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In which the twelfth chapter, from the sixth verse, the thirteenth, and the first four verses of the fourteenth, are explained, a different style being adopted for the time.


[i]                                          [HISTORICAL INTERPRETATION]


1.  THOUGH in a long work variableness of style ought not to be a matter of blame, yet lest any should censure me for change in my way of expressing myself, in the Epistle which was prefixed to these books, I gave the reasons 1 why I never brought the third part of this Work up to a likeness and accordance with the others by amending it.  And while these are omitted, there is this added further, that the interpretation of this same part begins from the verse in which it is said, The tabernacles of robbers have plenty, &c.  and reaches down in the handling thereof to that which is written, Their sweetness shall be through the worm, &c. which in fact includes so much, that it is impossible all should be comprised in one volume, except it be reduced to great brevity; and so let anyone that is free from other employments read the other parts that are given in a multiplied form, but for him, who has no time to read with diligent application, the shortness of this part may be to his mind, wherein we do not so much deliver what we have in our mind, as mark what there is to deliver.  Therefore, whereas I have herein left many things such as they were received from me by word of mouth, take kindly, reader, this change of style, in that to people eating often the same meats, a difference in the mode of cooking is acceptable.  But as you take the several parts to read, make it your business ever to recall to mind that original of the case which I have set forth; how that both by blessed Job, who is called ‘Grieving,’ are denoted the sufferings of our Lord and of His Body, i.e. the holy Church, and that his friends bear the likeness of heretics, who, as we have often said already, whilst they strive to defend, only offend God; and these, whilst they falsely abet, forcibly wound the souls of Saints.  Yet not that in all which they say they are void of understanding in knowledge of the truth, but for the most part they blend what is wise with what is foolish, and the true with the false; that while they first propose somewhat on the side of truth, they may easily draw aside into falsehood.  And hence too, what the friends of blessed Job utter is one while worthy of contempt, and at another time deserves admiration, which same the holy man whilst sometimes discarding he condemns it, sometimes approving admits, and turns to the account of righteousness even the very things, which, though right, are not by them rightly delivered; and so he scorns them, when they scorn his destitution, and, placed upon a dunghill in the body, he shews on how high a summit of virtue he is seated within, when he records that this life’s riches are nought, which he describes to be abundantly bestowed even on the sons of perdition, saying;

Ver. 6.  The tabernacles of robbers have plenty, and they provoke God with boldness; when He hath given all into their hand.




2.  It is easy for a man, at the time, to despise riches, when he has them, but it is hard to hold them worthless, when he lacks them.  Hence it is clearly shewn, how great a contempt of earthly things was lodged in the breast of blessed Job, who then declares that all is nought which the lost enjoy in plenty, at the time when he had lost every thing.  Thus he says, The tabernacles of robbers have plenty, and they provoke God with boldness; for it very commonly happens that bad men set themselves up the more against God, even the more they are enriched by His bounty contrary to their desert, and they that ought to be impelled by good gifts to better conduct, are rendered worse men by the blessings.


3.  But we have to make out how they are called ‘robbers,’ whereas it is thereupon added, When He hath given all into their hands.  For if they are robbers, then they took by force, and there is no doubt that God is no abettor of those that use force.  In what sense then does He Himself bestow what they that are robbers carry off by wicked means?  We are to know then that what Almighty God in His mercy vouchsafes is one thing, and another thing what in His wrath He suffers men to have; for that which robbers do contrary to right the Equal Dispenser no otherwise than justly permits to be done by them, that both the man who is let to rob being blinded in mind may increase his guilt, and that he who suffers from his robbing, may now in the mischief thereof be chastised for some sin, which he had been guilty of before.  For look, a man taking post in the pass of a mountain lies in wait for travellers passing by; now he that is taking his journey perchance has done some wickedness at one time or another, and Almighty God requiting him his evil-doing in the present life, and giving him into the hands of the lier-in-wait, suffers him either to be spoiled of his goods, or even to be killed.  And so what the robber unjustly aimed at, the same the Equitable Judge justly permitted to be done, that both the one might be repaid what he had done contrary to justice, and the other might one time or another receive the worse chastisement, by whose voluntary deed of atrocity Almighty God brought just vengeance for sin upon the head of another.  He is cleansed that suffers the wrong: in the case of him that does the wrong guilt is accumulated; that either from the very depth of wickedness he may one day be brought back to repentance, or else be visited with eternal damnation, aggravated in proportion as he was borne with for long in his sin.  With the first He deals in mercy that he may bring his sins to an end, with the other in severity that he may greatly add thereto, unless he betake himself to repentance; in the one evil deeds are wiped away while he suffers violence, in the other they are accumulated while he offers it.  Therefore it is meet and right that Almighty God suffer that to be done which He forbids to be done, that by the very same act, whereby He now awaits and bears with the unconverted for long, He may one day smite them the worse.  Therefore it is rightly said, The tabernacles of robbers are in plenty, and they provoke God with boldness; when He giveth all into their hand; for what the wicked take away, He does Himself give them, Who might have withstood them in their rapine, if He had been minded to pity them. 




4.  Yet this may likewise be understood of spiritual things.  For it very often happens that some have gifts of teaching vouchsafed them, yet they are swoln with the same, and have a desire to appear great by comparison with others.  And to ‘provoke’ Almighty God is to be lifted up amongst our neighbours on the score of His gifts.  Which same also are not unjustly called ‘robbers,’ in that whilst they speak what they never do, they take away the words of the righteous to serve the turn of their own speech.  But because those very words heavenly Grace vouchsafes to some persons, whose lives notwithstanding it leaves in a course of wickedness, in themselves they are ‘robbers;’ but yet the good that is theirs they have gotten from above.  It goes on;

Ver. 7, 8.  But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fouls of the air, and they shall tell thee.  Or speak to the earth, and it shall answer thee: and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee.




5.  What are we to understand by ‘the beasts,’ but men of slow parts; and what by ‘the fowls of the air,’ but those that are skilled in high and sublime truths?  For of ‘the beasts,’ i.e. the dull of sense, it is written; Thine animals [V. so] shall dwell therein. [Ps. 68, 10]  And forasmuch as those, who have minds for sublime themes, soar among the words of the Redeemer, it is written, So that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof. [Matt. 13, 32]  And what by ‘the earth,’ saving men whose taste is for earthly things?  Hence too it is said to the first man on his forsaking the things of heaven, Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. [Gen. 3, 19]  What are we to understand by ‘the fishes of the sea,’ but the inquisitive ones of this world, concerning whom the Psalmist saith, The fish of the sea, that pass through the paths of the seas. [Ps. 8, 8]  Which same busy themselves in large researches into things, as it were in undiscoverable floods.  Now what all these teach upon being so interrogated, he adds, saying,

Ver. 9.  Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the Lord hath wrought this?




6.  As if he said in plain terms; ‘Whether you ask the dull of understanding, or persons full of the loftiest subjects, or those devoted to earthly ways, or the men busied with investigations that belong to this world, all of them acknowledge God to be the Creator of all things, and with one consent agree about His Power, though they do not with one consent live in submission to it.  For that which the righteous man speaks by his way of living too, that the unrighteous man generally is constrained to own concerning God by his voice alone, if not otherwise; and it comes to pass that evil-doers, by attesting Him, do homage to the Creator of all things, Whom by their deeds they rebel against, in that Him, Whom they have dared to fight against by their lives, they cannot deny to be the Creator of all things. 




Yet this same may also be understood to good purpose after the mere form of the letter alone; in that every creature, when it is looked at, as it were utters a voice of its own, bearing witness by that mere form which it has.  We ask ‘the beasts,’ or ‘the fowls of the air,’ ‘the earth,’ or ‘the fish,’ whilst we view them, and these answer us with one accord, that ‘the Hand of the Lord hath wrought all things,’ in that whilst they present their lineaments to our eyes, they bear witness that they are not from themselves.  For by the mere circumstance that they are created, by the figure they present, they render as it were the voice of confession to their Creator, Who, as He created all things, likewise ordained how they should be conducted.  Hence it is added,

Ver.l0.  In Whose Hand is the soul of every living thing, and the spirit of all flesh of man.




