ills of the present state, who is agape after the good things thereof.  For that mind which hangs on the attraction of things above, has beneath it whatsoever is set in motion against it from without.  Therefore it is well added, and a bird to flying.  For the soul withdraws itself from the painfulness of labour, in proportion as it raises itself through hope toward things on high.  Was not Paul like a ‘bird born to flying,’ who in undergoing such countless crosses, said, Our conversation is in heaven? [Phil. 3, 20]  And again, 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]  Like a bird, then, he had mounted above the scenes below, whom, while yet lingering on earth in the body, the wing of hope was already bearing up in the heights.  But forasmuch as none by his own strength can transport himself on high, so as to be raised to the invisible world, while he is borne down by visible things, it is immediately added with propriety,

Ver. 8.  Wherefore I will entreat the Lord, and unto God would I make my address.




17.  As though he said in plain words, ‘Him I petition, by Whom I know that these things are bestowed.’  For if he imagined that he had them by himself, he would not need to make his prayer to God.  It goes on;

Which doeth great things and unsearchable, marvellous things without number.




18.  Who may see to the bottom of the marvellous works of Almighty God, how He made all things of nothing, how the very framework of the world is arranged with a marvellous mightiness of power, and the heaven hung above the atmosphere, and the earth balanced above the abyss, how this whole universe consists of things visible and invisible, how He created man, so to say, gathering together in a small compass another world, yet a world of reason; how constituting this world of soul and flesh, He mixed the breath and the clay by an unsearchable disposal of His Might?  A part, then, of these things we know, and a part we even are. Yet we omit to admire them, because those things which are full of marvels for an investigation deeper than we can reach, have become cheap from custom in the eyes of men.  Hence it comes to pass that, if a dead man is raised to life, all men spring up in astonishment.  Yet every day one that had no being is born, and no man wonders, though it is plain to all, without doubt, that it is a greater thing for that to be created, which was without being, than for that, which had being, to be restored.  Because the dry rod of Aaron budded, all men were in astonishment; every day a tree is produced from the dry earth, and the virtue residing in dust is turned into wood, and no man wonders.  Because five thousand men were filled with five loaves, all men were in astonishment that the food should have multiplied in their teeth; every day the grains of seed that are sown are multiplied in a fulness of ears, and no man wonders.  All men wondered to see water once turned into wine.  Every day the earth's moisture being drawn into the root of the vine, is turned by the grape into wine, and no man wonders.  Full of wonder then are all the things, which men never think to wonder at, because, as we have before said, they are by habit become dull to the consideration of them; but when he said, which doeth great things, he did well in immediately adding, and unsearchable.  For it was but little to do great things, if the things that were done could have been searched to the bottom.  And it is lightly added, marvellous things without number.  As it would have been but an inferior greatness, if the things, which He created ‘unsearchable,’ He had made [a] but few in number.


19.  But herein it ought to be impressed upon us, that the Divine miracles should both ever be under our consideration in earnestness of mind, and never sifted in intellectual curiosity.  For it often happens that the thought of man, when, seeking the reason of certain things, it fails to find it out, plunges into a whirlpool of doubt.  Hence it comes to pass that some men reflect that the bodies of the dead are reduced to dust, and while they are unable to infer the power of the Resurrection from reasoning, they despair of their being able to be brought back to their former condition.  Things that are marvellous then are to be believed on a principle of faith, but not to be pried into by reason.  For, if reason set them open before our eyes, they would no longer be marvellous, But when the mind may chance to falter in these, it is needful that such things as it knows by custom, yet does not infer by reason, should be recalled to mind, that by the weight of a similar circumstance one may supply strength to the faith, which one finds to be undermined by one's own shrewdness.  For, when the dust of the human flesh is thought on, the mind of some is shaken, and despairs of the time, when dust shall return to flesh, and through the lineaments of the limbs form a body restored to life, when that dryness of earth shall flush into freshness through the living limbs, and fashion itself in distinct parts by the forms and shapes of them.  This indeed can never be comprehended by reason, yet it may be easily believed from example.  For who would imagine that from a single grain of seed a huge tree would rise up, unless he had it as a certain fact by experience?  In that extreme minuteness of a single grain, and with next to no dissimilarity within itself, where is the hardness of the wood buried, and a pith either tender or hard compared with the wood, the roughness of the bark, the greenness of the root, the savour of the fruits, the sweetness of the scents, the variety of the colours, the softness of the leaves?  Yet because we know this by experience, we do not doubt that all these spring from a single grain of seed.  Where then is the difficulty that dust shall return into limbs, when we have every day before our eyes the power of the Creator, Who in a marvellous manner, even from a grain creates wood, and in a still more marvellous manner from the wood creates fruit?  Which doeth great things and unsearchable; marvellous things without number.  For the greatness of the Divine works can neither be made out in respect of kind and quality, nor reckoned in respect of quantity.  Hence it is still further added,

Ver. 10, 11.  Who giveth rain upon the face of the earth, and sendeth waters upon all things.  Who setteth up on high those that be low; and those which mourn He exalteth with safety.




20.  Forasmuch as we believe that the friends of blessed Job were enlightened by their intercourse with him, we must needs handle these words of Eliphaz in a mystical manner.  Thus Almighty God ‘gives rain upon the earth,’ when He waters the withered hearts of the Gentiles with the grace of heavenly preaching, and He ‘sendeth waters upon all things,’ in that by the fulness of the Spirit He fashions the barrenness of lost man to fruitfulness; as ‘Truth’ says by His own lips, Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst.  But by the title of the universe man is denoted, in that in him there is set forth a true likeness and a large participation in common with the universe.  For every thing that is either is, yet does not live; or is and lives, yet does not feel; or is and lives and feels, yet neither understands nor discriminates; or is and lives and feels and understands and discriminates.  For stones are, yet do not live.  Trees both are and live, yet do not feel.  For their verdure is called the life of herbs and of trees, as is declared by Paul concerning seeds, Thou fool! that which thou sowest is not quickened except it die. [1 Cor. 15, 36]   Brute creatures both are and live and feel, yet do not understand.  Angels both are and live and feel, and by understanding they exercise discernment.  Man, then, in that he has it in common with stones to be, with trees to live, with animals to feel, with angels to discern, is rightly represented by the title of the ‘universe,’ in whom after some sort the ‘universe’ itself is contained.  And hence ‘the Truth’ saith to His disciples, Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature.  That is, He would have every creature to be taken for man only, in whom He created something common with all things.


21.  Though in this place, ‘all things’ may be understood in another sense also.  For the grace of the Holy Spirit in bringing the rich under its influence, does not keep back the poor; while it abases the strong, it does not forbid the weak to come to it; while it gathers together the noble, at the same time it lays hold of the base-born; while it takes up the wise, it disdains not the foolishness of the unskilful.  God, then, ‘sendeth waters upon all things,’ Who by the gift of the Holy Spirit calleth to the knowledge of Himself from every class of men.


22.  Again it may be that by the designation of ‘all things,’ the mere diversities of characters are set before us.  For one is lifted up by pride, another is bent down by the weight of fear, one burns with lust, another pants with avarice, one lets himself sink from listlessness, another is fired with rage.  But while, by the teaching of Holy Writ, humility is given to the proud man, confidence bestowed upon the fearful, the lustful cleansed from impurity by devotedness to chastity, the avaricious by moderation cooled from the heat of his covetous desires, the careless liver made erect by the uprightness of an earnest mind, the passionate man restrained from the hastiness of his headlong disposition, God ‘sendeth water upon all things,’ for He adapts the power of His Word in each severally according to the diversity of their characters, that each may find in His revelation that, whereby he may yield the produce of the virtue that he needs.  Hence it is said by a wise man of the sweetness of manna, Thou didst send them from heaven bread prepared without their labour, having in itself all delight, and the sweetness of every taste. [Wisd. 16, 20]  For the manna contained in itself all manner of delight and the sweetness of every taste, for this reason, that in the mouth of the spiritual sort it yielded a taste, according to the eater's will, in that the Divine Word, being at the same time suited to all minds, yet never at variance with itself, condescends to the kind and character of its hearers; and whereas every elect person understands it with profit according to his own fashion, he as it were turns the manna he received into a taste at will.  And forasmuch as after the toils of good practice comes the glory of compensation, it is rightly subjoined after the sending of water, Who setteth up on high those that be low, and those which mourn He exalteth with safety.


23.  ‘Those that be low are set on high,’ in that they, who are now despised for the love of God, shall then come as judges along with God, as ‘Truth’ pledges this which we have just named to the same humble ones, saying, Ye which have followed Me, in the Regeneration, when the Son of Man shall sit on the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. [Matt. 19, 28]  Then ‘those that mourn the Lord exalts with safety,’ in that they who, being inflamed with desire of Him, flee prosperity, endure crosses, undergo tortures at the hands of persecutors, chasten their own selves with grieving, are then vouchsafed a safety so much the more exalted, as they now from devout affection kill themselves to all the joys of the world.  Hence it is that it is said by Solomon, The heart knoweth his own soul's bitterness, and a stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy. [Prov. 14, 10]  For the human mind ‘knoweth its own soul's bitterness,’ when inflamed with aspirations after the eternal land, it learns by weeping the sorrowfulness of its pilgrimage.  But the ‘stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy,’ in that he, that is now a stranger to the grief of compunction, is not then a partaker in the joy of consolation.  Hence it is that ‘Truth’ saith in the Gospel, Verily, verily I say unto you, that ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice; and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. [John 16, 20]  And again, And ye therefore now have sorrow, but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you. [ver. 21. 22]  The Lord, then, is said ‘to exalt with safety those which mourn,’ in that to all, who for His sake are stricken with grief in time, He vouchsafes true salvation for their comfort.  But at the same time nothing hinders but that this may be understood of God's Elect even in this life.