7.  For by the ‘Hand’ Power is denoted.  Thus ‘the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind,’ is in the Power of Him, from Whom it has its being, that He Himself should appoint in what condition it should be, Who vouchsafed that to be, which was not.  But by ‘the soul of every living thing’ may be denoted the life of beasts.  Now Almighty God quickens the soul of beasts to the extent of the corporeal senses, but man’s spirit He draws out to a spiritual understanding; and thus ‘in His Hand is the soul of every living thing and the breath of all flesh of men,’ in that both the one, He bestows this power on the soul that it should give life to the flesh, and in the other He quickens the soul to this degree, that it should attain to the understanding of eternity.  But we are to bear in mind that in Holy Writ ‘the spirit of man’ is wont to be put in two ways.  For sometimes ‘the spirit’ is put for the soul, sometimes for spiritual agency.  Thus ‘the spirit’ is put for the soul, as it is written of our own Head Himself, And He bowed His Head, and gave up His Spirit [spiritum, Vulg.]. [John 19, 30]  For if the Evangelist had called any thing else ‘the spirit’ saving the soul, then surely upon that spirit departing, the soul would have remained.  Moreover, the term ‘spirit’ is used for spiritual agency, as where it is written, Who maketh His Angels spirits, His Ministers a flaming fire. [Ps. 104, 4]  For Preachers are occasionally called ‘Angels,’ i.e. ‘bearers of tidings,’ in Holy Writ, as where it is said by the Prophet, The priest’s lips keep knowledge, and they seek the law from his mouth: for he is the Angel [V. Angelus] of the Lord of Hosts. [Mal. 2, 7]  Thus Almighty God ‘maketh His Angels spirits,’ in that He changeth His Preachers into spiritual men.  But in this passage, if by ‘the soul of every living thing,’ the mere life of the body is denoted, by the ‘spirit of all flesh of man,’ there is set forth the agency of a spiritual understanding.  It goes on;

Ver. 11.  The ear trieth words, and the mouth of the eater savour.




8.  There is scarce a person that is ignorant that the five senses of our body, viz. of seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, and touching, in all their  operations of perceiving and discriminating derive the power of perception and discrimination from the brain.  And whereas there is but one judge that presides within, viz. the percipient faculty of the brain, yet by their proper passages he keeps five senses distinct, God causing great marvels, so that neither the eye should hear, nor the ear see, the mouth take in scent, the nose taste, nor the hands smell; and whereas all things are determined by the one faculty of the brain.  Yet no one of the senses can do aught but what it received by the Creator’s appointment.  And so by these corporeal and external arrangements we are left to gather the interior and spiritual ones; so that by that which is open to the eye in us, we ought to pass on to the secret thing that is in us, and escapes our eyes.  For we are to observe, that whereas there is one Wisdom, it dwells in one man less, in another more.  To one it gives this function, to another that; and in the manner of the brain, it uses ourselves like so many senses, that though in itself it bears no dissimilitude to itself, yet by us it is ever working different and dissimilar operations, so as for this man to receive the gift of wisdom, and that the gift of knowledge; one to have kinds of tongues, and another the grace of healing. 


9.  But in these words wherein blessed Job saith, The ear trieth words, and the mouth of the eater savour, he seems likewise to imply something about the Elect and the damned; for the words of wisdom, which the children of perdition hear, the Elect not only hear but taste too, that that should have a savour for them in the heart, which conveys no sound to the minds of the damned, but only to their ears.  For it is one thing to hear food named only, and another thing to taste of it also; then the Elect so hear of the meat of wisdom, that they taste of it, in that what they hear is full of relish to them in their very marrow [medulitus] from love; but the knowledge of the reprobate extends only to the cognizance of the sound, so that they hear indeed of virtues, but yet from coldness of heart they know nothing what a relish they have.  By which same words blessed Job condemns the inexperience of his friends, and the presumption of all that are puffed up for their learning in wisdom, in that it is one thing to know somewhat concerning God, and another to taste with the mouth of understanding the thing that is known.  Therefore it is well said, Doth not the ear try words?  and the mouth of the eater savour?  As if it were said to the presumptuous in plain words, ‘The words of instruction, which came to you only so far as to the ear, to me touch the mouth of understanding likewise in the inward savour.’  But because a weak age, even when it hath a right sense, should not spring forth with incautious haste to preach, it is rightly added;

Ver. 12.  With the ancient is wisdom, and in length of days understanding.




10.  For these sayings are set fast in the root of wisdom, which by continuance in living, are also made strong by the practice of deeds.  But because there are many to whom at once longer life is given, and yet no grace of wisdom vouchsafed, it is further shewn with propriety on whose decision the gifts themselves depend, whilst it is added;

Ver. 13.  With Him is wisdom and strength: He hath counsel and understanding.




11.  We not unfitly interpret these words of the Only begotten Son of the Supreme Father, so as to understand Him to be Himself ‘the Wisdom and Strength of God.’  For Paul also bears testimony to our interpretation, in the words, Christ the Power of God and the Wisdom of God. [1 Cor. 1, 24]  Who is ever ‘with Him,’ in that, In the Beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. [John 1, 1]  But God ‘hath counsel and understanding;’ ‘counsel,’ in that He orders His own matters, ‘understanding,’ in that He knows ours.  By the naming of ‘counsel’ may also be denoted the mere delay of secret judgment alone, as that He is sometimes slow in striking offenders, not because the sin of bad men is not seen, but that their sentence of condemnation, which is delayed for the practising of penance, may seem as if out of counsel slow to issue forth.  And so what the public declaration one day reveals without, that lay hid with the Almighty Lord in counsel before the world began.  It proceeds;

Ver. 14.  If He break down, there is none that can build again: if He shut up a man, there is none that can open. 




12.  Almighty God ‘breaks down’ the heart of man, when He forsakes it; He ‘builds it up,’ when He fills it.  For He does not destroy man’s soul by consummation of war, but by withdrawing Himself from it; in that when it is left to itself, it wants nothing to its own ruin.  Whence it commonly happens, that when the heart of the hearer, in due of his sins, is not filled with Almighty God’s grace, it is in vain that he is outwardly admonished by the preacher.  For every mouth that speaks is but mute, if He does not utter a voice in the heart within, Who inspires the words that are admitted into the ears.  Hence the Prophet saith, Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it. [Ps 127, 1]  Hence Solomon saith, Consider the work of God; for who can set him right whom He hath despised? [Eccles. 7, 13]  Nor is it strange, if the preacher is not attended to by the reprobate soul, since it sometimes happens that the Lord Himself, in the things which He speaks, is withstood by the tempers of those that withstand Him.  For hence it is that Cain could be admonished even by the voice of God, yet could not be changed, because as due to the sin of his evil heart, within God had already forsaken the soul, to which outwardly He addressed words to serve for a testimony.  And it is well added, If He shut up a man, there is none that can open; in that every man, whereinsoever he does wrong, what else does he but make for himself a prison-house of his own conscience, that guiltiness of soul may oppress him even though no man accuse him without?  And when by the judgment of God he is left in the blindness of his evil heart, he is as it were shut up within himself, that he may never find a place of escape, which he never deserves to find.  For it often happens that there are persons who long to quit their bad practices, but because they are weighed to the ground by the burthen of them, being shut up in the prison-house of bad habit, they are unable to go forth of themselves.  And there are some that anxiously desiring to visit their own offences with punishment, turn into worse offences what they reckon themselves to be doing aright; and it is brought to pass in a lamentable way, that what they take for their going out they find to be their imprisoning.  Thus the reprobate Judas, when he inflicted death upon himself to spite sin, was brought to the punishment of eternal death, and repented of sin in a more heinous way than he had committed sin. 


13.  Therefore let it be said, If He shutteth up a man, there is none that can open.  For as no man withstands His bountifulness in calling, so no one withstands His justice in forsaking; and so for God to ‘shut up’ is, not to open to those that are shut up; and hence it is said to Moses concerning Pharaoh, I will harden his heart. [Gen. 27, 5]  For God is said to harden the heart in executing justice, when He does not soften the reprobate heart in bestowing grace.  And so He ‘shuts up’ the man, whom He leaves in the darkness of his own practices.  For Isaac desired to open this shutting up to his first-born son, when he endeavoured to set him before his brother in blessing him.  But the son whom the father desired, the Lord rejected; and him, whom the Lord desired, the father blessed even against his will; that he, who had sold his birthright to his brother for a meal, might not get the blessing of the first-born, which he had relinquished through a gluttonous appetite; who, whilst that aiming at earthly objects, following after transitory things, he desired to inherit the blessing, was rejected.  For he found no place for repentance, though he sought it with tears [Heb. 12, 17]; for tears have no fruit, which are spent on regretting with sighs things destined to perish.  And so Isaac could not open even to his son, whom Almighty God by a just judgment shut up in the prison-house of his evil heart.  It proceeds;

Ver. 15.  If He withholdeth the waters, all things are dried up.  If He sendeth them out, they will overturn the earth.