24.  For those that be ‘low are set on high,’ in that when they abase themselves in humility, they mount above all sublunary things in the discernment of a lofty mind.  And, while they reckon themselves to be worthless in all things, by the discriminating view of a right mind, they surmount and trample upon the glory of this world.  Let us look at lowly Paul.  Mark how he says to his disciples, For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your servants for Christ's sake. [2 Cor. 4, 5]  Let us see this ‘humble man set up on high.’  He says, Know ye not that we shall judge Angels? [1 Cor. 6, 3] and again, And hath raised us together, and made us sit together in heavenly places. [Eph. 2, 6]  Perchance at that moment the chain was holding him outwardly fast bound.  Yet he had been ‘set on high’ within, who, by the certainty of his hope, was already sitting in heavenly places.  Holy men then are objects of scorn without, and as unworthy persons have every indignity put upon them, yet in sure confidence that they are meet for the heavenly realms, they look with certainty for the glory of the Eternal world.  And when they are hard pressed without in the assaults of persecution, they fall back within into the fortified stronghold of their mind; and thence they look down upon all things passing far below them, and amongst them they see passing even themselves as in the body.  They dread no threats, for even tortures they so endure as to set them at nought.  For it is hence that it is said by Solomon, But the righteous shall be bold as a lion. [Prov. 28, 1]  Hence it is written again by the same, The righteous man shall not be grieved by any thing that shall happen to him. Prov. 12, 21]  For because all the righteous are seated on the lofty height of their purposed mind, whereas in dying they are not sensible of death, it is so in a marvellous manner, that the missiles of the reprobate at the same time both strike them, and do not reach them.  Those then that are ‘low are set up on high,’ in that from the very circumstance that they despise themselves in all things, they are rendered the more secure against them all.


25.  Contrary to which it is rightly delivered by the Prophet to the lost soul under the likeness of Babylon, Come down and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon, sit on the ground; there is no throne for the daughter of the Chaldeans. [Is. 47, 1]  For here I think the human mind is called a virgin, not as undefiled, but as unproductive.  And forasmuch as Babylon is rendered ‘confusion,’ the barren soul is rightly named the daughter of Babylon, who, in that she never puts forth good works, whilst she is framed on no method of a right life, is as it were engendered of the parentage of confusion.  But if she is called a virgin not as being barren but undefiled, after that she is fallen from the state of saving health, it is only to the increase of her ‘confusion’ that she is called that which she once was.  And it is fitly that the Divine voice, in rebuking her, saith to her, Come down; for the human mind is stationed on high, when it covets the rewards above; but it ‘comes down’ from this station, when being overcome it yields itself cowardly to decaying worldly desires.  And it is immediately subjoined to her with justice, And sit in the dust.  For ‘coming down she sits in the dust,’ in that quitting heavenly scenes, she grovels in the very lowest [b], being stained with earthly imaginations.  And here it is yet further added by way of repetition, Sit on the ground.  As if in uttering reproaches he said in plain words, ‘Because thou refusedst to lift thyself by a heavenly conversation, laid prostrate beneath thyself, be degraded in earthly courses.’ And hence it is forthwith added by a necessary consequence, There is no throne for the daughter of the Chaldeans.  For the Chaldeans are translated ‘fierce.’  And they are very fierce, who, pursuing their own wills, refuse to spare even their own lives.  Earthly desires are ‘fierce,’ which render the mind hard and insensible not only to the precepts of the Creator, but also to the blows of stripes.  But the ‘daughter of the fierce ones has no throne,’ in that the mind that is born to the love of the world by bad desires, and is by those same desires rendered obdurate, herein that she yields herself to earthly concupiscence, parts with the seat of judgment, and she sits as mistress upon no throne within her, in that she lacks the balance of discernment, and is withheld from the sitting of her judgment, because she ranges abroad among external lusts.  For it is clear that that mind, which has lost the seat of counsel within, in a thousand ways dissipates itself without in desires.  And because it shut the eyes to doing what it understands, it is deservedly blinded, so as not even to know what it does; and oftentimes by a deserved visitation it is left in its own will, and is set loose under those very toilsome services of the world, which it pants after with solicitude.  Hence it is fitly added in that place, For thou shall no more be called tender and delicateTake the millstones, and grind meal. [Is. 27, 2]  It is well known that parents spare their tender daughter, nor charge her with hard and servile employments.  So Almighty God as it were calls a daughter tender when He recalls the well-beloved soul of each person from the wearisome services of this world, that, whilst it is charged with external works, it be not hardened to internal desires.  But the ‘daughter of the Chaldeans’ is not called ‘soft and tender,’ in that the mind, which is abandoned to evil inclinations, is left in this world's travail, the thing which it most anxiously desires.  So that like a handmaid she drudges in the service of the world without, who refuses as a daughter to love God within.  Hence she is bidden to ‘take the millstone, and grind meal.’  A millstone is whirled round in a circle, and the meal is thrown out.  Now each separate course of this world's action is a mill, which, while it heaps up a multitude of cares, as it were whirls the minds of men in a circle, and she as it were throws forth the meal from herself, in that, when the heart is turned wrong, she is ever producing infinitely little thoughts.  But it sometimes happens that he, who while at rest is accounted of some worth, on being placed in any scene of action is stripped bare.  Hence we have it forthwith subjoined in that place, Uncover thy baseness, make bare the shoulder, uncover the thighs, pass over the rivers.  For in the execution of a work ‘baseness is uncovered,’ in that the base and abject soul is made known in the manifestation of working, whereas before while at rest, it was accounted great.  The mind ‘makes bare the shoulder,’ when it brings to light its practice, which was kept from view.  It ‘uncovers the thighs,’ in that it plainly discovers, by what strides of desire it reaches after the advantages of the world.  Furthermore ‘it passes over the rivers,’ in that it unceasingly pursues the courses of this present life, which are daily running out to their end.  And, whilst it gives over one set, and follows after another, it is as it were ever going on from river to river.  These things we have delivered by way of discussion in few words, in order to shew where that mind lies grovelling, which has been unseated from the throne of a holy purpose.  For if it ever cease to pant after the things which are above it, it plunges even unceasingly below itself.  But it is fixed on high, if, abandoning the love of temporal things, it is bound fast to the hope of a changeless eternity.




26.  It is well said then, Who setteth up on high those that be low.  And it is fitly added, And those which mourn He exalteth with safety.  Oftentimes in this world even any that be glad of heart are ‘exalted,’ whilst they are swoln by the mere gloriousness of their fortune, but ‘those that mourn, the Lord exalts to safety,’ in that he raises His sorrowing children to glory by the solid substance of true joy; for they are exalted by safety, and not by madness, who, set fast in good works, rejoice with a sure hope in God.  For there are some, as we have said, who both do misdeeds, and yet do not cease to rejoice.  Of whom Solomon saith, Who rejoice to do evil, and delight in the things that be froward. [Prov. 2, 14]  And again, There be wicked men, who are as secure, as though they had the deeds of the righteous. [Ecc. 8, 14. Vulg.]  These, truly, are not ‘exalted by safety,’ but by foolishness, which same are full of pride when they ought to be loaded with sorrow, and for the very reason that these wretched persons let themselves out in exultation, they are wept over by all good men.  Verily not unlike to the senses of madmen, they account that insanity, in which they surpass others, to be strength.  They know not that it comes from disease, that they are able to do more than the sane, and they as it were esteem themselves to have increased in powers, whilst they are drawing near to the end of life by accessions of sickness.  These because they have no perception of reason, are wept for, and they laugh, and they expand in an extraordinary exultation of heart, in the very same proportion that from insensibility they are ignorant of the evil they are undergoing.  Those then that ‘mourn’ the Lord ‘exalts with safety,’ in that the mind of the Elect is full of joy, derived, not from the madness of the present life, but from the certain prospect of eternal salvation.  Hence it is fitly added immediately afterwards, with respect to this very destruction of the wicked,

Ver. 12.  He disappointeth the devices of the crafty, so that their hands cannot perform their enterprise.




27.  The minds of the lost are ever awake to evil imaginations, but very often the Providence above counteracts them, and though not even when they are crushed with adversities do they amend the wickedness of their counsel, yet that they may never prevail against the good, He puts a check upon their power.  And against these it is brought to pass by marvellous retribution, that whilst the effect of their evil doing is lacking to them, still conscience gives them over convicted to the just sentence of the Judge.  Whereas then they devise evil things, they shew what they themselves are about; but, whereas they cannot ‘perform their enterprize,’ they, against whom it was imagined, are protected; and hence is yet further added aright,

Ver. 13.  He taketh the wise in their own craftiness, and the counsel of the froward is carried headlong.




28.  For oftentimes, some that are puffed up with human wisdom, when they see that the decrees of God are contrary to their inclinations, set themselves to oppose them with crafty manoeuvres, and that they may bend the power of the dispensation of the Most High to meet their own wishes, they busy themselves in cunning contrivances, they devise schemes of excessive refinement.  But they are only executing the will of God by the very way they are labouring to alter it, and whilst they strive to withstand the purpose of the Almighty, they are obeying His behests; for it often happens that that renders good service to His provident ordering, which on the part of human efforts makes a silly opposition to Him.  Therefore the Lord taketh the wise in their own craftiness, when the acts of man even then conveniently serve His purposes, when they are opposed to them.  Which we shall the better shew, if we bring forward a few instances of actual facts.


[Joseph’s Brethren]


29.  Joseph had been visited by a dream, how that his brother's sheaves fell down before his sheaf; he had been visited by a dream, how that the sun and moon together with the other stars worshipped him.  And because he related these things guilelessly to his brethren, envy and fear of his future dominion over them forthwith smote their breasts; and when they saw him coming to them, they said with malice burning against him, Behold this dreamer cometh.  Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and we shall see what good his dreams will do him. [Gen. 37, 19. 20.]  And fearing to become subject to his dominion, they let down the dreamer into a well, and sell him to Ishmaelites that were passing by.  He, then, having been brought into Egypt, subjecled to slavery, condemned on the charge of lust, being vouchsafed aid for the merits of his chastity, and set up for his judgment in prophecy, was advanced over the whole of Egypt; and by the wisdom from on high with prudent foresight he collected stores of corn, and thus met the impending peril of a scarcity.  And when the famine poured itself over the earth, Jacob, being distressed for the providing of food, sent his sons into Egypt.  They find Joseph, whom they did not know, master of the distribution of corn, and that they might win the favour to have food given them, they were forced to worship the distributor thereof with their necks bent down to the earth.  Now then let us consider the course of the transaction; let us consider how the power of God ‘took the wise in their own very craftiness.’  Joseph had for this reason been sold, that he might not be worshipped, yet he was for this reason worshipped, because he was sold; for they dared to try a thing in craft, that the counsel of God might be changed; but by resisting they helped on the decree of God, which they strove to get quit of.  For they were constrained to execute the will of God by the very act by which they laboured craftily to alter the same.  Thus whilst the Divine purpose is shunned, it is fulfilling; thus while human wisdom resists, it is ‘caught.’ Those brethren feared lest Joseph should grow to an height above themselves.  But that which was arranged by the Divine disposal, their precautions were the cause and occasion of bringing about.  Human wisdom then was ‘caught’ in itself, when in the very way that its purpose was to oppose the will of God, it did service toward the completion thereof.




30.  Thus, whereas Saul saw David, his subject, grow up in a daily advance in valorous achievements, he betrothed his daughter to him in marriage, and demanded that an hundred foreskins of the Philistines should be given by him for her dowry, that when the soldier thus challenged sought to exceed his own measure, being delivered over to the swords of his enemies, he might bring his life to an end; according as it is written, The king requireth not any dowry, but an hundred foreskins of the Philistines, to be avenged of the king's enemies.  But Saul thought to make David fall by the hands of the Philistines. [1 Sam. 18, 25]  But David, strengthened by the favourable aid of the interior Disposal, engaged himself to give the hundred, and he brought back two hundred foreskins.  By the convincing force of which deed Saul being overcome, was ‘caught’ in the purpose of his wisdom by Providence above; for by the very means that he looked to destroy the life of the rising soldier, he raised to the highest pitch the fame of his merits.




31.  But because the very Elect sometimes strive to be sharp-witted in a degree, it is well to bring forward another wise man, and to shew how the craft of mortal men is comprehended in the Inner Counsels.  For Jonah desired to be sharp-witted in prudence, when being sent to preach the repentance required of the Ninevites, because he feared that, if the Gentiles were chosen, Judaea would be forsaken, he refused to discharge the office of that preaching.  He sought a ship and settled to fly to Tharsis, but straightway a storm arises, the lot is cast, that it may be found out to whose fault it is owing that the sea is in commotion.  Jonah is found in the offence, he is plunged into the deep, devoured by the whale swallowing him, and there he is brought by the beast carrying him, where he despised to go of his own accord.  See, the tempest of God finds out the runagate, the lot binds him, the sea receives him, the beast encloses him, and because he sets himself against paying obedience to his Maker, he is carried a culprit by his own prison to that place, whither he was sent.  When God commanded, man would not administer the prophecy; when God breathed on it, the beast vomits the Prophet.  God then ‘taketh the wise in their own craftiness,’ when He brings back even that to serve the purpose of His will, by which the will of man sets itself in contradiction to Him.


[The Jews]


32.  Let us, yet further, look well into the wisdom of the Hebrews, that we may see what in its foresight it resisted, what by so resisting it brought about.  Surely, when a multitude of believers was gathering together at the miracles of our Redeemer, when the priests of the people, kindled by the torches of envy, declared that all the world were going after Him, saying, Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing?  Behold, the world is gone after Him [John 12, 19]; that they might cut away from Him the strength of so great a concourse, they endeavoured to put an end to His power by death, saying, It is expedient that one man die, and not that the whole nation perish. [John 11, 50]  Yet the death of our Redeemer availed to the uniting of His Body, i.e. of the Church, and not to the severing away of it.  And hence it is commanded by the Law, that in representation of our Sacrifice, the throat of the turtledove or the pigeon should be cut, and not entirely severed, so that even after death the head should cleave to the body, in that verily the Mediator between God and man [1 Tim. 2, 5], i.e. the Head of all of us, and the Sacrifice of the true cleansing, from the very cause that He underwent death; was more truly joined to us.  After the cutting, then, the head of the turtledove adheres to its body, for neither does the death that intervenes sever Christ from His Church.  His persecutors then did that which they laboured after with pernicious intent, they brought death upon Him; that so they might cut off from Him the devotedness of the faithful; but faith only gained growth from thence, whence the cruelty of the faithless looked to extinguish it.  And while they reckon that they are cutting off His miracles by persecuting Him, in truth they were forced to extend them without knowing it.  Therefore the Lord took the wise in their own craftiness, when He reduced even that to the service of His pitifulness, in which the fierceness of man raged against Him.


33.  For the Just and Merciful One, as He disposes the deeds of mortals, vouchsafes some things in mercy, and permits other things in anger; and the things which He permits He so bears with, that He turns them to the account of His purpose.  And hence it is brought to pass in a marvellous way, that even that, which is done without the Will of God, is not contrary to the Will of God.  For while evil deeds are converted to a good use, the very things that oppose His design, render service to His design.  For hence it is said by the Psalmist, The works of the Lord are great, sought out unto all His wills. [Ps. 111, 2. Vulg.]  For His works are so great, that by every thing that is done by man, His Will is sought out; for it often happens that it is done by the very act, whereby it was thought to be thrown aside.  Hence again it is said, Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did He in Heaven and in earth. [Ps. 135, 6]  Hence Solomon saith, There is no wisdom, nor understanding, nor counsel against the Lord. [Prov. 21, 30]  It remains that, in all that we do, we search out the potency of the Supreme Will, to which same, when we know it, all our conduct ought devoutly to render service, and to follow it as the guide of its course, lest it serve the same even against its will, if it declines it from pride.  For the potency of the Divine purpose cannot be evaded, but he that bridles himself in under His nod, tempers it to himself with great efficacy; and he lightens the weight thereof to himself, who willingly bears it on the bowed shoulder of the heart.  But as we have above made mention of His persecutors, let us proceed to shew how the words that are subjoined likewise fit their blindness.  It goes on;

Ver. 14.  They shall meet with darkness in the day-time, and grope in the noonday as in the night.




34.  They ‘meet with darkness in the day-time,’ for in the very presence of Truth, they were blinded by the deceitfulness of unbelief.  For we see clearly in the day-time, but in the night the pupil of our eye is dimmed.  Therefore whilst the persecutors beheld the miracles of Divine Power, and yet doubted of His Divine Nature, they were subjected to ‘darkness in the day-time,’ for they lost their eyesight in the light.  Hence it is that ‘Light’ Itself admonishes them, saying, Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you. [John 12, 35]  It is hence that it is said of Judaea, Her sun is gone down, while it was yet day. [Jer. 15, 9]  It is hence that the Prophet again took up in himself the strain of persons in a state of penitence, in these words, We stumble at noonday as in the night, we are in dismal places as dead men. [Is. 59, 10]  Hence again He says, Watchman, what of the night [b]?  Watchman, what of the night?  The watchman said, The morning cometh, and also the night. [Is. 21, 11. 12]  For ‘the watchman came by night,’ in that the Guardian of the human race even shewed Himself manifest in the flesh, and yet Judaea, being close pressed by the darkness of her faithlessness, never knew Him.  Where it is well added in the voice of the watchman, The morning cometh, and also the night.  For by His presence hath a new light shone out upon the world, and yet the former darkness remained in the hearts of unbelievers.  And it is well said, They shall grope in the noonday as in the night; for we search out by groping that which we do not see with our eyes.  Now the Jews had seen His undisguised miracles, and yet they still went on seeking Him, as it were groping for Him, when they said, How long dost Thou make us to doubt?  If Thou be the Christ, tell us plainly. [John 10, 24]  See, the light of miracles was before their eyes, yet stumbling in the darkness of their own hearts, they continued to grope in seeking for Him.  And this same blindness of theirs burst out into cruelty, and their cruelty even to the extent of overt acts of persecution.  But the Redeemer of mankind could not for long be held by the hands of His persecutors.  Hence it is forthwith added;

Ver. 15.  But He shall save the poor from the sword of their mouth, and from the hand of the mighty.