14.  If ‘water’ be understood of knowledge for preaching, as when it is written, The words of a man’s mouth are as deep waters, and the well-spring of wisdom as an overflowing brook [Prov. 18, 4]; when ‘water is withheld, all is dried up,’ in that if the knowledge of the preacher is withdrawn, the hearts of those that might have flourished in eternal hope, are forthwith ‘dried up,’ that they should remain in hopeless barrenness, whilst, in love with transitory things, they care not to look for those which shall abide.  But if by the term of ‘water’ the grace of the Holy Spirit is denoted, as it is said by the voice of truth in the Gospel, He that believeth in Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water [John 7, 38]; in which place the Evangelist immediately added, But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe in Him should receive; a suitable sense is laid open in these words wherein he saith, Behold He withholdeth the waters, and all things are dried up; in that if the grace of the Holy Spirit be withdrawn from the hearer’s mind, the sense is at once ‘dried up,’ which already through hope seemed to be green in the hearer.  But forasmuch as he does not mention ‘water’ but ‘waters,’ by the plural designation, he refers to the sevenfold grace of spiritual gifts, inasmuch as everyone is filled, so to speak, with as many waters as he is replenished with gifts, of which it is fitly added,

Also if He sendeth them out, they will overturn the earth.


15.  For what is ‘the earth’ taken for, but the sinner, to whom it is said in sentence, Dust [Lat. Terra] thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return?  Thus the earth remains immoveable when the sinner scorns to obey the precepts of the Lord, when he erects the neck of pride, and shuts the mind’s eyes to the light of truth.  But whereas it is written, His feet stood, and the earth was moved [Hab. 3, 6. see lxx]; in that when Truth is rooted in the heart, the immoveableness of the mind is stirred; if the grace of the Holy Spirit, by bestowal from above, is infused according to the voice of the preacher, instantly the earth is ‘overturned,’ in that the obduracy of the guilty soul is changed from the stubbornness of its immobility, that it should afterwards bow down itself in weeping to the precepts of the Lord, as much as it afore time erected the neck in swelling high against the Lord.  For you may see that the earth of the human heart, when the water of God’s blessing is poured upon it, afterwards gladly bears injuries, which before it outrageously inflicted; afterwards even gives its own, whereas before it even laid hands on the things of others; afterwards tortures the flesh by practising abstinence, whereas before, in the plenishing of the flesh, it let itself loose in the deadly gratifications of gross sensualities; afterwards loves its very persecutors, whereas before it refused to love even those that loved itself.  When, then, the human soul watered by God’s bounty begins to act contrary to what was its wont, ‘the earth is overturned,’ in that the part is put down, which before reared itself on high, and the face is lifted upwards, which was before weighed down deeply below.


16.  It seems well in illustration of this point to bring forward Paul as one among many.  Who when he was on his way to Damascus armed with letters against Christ [Acts 9, 1], being on his journey watered with the grace of the Holy Spirit, was changed on the spot from that bloodthirsty purpose which he had, and afterwards received those strokes in Christ’s behalf, which he was journeying with the intention of inflicting upon Christians; and he who before, when living after the flesh, strove to deliver the Saints of the Lord over to death, is afterwards rejoiced to offer the sacrifice of his flesh for the life of the Saints.  Those cold-blooded purposes of cruelty are turned into the warmth of pity; and he that aforetime was a blasphemer and a persecutor, afterwards becomes a humble and compassionate preacher. [1 Tim. 1, 13]  He, who accounted it great gain to him to slay Christ in His Disciples [Acts 9, 1], now holds ‘Christ to be his life, and to die gain;’ [Phil. 1, 21] and so when He ‘sendeth out the waters, the earth is overturned,’ in that the mind of Paul, the moment he received the grace of the Holy Spirit, altered the fixture of his stubbornness and cruelty.  Contrary to which the Lord utters the complaint against Ephraim, by the Prophet, saying, Ephraim is a cake under the ashes [V. so] not turned. [Hos. 7, 8]  For a cake under the ashes, that hath ashes upon it, lays the cleaner side flat to the ground, and has the upper side the fouler, in proportion as it carries the ashes upon it.  And so with the mind that harbours earthly thoughts, what else does it carry upon itself but a load of ashes?  But if it will be ‘turned,’ the clean surface, which it had kept downwards, it brings back to the top, when it has shaken off the ashes that it had upon it.  If therefore we shake off from the mind the ashes of earthly thoughts, as it were we ‘turn the cake under the ashes,’ that that bent of our mind may henceforth go to the rear, which the ashes of grovelling thought before overlaid, and the clean face come to the top, that our right bent of mind may not henceforth be surcharged with the weight of earthly desire.  Which we can never do, except we be bedewed with the grace of the Holy Spirit, in that when Almighty God ‘sendeth out the waters, they will overturn the earth.’  It proceeds;

Ver. 16.  With Him is strength and wisdom.




17.  A little above it had been said, With Him is wisdom and strength; but now it is said, With Him is strength and wisdom.  For because Almighty God, when in the mystery of pitifulness He was made Man, first gave the lesson of mildness, and afterwards at the Judgment He shews what strength He is of; it is rightly done that in the place above Wisdom is mentioned before Strength, when the thing is spoken of the Only Begotten Son of the Father, With Him is Wisdom and Strength.  But forasmuch as when He cometh to judge, He will appear in the terribleness of His power, and the damned being cast off, will manifest to His Elect in His everlasting kingdom, how He is ‘the Wisdom’ of the Father, it is lightly said in the subsequent sentence, that with Him is first ‘strength’ and then ‘wisdom.’  Thus in the first words wherein he saith, With Him is wisdom and strength; he plainly shews, that what He taught in mildness how to believe, in the power of the Judgment He will exhibit in terribleness.  But in the subsequent words, wherein He saith, With Him is strength and wisdom; He makes it clearer than the day, that He first destroys reprobate men in the Judgment by dint of power, and afterwards shines into the souls of the Elect with the perfect light of the eternal kingdom.  But because before the day of final Judgment, He never ceases daily to judge the deeds of mortal men by His secret awards, He comes back to that which is done in this present time, where it is added;

Ver. 16, 17.  He knoweth both the deceiver and deceived, He bringeth counsellors to a foolish end, and the judges to dulness.




18.  Whereas every man that strives to deceive his neighbour is wicked, and ‘Truth’ saith to the wicked, I never knew you, depart from Me ye that work iniquity [Matt. 7, 23]; in what sense is it said here, that ‘the Lord knoweth the deceiver?’  But forasmuch as God’s ‘knowing’ sometimes means His taking cognizance, sometimes His approving, He at once knows a wicked man, in that in taking cognizance He judges him, (for He would never judge any wicked man, if He did not take cognizance of him,) and yet He does not know a wicked person, in that He does not approve his doings.  And so He both knows him, in that He finds him out, and knows him not, in that He doth not acknowledge him in a likeness to His own Wisdom.  As it is said of any truthful man, that he does not know falsehood, not because, when any thing false is said even by others, he is too blind to find fault with it, but this very falsehood he at once knows in the tracing out, and knows not in the affection of the heart, so as not to do that himself, which he condemns the doing of in others.  And it may often happen that persons, busy in artful contrivances, spread the nets of their wickedness for another’s life, and when he, in ignorance of it, is seen to be taken by the snares, perchance it is questioned whether such things are seen from above, and men wonder, why it is, if God does see them, that He suffers them to be done.  But He knoweth the deceiver and the deceived.  For ‘He knoweth the deceiver,’ in that generally He sees former sins of his, and by a just judgment suffers him to fall into others also.  ‘He knoweth the deceiver,’ in that, left in the hand of his own doings, He forsaketh him, that he may be precipitated into worse ones, as it is written, He that is unjust let him be unjust still, and he that is filthy let him, be filthy [Lat. grow filthy] still. [Rev. 22, 11]  Moreover ‘He knoweth the deceived’ too, in that men often do evil things that they know; and therefore they are suffered to be ‘deceived,’ so as further to fall into evil things which they know not.  However, this is used to be done to the deceived sometimes for their purifying, sometimes as the beginning of vengeance.


19.  He bringeth counsellors also to a foolish end, when they do any thing good even, with no good purpose, but are going after the recompensing of a temporary reward.  For, if the Only-begotten Son of the Most High Father, because hereby, that He was made Man, He preached eternal truths, is therefore called the Angel of great counsel, we rightly interpret ‘the counsellors,’ those preachers, who furnish the ‘counsel’ of life to their hearers.  But when any preacher preaches the truths of eternity for this, that he may acquire temporal gains, assuredly he is ‘brought to a foolish end,’ in that he is aiming to reach that point by laborious effort, whence he ought to have fled in uprightness of mind.


20.  And it is rightly added, And the judges to dulness.  For all that are set over the examination of other men’s conduct, are rightly called ‘judges;’ but when he that has this oversight does not diligently examine the lives of those under his authority, nor acquaint himself whom he should correct, and how, ‘the judge is brought to dulness,’ in that he, who should have judged things that were ill done, never finds out those things which are to be judged.  It proceeds;

Ver. 18.  He looseth the belt of kings, and girdeth their reins with a cord.




21.  They that know how to regulate aright the motions of their members, are not unjustly called ‘kings.’  But when the mind is touched with pride on the grounds of that very continence, it very often happens that Almighty God, deserting its pride, suffers it to fall into uncleanness of practice.  And so ‘He looseth the belt of kings,’ when in the case of those who seemed to regulate their members aright, on account of the sin of pride he undoes the girdle of chastity.  Now what is meant by ‘a cord,’ but sin?  As Solomon says, His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins. [Prov. 5, 22]  And because fleshly gratification has its dominion in the ‘reins,’ the strict Judge of the conscience, Who ‘looseth the belt of kings,’ ‘girdeth their reins with a cord,’ that, when the girdle of chastity is undone, then the gratification of sin should have dominion over their members, so that those whom pride pollutes in secret, He may shew even publicly to be as abominable as they are.  It goes on,

Ver. 19.  He leadeth the priests inglorious, and overthroweth the mighty.




22.  The great glory of the priest is the righteousness of those that are subject to him.  Whence the excellent preacher saith well to his disciples; For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing?  Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord? [1 Thess. 2, 19]  But when the priests neglect the lives of their charge, and bring no fruit from their advancement before the presence of the Lord, what else is this but that they are called [b] ‘inglorious?’  Since before the strict Judge they do not then find glory, who do not now seek it out in the lives of those subject to their charge by urgency in preaching.  And it is well said, And overthroweth the mighty.  In that, when, by a righteous judgment, He forsakes the heart of those that rule, it does not look for the inward recompensing of the reward, and it is overthrown in that whereby it is deceived, so as to rejoice in temporal superiority instead of eternal glory.  Therefore ‘the mighty are overthrown,’ in that while they lose sight of the real rewards of the heavenly country, they are brought to the ground here in their own pleasures.  It goes on,

Ver. 20.  Who changeth the lip of the truthful, and taketh away the instruction of the aged.




23.  When the priest does not do the good that he tells, even the very word of his lips is withdrawn from him, that he may not dare to speak what he does not practise; as where it is said by the Prophet, But unto the wicked God saith, ‘What hast thou to do, to declare My statutes, or that thou takest My covenant in thy mouth? [Ps. 50, 16]  Whence also he beseeches, saying, And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth. [Ps. 119, 43]  For he reflects that Almighty God gives the word of truth to those that do it, and takes it away from those that do it not.  He then that prayed that he might not have it ‘taken out of his mouth,’ what did he else than pray for the grace of good practice?  As if he said in plain words, ‘Let me not go astray from good works, lest, while I lose the regularity of good living, I also part with the right rule of speaking.’  And for the most part the teacher, who ventures to teach what he neglects to practise, when he ceases to speak the good which he scorned to do, begins to teach his charge the evil things that he does, that, by the righteous judgment of the Almighty, that man may not henceforth have a tongue for a good theme, who will not have a good life; so that whilst his mind is inflamed with the love of earthly things, he should be ever speaking of earthly things.  Whence ‘Truth’ saith in the Gospel, For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speakethA good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. [Matt. 12, 34. 35.]  Hence also John saith, They are of the world, therefore speak they of the world. [1John 4, 5]  Therefore it is well said, Who changeth the lip of the truthful, and taketh away the instruction of the aged.  In that while they, who were aforetime ‘truthful’ in preaching heavenly things, setting their affections on those of time, are sunk down to the same, ‘the lip of the truthful is changed, and the instruction of the aged taken away;’ in that being in love with temporal things, they never follow the precepts of their predecessors, so as to be occupying the place of authority as if but for the fruit of pleasure, and for no good end of labour.




24.  Which nevertheless may be understood more plainly of the Jews, who before the Lord’s Incarnation were ‘truthful,’ in that they believed that He was to come, and proclaimed the same; but when He appeared in the flesh, they denied that it was He.  Therefore ‘the lip of the truthful was changed,’ in that Him, of Whom they had told that He was about to come, they denied when present; ‘and the instruction of the aged was taken away,’ in that they never followed in believing the things, which they remembered their fathers to have foretold.  Whence too at the coming of Elijah it is promised, that he shall ‘turn the hearts of the children to their fathers;’ that ‘the instruction of the aged,’ which is now ‘taken away’ from the heart of the Jews, upon the Lord taking compassion on them, may then be brought back, when the children begin to understand that concerning the Lord, which their fathers foretold.  But if by ‘the aged’ we understand likewise those same Jews, who, by the persuasions of unbelief, set themselves to oppose the word of ‘Truth,’ then ‘the instruction of the aged was taken away,’ when the Church consisting of the Gentiles, being indeed young, received it, as she saith by the Psalmist, I understand more than the ancients. [Ps. 119, 100]  And because she kept this same in practising it, in what way she came to understand more than the ancients, she makes plain, whereas she adds directly, Because I keep thy precepts.  For whereas she aimed to fulfil in practising that thing which she learnt, it was vouchsafed her to understand what she might teach.  Whence it is still further added with propriety,

Ver.21.  He poureth contempt upon princes, and lifteth up those that were oppressed.


25.  For whilst the Jewish people continued in the precept of the Law, and the whole Gentile world knew nothing of the precepts of God, both the former seemed to be as ‘Princes’ by faith, and the latter lay borne down in the depth by unbelief.  But when Judaea denied the mystery of our Lord’s Incarnation, and the Gentile world believed it, both ‘the princes’ fell into contempt, and they that had been borne down in the sin of unbelief, were ‘lifted up’ in the liberty of true faith.  But Jeremiah seeing this fall of the Israelites long before, says, The Lord is become as it were an enemy; He hath swallowed up Israel; He hath thrown down all his palaces; He hath destroyed his bulwarks. [Lam. 2, 5]  Now ‘palaces’ in cities are for ornaments, but the ‘bulwarks’ are for defence.  And the gifts that keep us safe are one thing, those that ornament us are another.  For prophetical teaching, different kinds of tongues, the power of working cures, are a kind of ‘palaces’ of the mind, which though a man have not, yet he is able to stand fast defended by faith and righteousness, though he does not shew himself at all adorned with the towering height of the gifts of virtue; but faith, hope, and charity, are not our ‘palaces,’ but our ‘bulwarks,’ which, if we neglect to possess ourselves of, we lie exposed to the snares of the enemy.  In the case of Judaea, therefore, seeing that He took away from her prophecy, and teaching, and miraculous signs, ‘He overthrows all her palaces.’  And because, for her hardness of heart, He let faith, hope, and charity, be taken away from her, He was bent to ‘destroy her bulwarks.’  Now we have the right order observed, in that the ‘palaces’ first, and then the ‘bulwarks,’ are described as destroyed, because, when the sinful soul is forsaken, first the gifts of miraculous powers, which were given in manifestation of the Spirit, are destroyed, and afterwards the foundations of faith, hope, and charity.  All which, being taken away from the unfaithful, the Lord bestowed upon the Gentile world, and by the things, which He took from the unbelievers, He adorned the believers’ minds.  Whence it is written, And to divide the spoils of the beauty of the house. [Ps. 68, 12]  For when He took away from the Jews the spoils of the powers of virtue, He imparted the beauty of His gifts to the house of the heart of the Gentiles, which He deigned to dwell in by faith.  Which same was brought to pass, when the words of God were on the one hand interpreted by the Jewish people after the mere ‘letter,’ which ‘killeth,’ and on the other, by the converted Gentiles penetrated in the ‘spirit, which maketh alive.’ [2 Cor. 3, 6]  Whence it is directly added,

Ver. 22.  Who discovereth deep things out of darkness, and bringeth out to light the shadow of death




26.  For when the several mystical truths are recognised in the secret words of the Prophets by them that believe, what else is it, than that ‘deep things are discovered out of darkness?’  Whence too ‘Truth’ Himself, speaking in parables to the disciples, saith, What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light. [Matt. 10, 27]  For when by explaining we unravel the mystical knots of allegories, then we as it were ‘speak in light, what we have heard in darkness.’  Now ‘the shadow of death’ was the hardness of the old Law, which made every one that sinned liable to be punished with the death of the body.  But when our Redeemer tempered by mildness the harshness of the sanctions of the Law, nor any longer ordained death of the flesh to be inflicted for sin, but shewed how greatly the death of the spirit was to be dreaded, then, surely, ‘He brought out to light the shadow of death.’  For this death, wherein the flesh is severed from the soul, is a ‘shadow’ of that death, wherein the soul is severed from God, and so ‘the shadow of death is brought out to light,’ when, upon the death of the spirit being understood, the death of the body is no whit feared.  Which may likewise be understood in another sense also. 