35.  For it is this very Poor Man of whom it is said by Paul, Though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor. [2 Cor. 8, 9]  And because the Jews in accusing betrayed the Lord, Whom, when so betrayed, the Gentiles put to death, by ‘the sword of the mouth’ may be signified the tongue of the Hebrews, that were His accusers, of whom the Psalmist saith, Whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword. [Ps. 57, 4]  For, as the Gospel also witnesses, they cried out, Crucify Him, Crucify Him. Luke 23, 21; John 19, 6]  But by ‘the hand of the violent’ may be set forth the very Gentile world itself, which crucified Him, which in our Redeemer's death fulfilled in act the words of the Hebrews; God then ‘saved this Poor One both from the hand of the violent,’ and from ‘the sword of the mouth,’ in that our Redeemer, in His human Nature, was subjected both to the powers of the Gentiles, and to the tongues of the Jews by dying, but in the power of His Divine Nature He overcame them by rising again.  By which same resurrection what else is brought to pass than that our weakness is strengthened to conceive the hope of the life hereafter?  And hence it is well added immediately afterwards,

Ver. 16.  And so the needy shall have hope. 




36.  For when the poor man is rescued, ‘the needy’ is restored to hope, for the lowly people of the faithful is shaken with dismay at our Redeemer dying, but is established firm by His rising again, for the very first poor ones of His people, viz. the chosen Preachers, were smitten by the sight of His death, but restored by the manifesting of His resurrection.  When, then, the poor man is saved, ‘the needy’ recovers hope, for by the Lord rising again in the flesh, every faithful soul is strengthened to have a confident expectation of eternal life.  But, now, the Truth has already come in an open manifestation, He has already undergone the death of the flesh, and destroyed the same by rising again, already the glory of the Ascension has ennobled His Resurrection, and yet the tongue of the Hebrews does not yet cease to urge Him with insults; and He indeed suffers them with patience, that by such sufferance He may turn some, and others that refuse to be turned He may one day visit with severer punishment.  For the tongue of unbelievers will then be struck dumb from their habit of unbridled speech, when it shall see Him coming as a just Judge, Whom now it has judged unjustly.  And hence it is well added,

And iniquity shall stop her mouth. 




37.  For now iniquity still opens wide her mouth, in that the tongue of unbelievers never ceases to urge with insults the Redeemer of the human race.  But she shall then ‘stop her mouth,’ when this same, which she will not shut in good will, she shall shut in punishment.  Yet this may also be well understood of the conversion of the persecutors.  For when ‘the poor is saved,’ whilst ‘the needy’ returns to hope, iniquity is struck dumb, her mouth being stopped, in that by the miracle of His Resurrection shining out, whilst a full number of unbelievers is brought to the faith, it has ceased from the mocking and abuse of its Redeemer.  For its mouth, which it opened in mocking God, it has now shut in the dread of Him.




38.  It is good to run through these points in a moral sense, putting aside the signification of the Jewish people, and to trace out in what manner they are transacted by wicked men in general.  For the minds of the wicked, when they see some things done well by their neighbours, are strained upon the stretched rack of their jealousy, and they undergo the grievous chastisement of their own malice, when with a consuming heart they see good in others.  Therefore it is well said, They meet with darkness in the day time.  For when their mind is grieved for the superiority of another, there is an overshadowing from the ray of the light; for oftentimes while they view the unconcealed good qualities in their neighbours, they look closely if there be any evil points lying concealed from sight, and they busy themselves in eager scrutinies, if they may chance to find somewhat with which they may be able to charge them.  Sound limbs indeed are all they see, but, with the eyes of the heart closed, they seek by feeling to find a sore.  And hence it is rightly subjoined, And grope in the noonday as in the night.  The day of good deeds shines outwardly in a neighbour, but they ‘grope as it were in the night,’ because inwardly they are under the darkness of their jealous feeling.  They busy themselves to get to some points which they may censure, they seek out an opening for detraction, but forasmuch as they are unable to find this, they search about in blindness without.  Which is well set forth in that occasion, when from the Angels protecting Lot, the inhabitants of Sodom could not find the doorway in his house, as it is written, And they pressed sore upon the man, even Lot, and came near to break the door.  But the men put forth their hand, and pulled Lot into the house to them, and shut to the door.  And they smote the men that were at the door of the house with blindness, both small and great, so that they wearied themselves to find the door. [Gen. 19, 9-11]  What does it mean that, when the wicked are up in arms against him, Lot is brought back into the house, and defended, but that every righteous man, while he encounters the assaults of evil ones, is brought back into his interior, and abides undismayed.  But the men of Sodom cannot find the door in Lot's house, because the corrupters of souls detect no opening of accusation against the life of the righteous man.  For, stricken with blindness, they as it were go round and round the house, who, under the influence of envy scrutinize words and deeds; but because in the life of the just, strong and praiseworthy conduct fronts them every way, groping at random they feel nothing else than the wall.  Therefore it is well said, And grope in the noonday as in the night.  For while the good, which they see, it is out of their power to impeach, being blinded by wickedness, they search out for impeachment evil which they see nothing of.


39.  And here it is properly subjoined, But he shall save the poor from the sword of their mouth, and from the hand of the mighty.  For the ‘poor’ is everyone that is not set up in his own eyes.  And hence ‘Truth’ saith in the Gospel, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. [Matt. 5, 3]  Now a person is drawn into sin in two ways.  For either he is led on by pleasure, or overcome by fear.  For ‘the sword of the mouth’ is the mischievousness of persuasion, but ‘the hand of the mighty’ is the opposition of power.  But because he that is truly humble, who is here called ‘the poor,’ as he covets none of the good things of this world, so also undauntedly sets at nought even its adverse fortune, it is well said, But He saveth the poor from the sword of their mouth, and from the hand of the mighty.  As if it were put plainly; ‘God doth so firmly establish the souls of the humble in Himself, that neither the alluring arts of persuasion can draw them, nor the pains of punishment break them in to the practice of sin.  For hope rears the spirit into the eternal world, and therefore it is not sensible of any of the ills without, that it falls under.  And hence it is subjoined, So the needy shall have hope.  Unto the fruits of which same hope, verily, when the poor man attaineth, everyone that is exalted is struck dumb; and hence it is yet further added, And iniquity shall stop her mouth.  For the wicked man detracts from the good, and the righteous ways, which he cares not to practise, he never ceases to pull in pieces by slander, but iniquity at that time stoppeth her mouth, when her eyes are opened to see how great is the glory of the recompense provided for righteous souls.  For then he is not at liberty to speak against the good, in that torments hold his tongue tied by the deserved retribution of his misdeeds.  Hence it is well delivered by Hannah, speaking in prophecy, He will keep the feet of his Saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness. [1 Sam. 2, 9]  But that every elect soul may escape eternal woe, and the poor mount up to everlasting glory, he must be bruised here below with continual stripes, that he may be found purified in the Judgment.  For we are every day borne downwards by the mere weight of our infirmity, but that by the wonderful interposition of our Maker we are relieved by succouring stripes.  Hence it is added,

Ver. 17.  Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth.




40.  The highest virtue is to avoid sins, that they should never be done, and second to that, at least to amend them when they have been committed.  But for the most part we not only never at all avoid sins that threaten, but we do not even open our eyes to them, when committed.  And the mind of sinners is enveloped in the deeper darkness, in proportion as it does not see the deficiency of its own blindness.  Hence it is very often brought to pass, by the bountifulness of God's gift, that punishment follows upon transgression, and stripes unclose the eyes of the transgressor, which self-security was blinding in the midst of evil ways.  For the inactive soul is touched with the rod, so as to be stimulated, in order that he, that has lost, by being self-secure, the firm seat of uprightness, may mark, upon being afflicted; where he is laid prostrate; and thus to him [A.B.C.D. ‘huic’] the very sharpness of the correction becomes the source of light; and hence it is said by Paul, But all things that are proved [c], are made manifest by the light [Eph. 5, 13]; for proof of saving health lies in the force of the pain.  Hence it is that Solomon saith, For healing will cause great offences to cease. [Ecc. 10, 4. Vulg.] Hence again he saith, For whom the Lord loveth He correcteth, even as a father the son in whom he delighteth. [Prov. 3, 12]  Hence the Lord addresses John by the voice of the Angel [d], saying, As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. [Rev. 3, 19]  Hence Paul saith, Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous, nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness, unto them that are exercised thereby. [Heb. 12, 11]  Although therefore grief and happiness can never meet together, yet it is rightly said here, Happy is the man whom the Lord correcteth.  For by this means, that the sinner is straitly visited with the pain of correction, he is sometimes trained to happiness, which knows no intervention of pain.  It proceeds,

Therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Lord.