For those are not unjustly called ‘princes,’ who with great judiciousness of counsel rule the thoughts of their hearts at all times, and by the power of wisdom keep down all the motions of folly.  But it very often happens that the mind is in secret lifted up on the grounds of its very wisdom to the topmost pitch of pride, and is brought to the ground under those evil habits, over which it was rejoicing to have gained the victory.  Therefore it is well said, He poureth contempt upon princes.  But because it sometimes happens that they who appear to lie prostrate in evil ways have recourse to tears of penitence, and gather themselves up against the sins, to which they were subjected, it is fitly added, And lifteth up those that were oppressed.  For there are some, who, being enlightened by the gift from on high, see in what exceeding filthiness of their sinful doings they lie grovelling, wash with tears the stains of their misdeeds, and henceforth keep down beneath them the motions of the flesh, by which they were aforetime weighed to the ground.


27.  Which same is brought to pass by the excellent disposal of Almighty God, that so in this life every thing should be accounted uncertain, and no man be set up for possessing chastity, seeing that He poureth contempt upon princes, and no man despair from his evil habits weighing him down, seeing that He lifteth up those that were oppressed.  And because, when these things are done, there is brought forth out of the secret counsels of God an open sentence upon each individual, it is lightly subjoined, And revealeth deep things out of darkness.


28.  For the Lord ‘revealeth deep things out of darkness,’ when He manifests an open sentence from His secret counsels, so as to shew what He thinks concerning each individual.  For because now the Creator seeth all things, and Himself is not seen in His counsels, it is well said of Him by the Psalmist, He made darkness His secret place. [Ps. 18, 11]  But it is as if He issued out from that darkness into light, when He shews what are His thoughts concerning the actions of each individual.  And whereas when he, who was sunk down by the weight of his sins, is brought to the setting up of uprightness, he for the first time sees that very death, wherein he was going on ruining himself, and at the same time too blind to take account of it; it is lightly added, And bringeth out to light the shadow of death.  For ‘the shadow of death’ is evil doing, which is drawn as if in bodily lineaments by a copy of our old enemy.  Concerning whom too, in the character of a certain one, it is said, And his name was Death. [Rev. 6, 8]  And it very often happens that his evil instigation escapes the minds of men, and by this circumstance, that it is not known, is the more successful.  And so ‘the shadow of death is brought to light,’ in that the evil doing of our old enemy is revealed to the minds of the Saints that it may be made an end of.  It goes on:

Ver. 23.  Who multiplieth the nations and destroyeth them, and them that are overturned He restoreth entire.


[xviii]                                      [LITERAL INTERPRETATION]


29.  We may understand it, viz. that ‘the Lord multiplieth the nations and destroyeth them,’ in this way, that day by day men are born destined to die, and that ‘them, that be overturned, He restoreth entire,’ in that they, who were dead, shall rise again; which however we shall interpret in a  better sense, if we think how it is that this is done in their souls. 




For ‘He increaseth the nations and destroyeth them,’ in that He both enlarges them by fruitfulness of offspring, and yet leaves them in their own infidelity; but ‘them, that were overturned, He restoreth entire,’ in that those, whom He had left in the downfall of infidelity, He one time or another reestablishes in the seat of faith.  And these being restored in a whole state of mind, that ancient People, which seemed faithful to God, being reprobate was cast away in heart, so that, being deceived by its own misbelief, it should afterwards rise up against Him, Whom it had before preached.  It goes on;

Ver. 24, 25.  Who changeth the heart of the chief of the people of the earth, and deceiveth them, that they wander in vain where there is no way, they shall grope in the dark without any light, and He shall make them to stagger like a drunken man.




30.  For ‘the heart of the chief of the earth was changed,’ when the chief priests and elders of the people in Judaea set themselves to withstand Him by their counsels, Whom they beforehand proclaimed, that He was to come.  And when they strove to put out His Name by persecuting Him, being deceived by their own wickedness they vainly essayed to ‘wander where there is no way,’ because it was impossible that a ‘way’ could be open to their cruelty directed against the Creator of all things.  They saw the miracles, they were made to fear by His power [c], but refusing to believe, they still sought signs, whilst they said, what sign shewest Thou then, that we may see and believe Thee? [John 6, 30]  Therefore it is well said, They grope in the dark without light?  For he that hesitates in the midst of so many manifest miracles, as it were ‘gropes in the dark,’ in that he sees not what he is touching.  But every man that ‘staggers,’ is borne now hither, now thither: And because they were shewn at one time to believe, as when they said, If this man were not of God He could do nothing [John 9, 33], and at another time denied that He was from God, as when they said contemning Him, Is not this the carpenter’s son?  Is not his mother called Mary?  and His brethren, James, and Joseph, and Simon, and Judas?  And His sisters, are they not all with us? [Matt. 13, 55. 56.] it is rightly added, He maketh, them to stagger like a drunken man.  For they saw both that He raised the dead, and yet that He was a mortal being.  Who would not believe that He was God, Whom they beheld raise the dead to life?  But on the other hand, when they saw that He was mortal, they scorned to believe that He was immortal God, and so herein, viz. that Almighty God manifested Himself such to their eyes as to be both capable of exhibiting divine signs and of undergoing human sufferings, He ‘made them to stagger like drunken men,’ that their pride, which chose rather to spurn the mystery of the Incarnation, than to follow it, should at one and the same time lift itself up against His human nature, and wonder at the power of His Divine nature shining within.  And because all these were made present to the eyes of blessed Job by the spirit of prophecy, it is rightly added;

Chap. xiii  1.  Lo, all!


[xx]                                   [HISTORICAL INTERPRETATION]


31.  For what was to follow he saw as present in Him, Whom neither things future come to, nor things past go from; but all things are present at once and together before His eyes.  And because the very things that were to come he saw were part in works and part in words, it is rightly said, All this mine eye hath seen, mine ear hath heard.  But words are without use, if they lack the understanding of them.  Whence it is fitly added, And I have understood every whit.  For when any thing is shewn or heard, if the understanding of it be not bestowed, it is little of a prophecy.  Thus Pharaoh saw in a dream things that were to come upon Egypt, but, because he could not understand what he saw, he was no prophet.  King Balthasar ‘saw the fingers of the hand that wrote’ upon the wall; but he was no prophet, because he did not attain to the understanding of that thing which he saw.  Therefore, that blessed Job might testify that he had the spirit of prophecy, he declares not only that he had ‘seen and heard,’ but also that he had ‘understood all this.’  And that he is not elated on the grounds of such understanding, his words subjoined bear witness, when he says,

Ver. 2.  What ye know, the same do I know also; I am not inferior to you.




32.  By which same words he made known what exceeding humility he had, who says that he was ‘not inferior’ to them, whose life by holy living he very far surpassed.  For he makes good that ‘what they knew he knew,’ who by knowing the things of heaven transcended their earthly thoughts through the spirit of prophecy in addition.  It goes on;

Ver 3.  Yet still I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to reason with God.




33.  We ‘speak with the Almighty,’ when we beseech His pity; but we ‘reason with Him,’ when uniting ourselves to His righteousness, we sift our actions with minute investigation.  Or otherwise, to ‘reason with God,’ is for him who obeyed His commandments here, to come with Him hereafter as Judge to judge the people.  As it is said to the Preachers that leave all things, Verily I say unto you, that 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]  Whence the Lord saith by Isaiah too, Relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.  Come now, and let us reason together. [Is. 1, 17. 18.]  For it is light that they should reason with God concerning their charges [d] in the Judgment, who, at the words of God, entirely give up the present world.  Thus the ‘speaking’ has to do with prayer, and the ‘reasoning’ has to do with judgment, Therefore the holy man ‘speaks’ to the Almighty now, that he may ‘reason’ with the Almighty hereafter, in that He cometh with God afterwards as a judge, who here in this present time was familar with Him in prayer.  But Holy Church, whom we have already said that blessed Job bears the likeness of, not only then judges the wicked, when the day of final Judgment shall come, but even now doth not cease to judge all that either act wickedly, or think foolishly.  And hence it is added;

Ver. 4.  First shewing that ye are builders of lies, and votaries of wrong doctrines.




34.  By which same words it is clearly shewn that his friends as in the likeness of heretics oppose the decisions of the holy man’s judgment.  For it is clear that they do not hold the figure of Catholics, who are termed ‘votaries of wrong doctrines.’  Wherein this likewise ought to be marked, that they are called ‘builders of lies.’  For as an edifice is ‘built’ with stones, so a lie is ‘built’ with words.  For when there is not deceitful speech, but a meaning of truth, it is like a fortified mound, arising not by fabrication, but by nature.  It goes on,

Ver. 5.  O that ye would altogether hold your peace, and ye should be accounted wise!