41.  Whosoever is smitten for a fault and lifted up in murmuring against the stroke, ‘reproves the chastening of the Lord.’  For he lays to His charge, that he has this put upon him unjustly.  But they that are stricken, not for the cleansing of guilt, but for the testing of their fortitude, when they inquire into the causes of the stroke, must by no means be said to ‘reprove the correction of the Lord;’ for their aim is to discover in themselves what they are ignorant of.  And hence blessed Job, breaking out into a voice of liberty, amidst the visitings of the scourge, the more rightly questions the judgments of the smiter concerning him, the more he is really ignorant of causes for his suffering in himself.  Eliphaz, then, forasmuch as he reckoned that he was visited, not with the trial of probation, but of purification, when he spoke with freedom amidst the stripes, supposed that he ‘reproved the correction of the Lord.’ And we have said that he at the same time bears the likeness of heretics with great fitness, in that whatsoever is done aright by Holy Church, is ever, in their judgment, turned and twisted awry, to some fault of crookedness.  But forasmuch as it is with a good intention that he is led to speak, yet he takes no heed to discriminate who he is speaking to, he yet further subjoins, and proclaims the dispensations of the supreme governance, saying,

Ver. 18.  For He maketh sore, and bindeth up; He woundeth, and His hands shall make whole.




42.  In two ways Almighty God wounds those, whom He is minded to bring back to saving health; for sometimes He smites the flesh, and consumes the hardness of the heart by the fear of Him.  Thus He recalls to saving health, by dealing wounds, when He afflicts His own Elect outwardly, that they be quickened with inward life.  Whence He also says by Moses, I will kill and I will make alive, I will wound and I will heal [Deut. 32, 39]; for He ‘kills,’ that He may ‘make alive,’ He ‘wounds,’ that He may ‘heal;’ in that He for this reason applies stripes without, in order that He may heal the wounds of sin within.  But sometimes, even if strokes without should seem to have ceased, He inflicts wounds within, in that He strikes the hardness of the heart with the desire of Himself; yet in wounding He heals, in that when we are pierced with the dart of His dread, He recalls us to a right sense.  For our hearts are not well sound, when they are wounded by no love of God, when they feel not the wofulness of their pilgrimage, when they do not go sorrowing with the least degree of feeling for the infirmity of their neighbour.  But they are ‘wounded,’ that they may be ‘healed,’ in that God strikes unfeeling souls with the darts of His love, and straightway makes them full of feeling, through the burning heat of charity, and hence the spouse saith in the Song of Songs, For I am wounded with love. [Cant. 2, 5. LXX]  For the diseased soul, laid prone upon the litter of this place of banishment in blind self-security, neither beheld the Lord, nor sought to see Him.  But on being struck with the darts of His love, it is wounded in its innermost parts with a feeling of pious affection, burns with the desire of contemplation; and in a marvellous manner she is made alive by wounding, who aforetime lay dead in a state of health: she glows, she pants, and yearns to see Him already, from Whom she turned.  By being smitten, then, she is brought back to a state of soundness, who is recalled to a secure state of inward repose by the disturbing of her self-love.  But when the wounded soul begins to pant after God, when, setting at nought all the alluring arts of the world, it stretches forth in desire to the land above, all is forthwith turned to its trial, whatsoever aforetime was accounted pleasing and alluring in this world.  For they that had a fond affection for him living in sin, cruelly assault him when he lives aright.  The soul that is raised up toward God, is subject to rude assaults from the flesh, wherein it formerly lay grovelling in enjoyment, the slave of evil habits; former pleasures recur to the mind, and push hard the resisting soul with a grievous conflict.  But because that, while we are afflicted with transitory labour, we are rescued from everlasting pain, it is fitly subjoined;

Ver. 19.  He shall deliver thee in six troubles, yea, in seven there shall no evil touch thee.




43.  For what is denoted by the number ‘six,’ which is followed by ‘the seventh,’ saving the labour and course of the present life?  For God, finishing all things on the sixth day, created man, and God rested on the seventh day; and this same seventh day is without an evening, for there is no longer any end to close the rest that followeth.  When all things, then, are completed, the rest followeth, in that after the good works of the present life, the recompense of eternal rest follows.  Therefore ‘in six troubles the Lord delivers us,’ that ‘no evil may touch us in the seventh,’ in that by the training of His fatherly pity, He exercises us with the labours of the present life, but at the coming of the Judge, He hides us from the scourge, that He may then bring us out the more sure for His salvation, in proportion as we are now scored the more cruelly with scourges.  And immediately reckoning up with fitness both the ills of the present life, and the aids of Protection from above, adds,

Ver. 20.  In famine He shall redeem thee from death, and in war from the power of the sword.




44.  As the ‘famine’ of the flesh is the withdrawal of the support of the body, so the hunger of the soul is the silence of divine revelation.  Hence it is rightly delivered by the Prophet, I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst of water, but a famine of hearing the word of the Lord. [Amos 8, 11]  And forasmuch as when the divine communication leaves the human soul, the temptation of the flesh gains force against it, it is fitly brought in, And in war from the power of the sword.  For we suffer a war, when we are assailed by the temptations of our flesh.  Concerning which same war the Psalmist saith, Cover my head in the day of battle. [Ps. 140, 7]  Therefore, whereas the reprobate, whilst their strength fails from a ‘famine’ of the word of God, are furthermore pierced with ‘the sword of war,’ the Lord both ‘in famine redeems’ His Elect ‘from death,’ and ‘in war’ He hides them ‘from the sword.’  For while He refreshes their souls with the food of His word, He makes them strong to resist the temptations of the body.  Yet there be some, who, though they recruit themselves, out of the store of the word of God, from the famine of the interior, though they be already stayed up against the temptations of the body by the virtue of continency, yet still fear to be stricken with the slanders of their fellow-creatures, and oftentimes, whilst they dread the arrows of the tongue, they strangle themselves with the noose of sin.  And hence it is fitly added,

Ver. 21, Thou shalt be hid from the scourge of the tongue.




45.  ‘The scourge of the tongue’ is the taunting of insults offered.  They strike the righteous ‘with the scourge of the tongue,’ who pursue their deeds with mockery.  For oftentimes the tongue, while it utters jibes, recalls from a good deed, and puts itself out like a scourge, in that it cuts the back of the cowardly soul.  Which ‘scourge of the tongue,’ the Prophet had seen plotting against the elect soul, when He said, promising the aid that is above, Surely He shall deliver thee from the snare of the hunter, and from the rough word. [Ps. 91, 3. Vulg.]  For ‘hunters’ seek nothing else than flesh, but we are ‘delivered from the snare of the hunters and from the rough word,’ when we overcome both the snare of carnal persons, and the reproaches of sneers, by setting them at nought.  For their words are ‘rough,’ which are arrayed against our righteous ways.  And to ‘escape the roughness of words,’ is to trample down the mockings of calumniators by shutting our eyes to them, the holy soul then is hidden from ‘the scourge of tongues,’ in that whilst in this world it never seeks the honour of applause, neither does it feel the insults of calumny.  But there be some that already set at nought the words of the scornful, already care nothing for their jeers, yet they still stand in dread of the pains and tortures of the body.  For our old adversary, in order to withdraw us from a right bent of mind, assaults us in diverse modes, and prosecutes the tempting of us one while by a famine of the word, another while by the conflict of the flesh, now by the scourge of talk, now by the distress of persecution.  But because every perfect person, when once he has overcome the evil habits in himself, straightway goes on to brace his mind to meet the inflictions of suffering, it is properly subjoined,

Neither shalt thou be afraid of calamity when it cometh.




46.  For holy men, for that they see that they are engaged with an adversary of manifold form, equip themselves variously in their conflict.  For against a famine, they have the sustenance of God's word; against the sword of war, they have the shield of continency; against the scourge of the tongue, the defence of patience; against the hurt of outward misfortune, they have the aid of inward love.  Hence in a marvellous method it is brought to pass, that the more manifold the temptations which the craft of the enemy brings upon them, so much the richer in virtues are the wary soldiers of God rendered.  And forasmuch as all the Elect severally, whilst they bear with courageous hearts the conflicts of the present life, are providing for themselves security under the terrors of the future Judgment, it is rightly subjoined;

Ver. 22.  In destruction and famine thou shalt laugh.




47.  For the lost shall then suffer ‘destruction and famine,’ when, being condemned in the last Judgment, they are parted asunder from the sight of ‘the Bread’ eternal.  For it is written, Let the wicked be taken away, that he see not the glory of God. [Is. 26, 10. lxx.]  And the Lord declares by His own lips, I am the living Bread, Which came down from heaven. [John 6, 51]  Thus at one and the same time both ‘destruction and famine’ combine to torture those, who not only feel torments without, but farther suffer death within by the plague of starvation.  Hell ‘destroys,’ in that it burns, famine kills, in that the Redeemer hides His face from them.  For well and justly they have their recompense both within and without, in that the wretched people both by thought and by deed did commit offence.  Whence it is well said by the Psalmist, Thou shalt make them as a fiery oven in the time of Thine anger: the Lord shall confound them in His wrath, and the fire shall devour them. [Ps. 21, 9]  For that, which is ‘devoured’ by fire, is kindled from the outside.  But an oven is set on fire within.  And so in the time of God's anger all the unrighteous are both ‘made as a fiery oven,’ and also ‘devoured by the fire,’ in that at the appearing of the Judge, when all the multitude of them is banished from the sight of Him, both within the conscience is set on fire from the misery of want [‘Desiderium’], and without hell torments the flesh.