35.  As in a house, when the door is shut, it is not known what members there are hidden within, so, generally speaking, if a fool hold his peace, it is hidden whether he be wise or foolish, only, however, if no other works come to light, which may speak the mind even of one that is silent.  For this reason the holy man, seeing that his friends were anxious to appear what they were not, charged them to hold their peace, that they might not appear what they were.  And hence it is said by Solomon; Even a fool when he holdeth his peace is counted wise. [Prov. 17, 28]  But because when a fool speaks, from this, that he brings in his own words, he is unable to reflect on the words of the wise, after he had bidden silence, he yet further adds lightly,

Ver. 6.  Hear now my reproofs, and hearken to the judgment of my lips.




36.  Now he did well first to bring forward ‘reproof,’ and afterwards ‘judgment.’  For except by reproof first the swelling of the fool be put down, the judgment of the righteous is not by comprehension at all understood.  It goes on;

Ver. 7.  Doth God need your lie, that ye should talk deceitfully for Him?




37.  God doth not ‘stand in need of a lie,’ in that Truth does not seek to be stayed up by the aid of falsehood.  But because Heretics are unable to defend on principles of truth the things which they erroneously conceive about God, it is as if they sought for the shadow of falsehood, to shew the ray of light.  And they ‘speak deceitfully for Him,’ in that weak minds, by being senselessly seduced, they deceive in the understanding of Him.  It goes on;

Ver. 8.  Will ye take His person?  will ye strive to judge for God?




38.  For when foolish men behold the doings of the wise, they all seem to them to be worthy of blame; who, forgetting their own emptiness and deficiency, pass judgment on the concerns of others the more eagerly, in proportion as they are more deeply ignorant of their own.  But on the other hand, when the righteous reprove the deeds of the wicked, ever conscious of their own weakness, they administer reproof, though in launching forth against them outwardly, yet in sympathizing with them inwardly; in that it belongs to Him alone to scrutinize the sins of men without fellow-feeling, Who by the omnipotence of His nature knows not to commit sin.  Therefore, as the friends of blessed Job had so reproved his deeds as if they had nothing in themselves to be reproved, it is well said in this place, Will ye take His face?  Will ye strive to judge for God?  For to ‘take the face of God’ is to assume His authority in the act of judging; and he as it were ‘strives to judge for God,’ who when he reproves the several weak points in another, does not feel weak in himself within from fellow-feeling.  It goes on;

Ver.9.  Or shall it please Him, from Whom nothing can be concealed [celare]?  Or like as a man will He be deceived by your deceits.




39.  Heretics shew God deceit in that they fabricate such things as cannot be pleasing to the very Being, in Whose behalf they say them.  And whilst they set themselves as if to defend, they only offend Him, in that they are brought to the ground in [A.B.C.D.M. ‘fall into’] fighting against Him, Whom they appear by preaching to be serving.  Hence it is said by the Psalmist, That Thou mightest still the enemy and the defender. [Ps. 8, 2]  For every heretic is to Almighty God an ‘enemy and defender,’ for wherein he strives in his way to defend Him, therein he fights against His truth.  But because nothing can escape God’s sight, He judges according to that in them, which they think within their heart, but not by their appearing without to be doing Him service.  Therefore since by their frauds ‘as a man is deceived, God is not so deceived,’ it is lightly added,

Ver. 10, 11.  He will surely reprove you, if ye do secretly take His face.  Presently when He ariseth He shall make you afraid; and His dread shall fall upon you.




40.  This part, wherein He declares that ‘the face of God is taken in secret,’ may be understood in two ways.  For there be some, who at one and the same time perceive truth in their hearts, and yet utter outwardly concerning God things that are false.  For lest they should appear to be subdued, they both know the truth within, and yet assail it without.  Hence it is well said in this place, He will surely reprove you, if ye do secretly take His face.  As if it were expressed in plain words; ‘Ye are the more to be blamed in His sight for falsehood, as ye see in yourselves what is true.’  And there become, who when they turn back into the interior, contemplate the justice and righteousness of God, and in praying and weeping tremble with fear, but after the hour of contemplation has passed by, they return with as much boldness to their wickednesses, as if, being placed behind His back, they were not seen by the light of His righteousness.  And so these with themselves in secret ‘take God’s face’ as if it saw with a bodily sight, in that both, when they are present to Him, they flatter Him with their tears, and, when they are as it were gone from His sight, they make slight of Him by their practices.  And these deserve to be beaten more for their evil doings, even in proportion as in the secret of their hearts they know the righteous judgments of God.  And hence it is added; As soon as He stirreth up Himself, He will trouble you, and His dread shall fall upon you.


41.  Seeing that Almighty God is of a nature unchangeable, in the wrath of judgment He is not capable of being moved; but by the expression proper to man, of God’s being ‘moved,’ is understood nothing else than that enforcement of His rule of righteousness, by which the wickedness of man is chastised.  Now righteous men conceive a dread of God before His indignation is stirred up against them; they fear Him at rest, lest they should feel Him as moved.  But, on the other hand, the wicked then for the first time fear to be smitten, when they are under the rod, and terror then rouses them from the sleep of their insensibility, when vengeance is troubling them.  And hence it is said by the Prophet, And only the vexing alone shall supply understanding to the hearing. [Is. 28, 19]  For when they have begun to be stricken in vengeance for the contempt and neglect of God’s precepts, then they understand the thing that they heard.  And the Psalmist saith, When He slew them, then they sought Him. [Ps. 78, 34]   Therefore it is well said, As soon as He stirreth up Himself, He will trouble you, and His dread will fall upon you; in that the hearts of the children of perdition have not fear producing repose, but punishment producing fear.  It goes on;

Ver. 12.  Your remembrances are like unto ashes.




42.  All that are confounded to this present state of being by an earthly temper of mind, mean, by all that they do, to leave the remembrance of themselves to the world.  Some in the toils of war, some in the towering walls of edifices, some in eloquent books of this world’s lore, they are eagerly toiling and striving and building up for themselves a name of remembrance.  But whereas life itself runs on to an end with speed, what is there in it that will stand stedfast, when even its very self by nature running rapidly speeds away.  For a breath of air seizes the ashes, as it is written; The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff, which the wind scattereth away from the face of the earth. [Ps. 1, 4]  And so the remembrance of fools is rightly compared to ‘ashes,’ in that it is placed there, where it is liable to be carried away by a breath of air.  For howsoever a man may toil to achieve the glory of his name, he has placed his ‘remembrance like ashes,’ in that the wind of mortality hurries it away in a moment.  Contrary to which it is written of the just man, The righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance. [Ps. 112, 6]  For by the very circumstance, that he imprints his deeds upon the eyes of God alone, he sets firm the name of his remembrance in the eternal world.  It goes on;

And your necks shall be brought down to the mire.




43.  As the sight is used to be denoted by the eye, so is pride by the ‘neck.’  Thus ‘the neck is brought down to the mire,’ when every proud man is humbled in death, and the flesh that was lifted up rots in corruption.  For let us contemplate how and like what the carcases of the rich lie in their graves, what that form of death is in the lifeless flesh, what the rottenness of corruption.  And surely these were the very persons who were lifted up with honours, swollen with the things gotten by them, who looked down upon others, and exulted to stand as it were alone.  Yet, while they never considered whereunto they were going, they knew nothing at all what they were.  But ‘the neck is brought down to the mire,’ in that they lie neglected in rottenness, who swelled high in emptiness.  ‘The neck is brought down to the mire,’ because what the might of flesh is good for, the rottenness of corruption evidences.  It goes on;

Ver. 13.  Hold your peace for a little, that I may speak whatsoever my mind shall bid me.




44.  He shews that they spoke with the perception of the flesh, whom he therefore binds to silence, that he may speak that which ‘his mind bids him.’  As if he said in plain words, ‘I do not speak in a carnal, but in a spiritual way, because; hear by the perception of the Spirit things that I bring forth by the service of the body.  Whence he at once mounts up on high, and lifts himself aloft in mysteries, and changes into mystical discourse the reproofs which he had delivered, saying, .

Ver. 14.  Wherefore do I take my flesh in my teeth, and put my life in my hand?