48.  ‘The scourge of the tongue’ too may be understood to mean the sentence of the final doom, whereby the Just Judge saith to the lost, Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. [Matt. 25, 41]  The righteous man then is ‘hidden from the scourge of the tongue,’ and from the coming woe, because in that exceeding strictness of doom, he is then comforted with the, mild voice of the Judge, when it is said, For I was an hungred, and ye gave Me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me in: naked, and ye clothed Me: I was sick, and ye visited Me: I was in prison, and ye came unto Me. [ver. 35, 36.]  Before which it is premised; Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. [ver. 34.]  Therefore ‘in destruction and famine’ the righteous man ‘shall laugh;’ for, when the final vengeance smites all the wicked, he himself joys in the glory of a meet reward.  Nor does he at that time any longer compassionate the damned by virtue of his human nature.  For, incorporated into the Divine Justice by resemblance [per speciem], he is, by the unshaken force of interior strictness, made thoroughly firm.  For the souls of the Elect, being reared up in the clear light of the Righteousness above, are touched by no sense of compassion, in that the height of their bliss makes them strangers to misery.  Hence also it is well said by the Psalmist; The righteous also shall see this, and shall fear, and shall laugh at him, and shall say, Lo, this is the man that made not God his helper. [Ps. 52, 6. 7.]  For now the righteous see the wicked and fear, then they shall see and laugh.  For because they may now fall in imitation of them, here they are holden of fear, but because they cannot then advantage the damned, there they entertain no sympathy.  Therefore, that they should not commiserate those that are doomed to eternal woe, they read in that very justice of the Judge wherein they exist in bliss.  For, a thing which it is not right to imagine of them, they lower the character of the happiness vouchsafed them, if, when placed in the kingdom, they wish for something which they never can accomplish.  But whosoever orders himself after the precepts of life, already tastes here below the first-fruits of that secure estate which shall last for ever, so that he has no fear of our old enemy; nor at the coming on of the crisis of death in any degree dreads his violent assault.  For to the righteous the beginning of their recompense is most commonly nothing else than the very security of their minds in dying.  Hence it is rightly added,

Neither shalt thou be afraid of the beast of the earth.




49.  For our crafty foe is called ‘a beast of the earth,’ in that he ravins with the violence of his savage nature, to seize upon the souls of sinners at the hour of their death.  For those whom he deludes by flattery during their lifetime, he seizes with cruelty when they are dying.  Contrary whereunto the Lord gives a promise concerning the Church of the Elect through the Prophet, The evil beast shall not go up thereon.  They then in dying fear the ‘beast of the earth,’ who when living fear not the power of their Maker.  For good men, because they submit themselves from the core of their heart to the dread of God, put away every weight of fear arising from the adversary's coming.  For it is hence that the Psalmist beseeches the Lord, in these words, Lest he tear my soul as a lion. [Ps. 7, 2]  Hence again he says, Hear my voice, O God, in my prayer, preserve my soul from fear of the enemy. [Ps. 64, 1. 2.]  For while they live they perfectly fear the Judge, that when they die they may not dread the accuser.  Well then is it said, Neither shalt thou be afraid of the beast of the earth.  As if it were in plain words, ‘Forasmuch as thou art not now overcome by the enemy in his alluring address, thou shalt not hereafter fear him in his rage.  But when we live well, it is very needful to be on our guard, that the mind, looking down upon others, be not lifted up by the pride of standing alone.  Hence it is that the blessing of fellowship is fitly called to mind, where the words are immediately introduced thereupon,

But with the stones of the countries shall be thy covenant.




50.  The Churches of the nations are like separate countries in the world, which, while they be planted in one faith, are separated by a diversity of customs and of tongues.  What then do we take the stones of the countries to mean but the Elect ones of the Church, to whom it is declared by the voice of him who was the first among the teachers, Ye also as lively stones are built up a spiritual house? [1 Pet. 2, 5]  Concerning whom the Lord by His Prophet promises Holy Church, saying, Behold, I will lay thy stones in order. [Is. 54, 11]  Whoso then lives aright, joins himself in covenant ‘with the stones of the countries.’  For herein, that he conquers the desires of the world, without doubt he ties his life to an imitation of the Saints that have gone before.  But when he is departing from the practice of the world, the assaults of malicious spirits increase, which nevertheless, the more they afflict a man in sorrow of heart, bow him the more humbly to his Creator.  And hence it is added,

And the beasts of the earth shall be peacemakers to thee.




51.  First it is to be observed, that he does not say, ‘made peaceful,’ but, ‘peacemakers,’ that is to say, not that they are at peace, but that they make peace; for the crafty foes in making plots distress, but the distressed soul delights the more in her return to the heavenly home, the more she lives  toiling in this woful place of exile, and most truly abases herself to the gracious regard of her Helper, when she considers the most violent plots of the enemy against her.  The beasts of the earth then are rendered ‘peacemakers’ to the Elect, in that the malignant spirits, when they bear down the hearts of the good by their hostility, drive them to the love of God against their will.  Thus there arises a firmer peace with God, from the same source, whence a tougher fight is occasioned us by our adversaries.


52.  By the ‘beasts of the earth’ too may be understood the motions of the flesh, which, while they gall the mind by prompting conduct which is contrary to reason, rise up against us like beasts.  But when the heart is bowed down under the Divine Law, even the incitements of the flesh are reduced, so that, though in tempting us they give a low muttering, yet they never mount so high as to the execution of the deeds, as to the madness of open biting.  For who that still subsists in this corruptible flesh, completely tames these beasts of the earth, when that preeminent Preacher that was caught up to the third heaven, says, 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 my members. [Rom. 7, 21]  But it is one thing to see these beasts raging in the field of practice, and another to hold them ravening within the door of the heart.  For when they be forced back within the bars of continence, though they still roar by tempting, yet, as we have said, they go not such lengths as the bite of unlawful practice.  The beasts of the field then are peacemakers, in that though the motions of the flesh beat high in the desire, yet they never assail us with the open resistance of deeds, (though by this same circumstance, that they are called ‘peacemakers,’ even this same that we have said of malicious spirits is not unsuitably understood.)  For the motions of the flesh ‘make peace’ for us with God, when they offer opposition by tempting us.  For the mind of the righteous man, in that his way is directed to the realms above, is sore bestead by a grievous war arising from the corruptible body.  And if at any time it be hindered in heavenly aspirations by any enjoyment of this world however slight, by that very war of temptation, which it undergoes, it is urged on to set all its affections in that, which is disturbed by no opposition.  Whence it comes to pass that it recalls to mind the interior repose, and fleeing from the enticements of the flesh, sighs after it with a full affection.  For temptation constrains every man to mark from whence and whereunto he is fallen, who after he has forsaken the peace of God, feels a strife rise up against him from out of himself, and then he more truly sees what he has lost of the assured love of God, who having fallen down to himself, finds his own self insulted within himself.  The beasts of the earth then make peace for us, in that the motions of the flesh, whilst by offering temptation they irritate us, urge us forwards to the love of the interior repose.  Now it is rightly added,

Ver. 24.  And thou shalt know that thy tabernacle shall be in peace.




53.  In holy Scripture full peace is described in one way, and peace in its beginning in another.  For ‘Truth’ gave to His Disciples peace in its beginning, when He said, Peace I leave with you; My peace I give unto you. [John 14, 27]  And Simeon desired to have perfect peace, when he besought saying, Now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word. [Luke 2, 29]  For our peace begins in longing for the Creator, but it is perfected by a clear vision.  For it will then be perfect, when our mind is neither blinded by ignorance, nor moved by the assaults of its fleshly part.  But forasmuch as we touch upon its first beginnings, when we either subject the soul to God or the flesh to the soul, the ‘tabernacle’ of the righteous man is said to ‘have peace,’ in that his body, which he inhabits by his mind, is held in from the froward motions of its desires under the controlling hand of righteousness.  But what advantage is it to restrain the flesh by continence, if the mind is uninstructed to expand itself by compassion in the love of our neighbour?  For that chasteness of the flesh is as nothing, which is not recommended by sweetness of spirit.  Whence after the ‘peace of the tabernacle’ it is fitly subjoined,

And thou shalt visit thy likeness, and shalt not sin.




54.  For the likeness of man is another man.  For a fellow-creature is rightly called our ‘likeness,’ in that in him we discern what we ourselves are.  Now in the visiting of the body we go to our neighbour by the accession of steps, but in the spiritual visiting, we are led not by the footstep but by affection.  He then ‘visits his likeness,’ whoever direct his way to one, whom he sees to be like to himself in nature, by the footsteps of love, so that by seeing his own case in another, he may collect from himself how to condescend to another's weakness.  He ‘visits his likeness,’ who, that he may remodel another in himself, takes account of himself in another.  For hence ‘Truth,’ in telling by the mouth of Moses what had been done, denoted what was to be done, saying, And the earth brought forth grass and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, each one bearing seed after his kind. [gen. 1, 12]  For ‘the tree produces seed after its kind’ when our mind gathers from itself thought for another, and produces the fructification of well doing.  Hence the wise man saith, Do not that to any, which thou wouldest not have done to thyself. [Tob. 4, 15]  Hence the Lord saith in the Gospel, Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even to them. [Matt. 7, 12]  As if He said in plain words, ‘Visit your likeness in another man, and from your own selves learn what conduct it behoves you to exhibit to others.’  Hence Paul says, And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; to them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ.) [1 Cor. 9, 20. 21.]  And soon after, I am made all things to all men, that I might save all. [ib. 22]  Not indeed that the great Preacher, to become like a Jew, broke away into faithlessness; nor, that he might become ‘as one under the law,’ did he turn back to the fleshly sacrifice; nor, that he might become ‘all things to all men,’ did he change his singleness of mind into variety of deceit; but by lowering himself, not by falling, he drew near to the unbelievers, to this end, that by taking each one into himself and transforming himself into each one, by sympathizing with them, he might gather what it was, that, if he himself were like them, he would justly have desired should be bestowed upon him by others; and might go along with every erring person so much the more to the purpose, in proportion as he had learnt the method of his salvation by the consideration of his own case.  Well then is it said, And thou shalt visit thy likeness, and shalt not sin.  For sin is then perfectly conquered, when everyone sees from the likeness of himself, how to expand in the love of his neighbour.  But when the flesh is kept in check from evil practices, when the mind is exercised in virtuous habits, it remains that every one should by word of mouth reach the life, which in his own ways he observes.  For he gathers abundant fruits of his preaching, who sows before the seeds of welldoing.  Whence after the ‘peace of the tabernacle’ and the ‘visiting of our likeness,’ it is rightly subjoined,

Ver. 25.  Thou shalt know also that thy seed shall be manifold, and thine offspring as the grass of the earth.