[xxxiii]                              [MYSTICAL INTERPRETATION]


45.  In Holy Scripture ‘teeth’ are sometimes used to be understood for the holy preachers, and sometimes for the interior senses [f].  Thus of the holy preachers it is said to the Bride, Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep that are even shorn, which came up from the washing. [Cant. 4, 2]  And hence it is said to one of them, when the Gentiles were represented to him in a figure, Kill and eat [Acts 10, 13], i.e.  ‘crush their oldness, and convert it into the body of the Church, i.e. into your own members.’  Again, that ‘teeth’ are wont to be understood of the interior senses, is testified by the Prophet Jeremiah, when he says, He hath broken my teeth by number. [Lam. 3, 16]   For by the ‘teeth’ the food is broken in pieces, to allow of its being swallowed.  Hence we not unjustly understand the interior senses by ‘teeth,’ which as it were chew and mince small the several particulars that occur to the mind, and transfer them to the belly of the memory, which the Prophet declares to be ‘broken by number,’ in that according to the measure of each particular sin there is blindness of understanding engendered in our perception, and in proportion to that which each person has committed outwardly, he is made dull of sense in that, which he might have understood of the inward and invisible.  Whence too it is rightly written, Everyone that hath eaten the sour grape, his teeth shall be numbed. [Jer. 31, 30]  For what is ‘the sour grape,’ saving sin?  for a ‘sour grape’ is fruit before the time.  So whosoever desires to be satisfied with the enjoyments of this present life, is as it were in a hurry to eat fruit before the time.  Thus ‘the teeth of him that eateth the sour grape are numbed,’ in that he who feeds in the gratification of the present life, has the interior perceptions tied fast, that they should no longer be able to eat, i.e. to understand spiritual things; in that from the very self-same cause that they gratify themselves in outward things, they are rendered dull in those of the interior.  And whereas the soul is fed with sin, it is unable to eat the bread of righteousness, in that the teeth being tied fast by the custom of sin, can never at all chew such good, as has a relish in the interior.  In this place then, because, as we have said, we understand ‘the teeth’ to be the interior perceptions, we ought to consider very heedfully what the righteous are wont to do.  Who, commonly, if they detect in themselves any points of a carnal sort however slightly, going over these in the interior senses, vehemently prosecute them in their own person, afflict themselves with selfchastisement, and with excessive self-inflictions visit in judgment the very least things wrong in them, and condemn them by penitence.  Which same they do for this reason, that in the sight of the eternal Judge, both they may themselves be found as far as may be without blame, and that those, who see them thus judge themselves, may be kindled to reform themselves from worse offences.  And this blessed Job had done in the presence of his friends, who kept fast temporal glory, and extolled transitory blessings.  Yet he could not bring their sense to see the usefulness of the scourge with which he was afflicted, that so they might bethink themselves that Almighty God not only bestows prosperity, but likewise brings down adversity upon us, when He is favourable.  Whence he says well in this place, Wherefore do I tear my flesh with my teeth?  As if he said in plain words, ‘Why with my interior perceptions do I hunt out things carnal, if there be any such thing done in me, if I cannot thereby benefit my spectators?’ Where too it is fitly added,

And carry my life in my hand?


46.  To ‘carry our life in our hands’ is to shew forth the bias of the heart in practice.  For the righteous have this thing proper to them, that in all that they do, and all that they say, they not only seek their own increase, but the edification of their neighbours likewise.  Sometimes they judge themselves in some point, that they may recall indolent hearers to the consideration of themselves.  Sometimes they exhibit good works, that their spectators may be ashamed not to imitate what they see.  For it is written, That they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven. [Matt. 5, 16]  Thus he that exhibits the bent of his mind by his works, ‘carries his life in his hand;’ but when any good man, whether by judging himself or by exhibiting good works, furthers not his neighbour’s welfare by what he has done, he returns to words of sorrow.  Whence it is rightly said in this place, Wherefore do I take my flesh in my teeth? and carry my life in my hand?  i.e. ‘Why do I either judge myself strictly before men, or shew in practice what my heart is bent on, if I do not advance my neighbour’s good either by passing judgment on my evil things, or exhibiting good ones?’  But yet the righteous, even while they speak so, never give over setting their neighbour a good example.  Hence blessed Job, still further exemplifying and exhibiting the excellence of patience before the eyes of his friends, saith,

Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.


 [xxxiv]                             [HISTORICAL INTERPRETATION]


47.  There is no room for the virtue of patience in prosperous circumstances.  He is really patient, who is at once bruised with misfortune, and yet not bowed down from the erectness of his hope.  Concerning the temper of mind of the reprobate man it is written, He will praise Thee, when Thou doest well to him. [Ps. 49, 18. Vulg.]  Hereby, then, the righteous mind is distinguished from the unrighteous, that even in the midst of affliction the former acknowledges the praise to Almighty God, that he is not broken down together with his worldly fortune, does not fall together with the fall of outward glory, but hereby proves the more, what he was with worldly goods, who even without worldly goods stands the stronger.  It goes on;

Ver. 15, 16.  But I will rebuke mine own ways before Him.  He also shall be my salvation.


48.  Whereas Paul the Apostle saith; For, if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged, [1 Cor. 11, 31] the Lord is found to be our ‘Salvation’ Then, in proportion as our sin is now rebuked by ourselves, from fear of God.  Whence the Elect are used never to spare their own sins, that they may find the Judge of sin rendered propitious; and they look to find Him hereafter truly their ‘Salvation,’ Whom they now strictly fear as their Judge.  For, he that spareth himself now in sin, is not spared hereafter in punishment, So let him say, But I will rebuke mine own ways before Him.  And what use and advantage results from such rebuking, let him add, He also shall be my salvation.  It goes on;

For an hypocrite, shall not come before Him.




49.  Whereas we know that the Judge, when He cometh, will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on His left, with what reason is it now said, ‘that the hypocrite shall not come before Him,’ when, if he be among the goats, he will appear on the left hand of the Judge?  But we are to bear in mind that we come before the Lord in two ways.  One, whereby taking exact account of our offences here we punish and judge ourselves before Him with weeping.  For as often as we recall to our perception the power of our Creator, we as often, as it were, stand before Him.’  Hence too it is well said by Elijah, the man of God, The Lord God of Israel liveth, before Whom I stand [1 Kings 17, 1].  In another way we ‘come before God,’ when at the last Judgment we present ourselves before His Tribunal.  And thus the hypocrite in the last reckoning does come before the Judge, but because now he shuts his eyes to consider and bewail transgressions, he refuses to ‘come before’ the Lord.  For as righteous men, when they fix their eyes on the severity of the Judge that shall come, recall their sins to remembrance, bewail the things that they have done, and judge themselves severely that they be not judged; so hypocrites, as they outwardly please the world, hence omit to look inwardly into themselves, and wholly engross themselves in the words of their neighbours, and account themselves to be holy, because they consider that they are so accounted by their fellow-creatures.  And when they have dissipated their mind in the words that sound their own praises, they never recall it to the cognizance of sin, never mark wherein they offend the interior Judge, entertain no fears concerning His severity, for they believe that they have pleased Him as they have their fellow-creatures.  Yet if they but brought His terribleness to mind, this very circumstance, that fixed in a wrong bias they are making themselves pleasing to their fellow-creatures, would cause them to fear the more.  Therefore it is well said, For an hypocrite shall not come before Him; in that he does not set before his eyes the severity of God, so long as he is ambitious to please the eyes of men.  Who, if he set himself in the presence of God in searching his own conscience, would then assuredly no longer be a hypocrite.  It goes on;

Ver. 17.  Hear my speech, and take in my riddles with your ears




50.  Herein, that he names ‘riddles,’ he shews that he has parts of his speech framed in figures.  Whence too it is fitly added by the voice of the faithful People;

Ver. 18.  If I shall be judged, I know that I shall be found just.




51.  Which too is not at variance with the person of the self-same blessed Job, since he is only telling that concerning himself without, which ‘Truth’ had inwardly declared to his enemy concerning him; Hast thou considered My servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth?  And yet it is much less that the holy man records concerning himself, than what the Lord declared concerning him.  For it is one thing to be ‘just,’ and another to have ‘none like him.’  Therefore he thought humbly of himself, who, whereas he was just beyond comparison with another, described himself not just above others, but simply able to be ‘found just.’  It seems however to furnish this ground for raising a question in his words, viz. that he who said above, I will rebuke mine own ways before Him; and again says further on, Thou wouldest consume me in the inquities of my youth [ver. 26]; and seeing his sins with a distinct eye, says still further on, My transgression is sealed up in a bag, now saith, If I shall be judged, I know that I shall, be found just. [Job 14, 17]  For it is impossible for sin and righteousness to meet together.  But the holy man, attributing wickedness to himself, and the purifying of him to Almighty God, at once sees that he is a sinner in himself, and knows that he is made righteous by free gift.  Who even in the midst of good practice earned in superabounding grace to have stripes put upon him.  And he already rejoices to be ‘found just’ in Judgment, who beheld himself before Judgment smitten with the rod.  Hence too when he says long afterwards, My transgression is sealed up in a bag, he adds directly; but Thou hast healed mine iniquity.  He, then, that describes himself as ‘found just’ in Judgment, says not at all that he is not justly smitten, although the Lord did not intend to obliterate sins by the scourge, but to increase his merits.  It proceeds;

Ver. 19.  Who is he that will plead with me?  Let him come.