55.  For after the ‘peace of his tabernacle,’ after ‘the visiting of our likeness,’ the manifold seed of the righteous man ariseth, in that after the macerating of the members and the fulness of the moral virtues, the word of preaching is bestowed upon him so much the more productive, in proportion as it is anticipated in his breast by the tillage of perfect practice.  For he receives eloquence to speak well, who expands the bosom of his heart by the exercises of right living.  Nor does the conscience hinder the speaker, when the life goes before the tongue.  It is hence that the Egyptians, who, by Joseph's management, were subjected to a state of public servitude, when they humble themselves by submitting their persons to the king's power, carry away corn even for seed.  For we receive, even when free, fruit to eat, when we are at the same time fed by the sacred word, and yet in the gratification of our pleasures roam after different objects, which we seek after in this world.  But when we become slaves, we receive corn for seed too, in that while we are made wholly subject to God, we are replenished further with the word of preaching.  And since a vast progeny of faithful souls succeeds, when holy preaching is first bestowed, after the multiplying of the seed, it is rightly subjoined, And thine offspring as the grass of the earth.  The progeny of the righteous is compared to the grass of the earth, in that he who is born in a copy of him, while he quits the decaying glory of the present life, comes out green with hope in the things of eternity.  Or truly, the progeny of the righteous springeth up like ‘the grass,’ in that while he shews forth by his living what he declares by his preaching, an innumerable multitude of followers arises.  But whosoever already looks down upon all earthly objects of desire, whoever spreads himself out in the labours of an active life, finds it by no means suffice him to do great things without, unless by contemplation he also have power to penetrate into interior mysteries.  Hence too the words are thereupon fitly introduced,

Ver.26.  Thou shalt come to thy grave in fulness, like as a shock of corn cometh in in his season.




56.  For what is denoted by the name of the grave, saving a life of contemplation?  which as it were buries us, dead to this world, in that it hides us in the interior world away from all earthly desires.  For they being dead to the exterior life, were also buried by contemplation, to whom Paul said, For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.  An active life also is a grave, in that it covers us, as dead, from evil works; but the contemplative life more perfectly buries us, in that it wholly severs us from all worldly courses.  Whoever then has already subdued the insolencies of the flesh in himself, has this task left him, to discipline his mind by the exercises of holy practice.  And whosoever opens his mind in holy works, has over and above to extend it to the secret pursuits of inward contemplation.  For he is no perfect preacher, who either, from devotion to contemplation, neglects works that ought to be done, or, from urgency in business, puts aside the duties of contemplation.  For it is hence that Abraham buries his wife after death in a double [in spelunca agri duplici Vulg.] sepulchre, in that every perfect preacher buries his soul, dead to the desires of the present life, under the covering of good practice and of contemplation, that the soul which aforetime, sensible of the desires of the world, was living in death, may as it were, without being obnoxious to sense, lie buried from carnal concupiscence under an active and contemplative life.  It is hence that the Redeemer of mankind in the day time exhibits His miracles in cities, and spends the night in devotion to prayer upon the mountain, namely, that He may teach all perfect preachers, that they should neither entirely leave the active life, from love of the speculative, nor wholly slight the joys of contemplation from excess in working, but in quiet imbibe by contemplation, what in employment they may pour back to their neighbours by word of mouth.  For by contemplation they rise into the love of God, but by preaching they return back to the service of their neighbour.  Hence with Moses, whilst a heifer is slaughtered in sacrifice, scarlet wool twice dyed is enjoined to be offered together with hyssop and cedar wood.  For we slay a heifer, when we kill our flesh to its lust of gratification; and this we offer with hyssop and cedar and scarlet wool, in that together with the mortifying of the flesh, we burn the incense of faith, hope, and charity.  The hyssop is of use to purify our inward parts; and Peter says, purifying their hearts by faith. [1 Pet. 1, 3]  Cedar wood never decays by rotting, in that no end finishes the hope of heavenly things.  Whence too Peter saith, He hath begotten us again by a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead; to an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away.  Scarlet wool flames with the redness of its hue, in that charity sets on fire the heart she fills.  Whence also ‘Truth’ saith in the Gospel, I am come to send fire on the earth.  But scarlet wool twice dyed is ordered to be offered, that in the sight of the internal Judge our charity may be coloured with the love both of God and of our neighbour, that the converted soul may neither so delight in repose for the sake of the love of God, as to put aside the care and service of our neighbour, nor busying itself for the love of our neighbour, be so wedded, thereto, that entirely forsaking quiet, it extinguish in itself the fire of love of the Most High.  Whosoever then has already offered himself as a sacrifice to God, if he desires perfection, must needs take care that he not only stretch himself out to breadth of practice, but likewise up to the heights of contemplation.


57.  But herein it is above all things necessary to know, that the compositions [‘conspersio,’  dough, paste.] of souls are infinitely varied one with another, for there are some of such inactivity of mind, that, if the labours of business fall upon them, they give way at the very beginning of their work, and there be some so restless, that if they have cessation from labour, they have only the worse labour, in that they are subject to worse tumults of mind, in proportion as they have more time and liberty for their thoughts.  Whence it behoves that neither the tranquil mind should open itself wide in the immoderate exercising of works, nor the restless mind stint itself in devotion to contemplation.  For often they, who might have contemplated God in quiet, have fallen, being overcharged with business; and often they, who might live advantageously occupied with the service of their fellow-creatures, are killed by the sword of their quiescence.  It is hence that some restless spirits, whilst by contemplation they hunt out more than their wits compass, launch out even to the length of wrong doctrines, and, whilst they have no mind to be the disciples of Truth in a spirit of humility, they become the masters of falsities.  It is hence that ‘Truth’ saith by His own lips, And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee; for it is profitable for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes be cast into hell fire.  For the two lives, the active and the contemplative, when they be preserved in the soul, are accounted as two eyes in the face.  Thus the right eye is the contemplative life, and the left the active life.  But, as we have said, there be some, who are quite unable to behold the world above, and spiritual things, with the eye of discernment, yet enter upon the, heights of contemplation, and therefore, by the mistake of a perverted understanding, they fall away into the pit of misbelieve.  These then the contemplative life, adopted to an extent beyond their powers, obliges to fall from the truth, which same persons the active life by itself might have kept safe in lowliness of mind in the firm seat of their uprightness.  To these ‘Truth’ rightly addresses the warning which we said before, And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee; for it is good for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.  As if He said in plain words; ‘When thou art not qualified for the contemplative life by a fitting degree of discretion, keep more safely the active life alone, and when thou failest in that which thou choosest as great, be content with that which thou heedest as very little, that if by the contemplative life thou art forced to fall from the knowledge of the truth, thou mayest by the active life alone be able to enter into the kingdom of heaven at least with one eye.’  Hence He says again, But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in Me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. [Matt. 18, 6]  What is denoted by ‘the sea,’ but this present state of being? what by ‘the millstone,’ but earthly practice, which while it binds down the neck of the soul by foolish desires, sends it out into the round of labour.  Thus there are some, who, while they quit earthly courses and rise beyond the powers of their understanding in pursuance of the exercises of contemplation, having laid aside humility, not only cast themselves into error, but separate any that be weak from the bosom of unity; and thus ‘it would be better for him, that offends one of the least, with a millstone fastened to his neck, to be cast into the sea,’ in that indeed it would have been more expedient for the froward mind, if, busied with the world, it were employed in earthly matters, than, in the exercises of contemplation, to be free to work the destruction of numbers.  On the other hand, if it were not that the contemplative life suited some minds more than the active life, the Lord would never say by the voice of the Psalmist, Be still, and know that I am God. [Ps. 46, 10]


58.  But herein it is necessary to know, that often at one and the same time love stimulates inactive souls to work, and fear keeps back restless souls in the exercise of contemplation.  For a weight of fear is an anchor of the heart, and very often it is tossed by the stormy sea of thoughts, but is held fast by the moorings of its self-control; nor does the tempest of its disquietude make shipwreck of it, in that perfect charity holds it fast on the shore of the love of God [d].  Whence it is necessary that whoever eagerly prosecutes the exercises of contemplation, first question himself with particularity, how much he loves.  For the force of love is an engine of the soul, which, while it draws it out of the world, lifts it on high.  Let him then first examine whether in searching after the highest things he loves, whether in loving he fears, whether he knows either how to apprehend unknown truths, while he loves them, or not being apprehended to reverence them in cherishing fear.  For in contemplation, if love does not stimulate the mind, the dulness of its tepidity stupefies it.  If fear does not weigh on it, sense lifts it by vain objects to the mist of error, and when the door of secret things, being closed against it, is slow in being opened, merely by its own presumption alone it is forced the farther off there-from, for it strives to force a way to that which it seeks after without finding, and when the proud mind takes falsehood for truth, in proportion as it is advancing the step as if inwards, it is directing it without.  Thus it is for this reason that the Lord, when about to give the Law, came down in fire and in smoke; in that He both enlightens the lowly by the clearness of His manifestation of Himself, and darkens the eyes of the highminded by the dimness of error.  First then the soul must be cleansed from all affection for earthly glory, and from the gratification of carnal concupiscence, and next it is to be lifted up in the ken of contemplation.  Hence too, when the Law is given to them, the people are forbidden the Mount, namely, that they who, by the frailty of their minds, still have their affections set upon earthly objects, may not venture to take cognizance of things above.  And hence it is rightly said, And if a beast touch the mountain, it shall he stoned.  For ‘a beast touches the mountain,’ when the mind, which is bowed down to irrational desires, lifts itself to the heights of contemplation.  But it is ‘smitten with stones,’ in that being unable to bear the highest things, it is killed by the mere blows of the weight on high.


59.  Let all then that strive to lay hold of the summit of perfection, when they desire to occupy the citadel of contemplation, first try themselves, by exercising, in the field of practice, that they may heedfully acquaint themselves, if they now no longer bring mischiefs upon their neighbours, if when brought upon them by their neighbours, they bear them with composure of mind, if when temporal advantages are put in their way, the mind is never dissipated by joy, if, when they are withdrawn, it is not stung by overmuch regret, and then let them reflect, if, when they return inwardly to themselves, in this work of theirs of exploring spiritual things, they never draw along with them the shadows of corporeal objects, or when drawn along, as they may be, if they drive them off with the hand of discretion [al. districtionis, severity]; if, when they long to behold the unencompassed light, they put down all images of their own compass, or in that which they seek to reach unto above themselves, conquer that which they are.  Hence it is rightly said here, Thou shalt come to thy grave in abundance.  For the perfect man does ‘come to the grave in abundance,’ in that he first gathers together the works of an active life, and then by contemplation wholly hides from this world his fleshly sense, which is now dead.  Hence too it is fitly subjoined,

Like as a shock of corn cometh in in his season.


60.  For the season for action comes first, for contemplation last.  Whence it is needful that every perfect man first discipline his mind in virtuous habits, and afterwards lay it up in the granary of rest.  For it is hence that he, who was left of the legion of devils at the bidding of our Lord, seats himself at His Saviour's feet, receives the words of instruction, and eagerly desires to leave his country in company with the Author of his recovery, but That very ‘Truth’ Himself, Who vouchsafed to him recovery, tells him, Return first unto thine own house, and shew what great things God hath done unto thee. [Luke 8, 39. &c.]  For when we have the least particle imparted to us of the knowledge of God, we are no longer inclined to return to our human affairs, and we shrink from burthening ourselves with the wants of our neighbours.  We seek the rest of contemplation, and love only that which refreshes without toil.  But after we are cured, the Lord sends us home.  He bids us relate the things that have been done with us, so as that in fact the soul should first spend itself in labour, and that afterwards it may be refreshed by contemplation.


61.  It is hence that Jacob serves for Rachel, and gets Leah, and that it is said to him, It is not the custom in our country to give the youngest before the first-born.  For Rachel is rendered ‘the beginning seen [c],’ but ‘Leah,’ ‘laborious.’ And what is denoted by Rachel but the contemplative life?  What by Leah, but the active life?  For in contemplation ‘the Beginning,’ which is God, is the object we seek, but in action we labour under a weighty bundle of wants.  Whence on the one hand Rachel is beautiful but barren, Leah weak eyed, but fruitful, truly in that when the mind seeks the ease of contemplation, it sees more, but it is less productive in children to God.  But when it betakes itself to the laborious work of preaching, it sees less, but it bears more largely.  Accordingly after the embrace of Leah, Jacob attains to Rachel, in that every one that is perfect is first joined to an active life in productiveness, and afterwards united to a contemplative life in rest.  For that the life of contemplation is less indeed in time [i.e. age], but greater in value [merito] than the active, we are shewn by the words of the Holy Gospel, wherein two women are described to have acted in different ways.  For Mary sat at our Redeemer's feet, hearing His words, but Martha eagerly prosecuted bodily services; and when Martha made complaint against Mary's inactivity, she heard the words, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things; but one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. [Luke 10, 41. 42.]  For what is set forth by Mary, who sitting down gave ear to the words of our Lord, saving the life of contemplation? and what by Martha, so busied with outward services, saving the life of action?  Now Martha's concern is not reproved, but that of Mary is even commended.  For the merits of the active life are great, but of the contemplative, far better.  Whence Mary's part is said to be ‘never taken away from her,’ in that the works of the active life pass away together with the body, while the joys of the contemplative life are made more lively at the end.  Which is well and briefly set forth by the Prophet Ezekiel, when, beholding the flying creatures, he says, And the likeness of the hands of a man were under their wings. [Ezek. 10, 21]  For what can we suppose meant by the wings of the creatures, saving the contemplations of the Saints, by which they soar aloft, and quitting earthly scenes, poise themselves in the regions of heaven?  What do we understand by the ‘hands,’ saving deeds?  For whereas they open themselves in the love of their neighbour, the good things, which abound to them, they administer even by bodily ministration; but ‘the hands are under the wings,’ in that they surpass the deeds of their action, by the excellence of contemplation.


62.  Moreover by ‘the grave’ it may be that not only our contemplation in this life is understood, but the rest of our eternal and interior reward, wherein we more thoroughly rest, the more perfectly is killed in us the life of corrupt existence.  He then ‘goes down to the grave in abundance,’ who, after he has stored up the works of the present life, being perfectly dead to his mutable condition of existence, is buried in the depth of the true light.  Whence also it is said by the Psalmist, Thou shalt hide them in the secret of Thy presence, from the provoking of men. [Ps. 31, 20]  And the comparison that is added brings this home to us with effect, where it is subjoined, Like as a shock of corn cometh in in his season.  For corn in the field is touched by the sun, in that in this life the soul of man is illumined by the regard of the light above.  It receives the showers, in that it is enriched by the word of Truth; it is shaken by the winds, in that it is tried with temptations; and it bears the chaff ‘growing’ along with it, in that it bears the life of daily increasing wickedness in sinners, directed against itself; and after it has been carried away to the barn, it is squeezed by the threshing weight, that it may be parted from the bold of the chaff, in that our mind, being subjected to heavenly discipline, whilst it receives the stripes of correction, is parted from the society of the carnal sort in a cleaner state; and it is carried to the granary with the chaff left behind, in that while the lost remain without, the Elect soul is transported to the eternal joys of the mansion above.  Well then is it said, Thou shalt come to thy grave in abundance, like as a shock of corn cometh in in his season; in that, whereas the righteous after sufferings meet with the rewards of the heavenly land, it is like as if the grains after pressing and squeezing were carried away to the granary.  And it is in another's season indeed that they feel the strokes, but in their own that they rest from being struck.  For to the Elect the present life is another's season, whence to some that were yet unbelievers ‘Truth’ saith, My time is not yet come, but your time is alway ready. [John 7, 6.]  And again, But this is your hour, and the power of darkness. [Luke 22, 53.]  Thus ‘he cometh to his grave in abundance, like as a shock of corn cometh in in his season,’ in that he receives the rest eternal, who, that he may be set free of the chaff, which is destined to be burnt, first feels here below the pressure of discipline.  But whereas Eliphaz in the course of his address mentioned ‘the tabernacle,’ ‘the stones,’ ‘the beasts,’ ‘the seed,’ ‘the herbs,’ and ‘the grave,’ he himself intimates that he did not speak of these according to the letter, in that after all of them he thereupon subjoins;

Ver.21.  Lo this, as we have searched it, so it is.




63.  Assuredly it is clear, that in these words he says nothing upon a view of the surface, in that a thing, that is ‘searched,’ is not set before the face.  He then, who shews that he had ‘searched’ these things, proves that in outward words inward things were what he had in view.  And after the whole he is brought to the foolishness of boasting, in that he thereupon adds;

And now thou hast heard it, turn it in thy mind.




64.  With whatever lessons of instruction the mind may be furnished, it argues great want of skill to wish to instruct one that is superior, whence the very things which are rightly delivered by the friends, are not pronounced right by the interior Judge.  For they lose the efficacy of their rightness herein, that they are not suited to the hearer.  For even medicines lose their efficacious properties when they be administered to sound limbs.  In all, then, that is said, it is necessary that the occasion, the time, and the individual, be taken into account, whether the truth of the sentiment confirms the words delivered, whether the fitting time calls for it, whether the character of the person does not impugn both the truth of the sentiment, and the suitableness of the time.  For he launches his darts in a manner to deserve praise, who first looks at the enemy that he is to strike.  For he masters the horns of the strong bow amiss, who in sending the arrow with force, strikes a fellowcountryman.