52.  Holy men so guard themselves in their good works, with God for their aid, that there can be no where found, without, grounds, whereon to accuse them; but within, in the secret thoughts of their own hearts, they watch over themselves with such good heed, that, if it might be, they may at all times stand blameless before the eyes of the interior Judge.  But what they are able to effect, that they never should slip outwardly in act, they are unable to effect inwardly, that they never should make a false step in thought.  For man’s conscience, from the very fact that it withdraws [g] from the things deepest within, is always on slippery ground.  Whence it comes to pass, that even holy men often slip in them.  So let holy Job, speaking as well in his own voice as in the voice of the Elect, say, Who is he that will plead with me?  Let him come.  For, seeing that in external actions there is no occasion for which to fasten a blame upon him, he freely looks about for an accuser.  But because the consciences even of the righteous sometimes have to charge themselves with foolishness of thought, it is on this account perhaps that it is added;

Why am I consumed in silence?




53.  For he is ‘consumed in silence,’ who, in blaming himself for foolishness of thought, is gnawed in his own heart by the tooth of conscience.  As if he said in plain words, ‘As I have so lived that I should never fear any accuser without, would that I had so lived that I should never have my conscience for mine accuser within me.’  For he is ‘consumed in silence,’ who discovers in himself within cause whereby the fire should gnaw him [unde uratur].  It goes on;

Ver. 20.  Only do not two things unto me: then will I not hide myself from Thy face.


54.  What are we to understand here by the ‘face of God,’ saving His visitation?  In which, whilst He beholds, He also punishes our sins, from which no just man even is hidden, if the two things, which he entreats, be not removed; concerning which he adds;

Ver. 21.  Withdraw Thine hand far from me, and let not Thy dread make me afraid.


[xli]                                [PROPHETICAL INTERPRETATION]


55.  By which same two what else does he ask in a voice of prophecy, but the season of grace and redemption?  For the Law held the people obnoxious to the stroke of vengeance, that whoso committed sin under its yoke, should be forthwith punished with death.  Nor did the Israelitish people serve God from a principle of love, but of fear.  But righteousness can never be perfected [impleri] by fear, seeing that according to the voice of John, perfect love casteth out fear. [1 John 4, 18]  And Paul comforts the children of adoption, by saying, For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. [Rom 8, 15]  Therefore in the voice of mankind, longing for the hardness of the stroke of the Law to pass away, and eagerly desiring to advance from fear to love, he names in prayer what ‘two things God should put far from him,’ saying, Withdraw Thine hand far from me, and let not Thy dread make me afraid; i.e. remove from me the hardness of the stroke, take away the weight of dread, and while the grace of love illumines me, pour upon me the spirit of assurance, in that if I be not removed far from the rod and from dread, I know that I shall not be withdrawn from the strictness of Thy searching.  Since he cannot be justified before Thee, who serves Thee not on a principle of love, but of fear.  Hence he seeks the very presence of his Creator itself, as it were familiarly, and in a bodily sort, that he may thereby both hear what he is ignorant of, and be heard in the things that he knows.  For he adds directly;

Ver. 22.  Then call Thou, and I will answer; or let me speak, and answer Thou me.


56.  Who at the time, when He did appear by the assumption of the flesh to the eyes of mankind, disclosed to men their sins, which they were doing and knew not.  Whence it is added;

Ver. 23.  How many are mine iniquities and my sins?  make me to know my crimes and my offences.


[xlii]                                       [MORAL INTERPRETATION]


57.  Though the ‘calling’ and ‘answering’ may likewise be understood in another way.  For God’s ‘calling’ us is His having respect to us in loving and choosing us, and our ‘answering’ is the yielding obedience to His love by good works.  Where it is fitly added, Or let me speak, and answer Thou me.  For we ‘speak,’ when we beg for God’s face in desire, and God answers our speaking, when He appears to us that love Him.  But because whoever pants with longing for the eternal world, examines his doings, taking himself to task with great exactness, and searches lest there be aught in him, whereby he might offend the face of his Creator, he rightly adds, How many are mine iniquities and my sins?  Make me to know my crimes and offences.  This is the task of the righteous in this life, to find out themselves, and on finding out to bring themselves to a better state by weeping and self-chastening.  And though John the Apostle tells us that there is no odds between iniquity and sin, when he says, iniquity is sin [1 John 3, 4]; yet in the simple usage of speech, ‘iniquity’ sounds something more than ‘sin,’ and every one confesses himself a ‘sinner,’ but he is sometimes ashamed to call himself an iniquitous person.  Now between ‘crimes’ and ‘offences’ there is this difference, that ‘crime’ over and above exceeds the weight and measure of sin, but an ‘offence’ does not exceed the weight of sin; for thus, when a sacrifice is commanded to be offered under the Law, it is doubtless enjoined, as for a ‘sin,’ the same for an ‘offence’ too.  And crime is never done but in deed, whereas offence is most commonly committed in thought alone.  Hence it is said by the Psalmist, Who call, understand his offences? [Ps. 19, 12] seeing that sins of practice are known the quicker, in proportion as they appear externally, but sins of thought are the more difficult to apprehend, that they are committed out of sight.  Hence anyone, who being made solicitous by the love of Eternity, has it at heart to appear clean before the Judge that shall come, examines himself so much the more exactly now, in proportion as he bethinks himself how he may then present himself free to His terribleness; and he beseeches to have it shewn him, wherein he offends, that he may punish that thing in himself by penance, and by judging himself here, may be rendered unobnoxious to judgment.


58.  But herein it is needful to observe, how great is the punishment of our pilgrimage which has fallen upon us, who have been brought to such a degree of blindness, that we do not know our own selves.  We do evil, and yet do not quickly find it out, even when done.  For the mind, being banished from the light of truth, finds in itself nothing else than darkness, and very often puts out the foot into the pit of sin, and knows it not.  Which it is subject to from the blindness of the state of exile alone, seeing that, being driven away from the illumining of the Lord, it even lost the power to see itself, in that it loved not the face of its Maker.  Hence it is added;

Ver.24.  Wherefore hidest Thou Thy face, and holdest me for Thine enemy?




59.  Man enjoyed the light of inward contemplation in Paradise, but by gratifying himself as he departed from himself, he lost the light of the Creator, and fled from His face to the trees of Paradise, seeing that, after his sin, he dreaded to see Him, whom he had used to love.  But mark, after sin he is brought into punishment, but from punishment he returns to love, because he finds out what was the consequence of his transgression, and that face, which he feared in sin, being awakened to a right sense, he seeks afresh by punishment, that he may henceforth flee the darkness of his blind condition, and shrink with horror from this alone, that he does not behold his Creator.  Pierced with which longing the holy man exclaims, Wherefore hidest Thou Thy face, and takest me for Thine enemy?  ‘since, if Thou didst regard me as a friend, Thou wouldest not deprive me of the light of Thy vision.’  And going on, he adds the fickleness of the human heart, saying,

Ver. 25.  Wilt Thou shew Thy power against a leaf driven to and fro? and wilt Thou pursue the dry stubble?




60.  For what is man but a leaf, who fell in Paradise from the tree?  what but a leaf is he, who is caught by the wind of temptation, and lifted up by the gusts of his passions?  For the mind of man is agitated as it were by as many gusts, as it undergoes temptations.  Thus very often anger agitates it; when anger is gone, empty mirth succeeds.  It is driven by the goadings of lust, by the fever of avarice it is made to stretch itself far and wide to compass the things which belong to the earth.  Sometimes pride lifts it up, and sometimes excessive fear sinks it lower than the dust.  Therefore seeing that he is lifted and carried by so many gusts of temptation, man is well likened to a ‘leaf.’  Hence it is well said too by Isaiah, And we all have fallen as a leaf, and our iniquities like the wind have taken us away.  For ‘our iniquity like a wind has taken us away,’ in that being steadied by no weight of virtue, it has lifted us into empty self-elation.  And it is well that, after a leaf, man should be called ‘stubble’ likewise.  For he that was a ‘tree’ by his creating, was by himself made a ‘leaf’ in his tempting, but afterwards he appeared ‘stubble’ in his fallen estate.  For in that he fell from on high, he was a leaf, but, whereas by the flesh he was fellow to the earth, even when he seemed to stand, he is described as ‘stubble.’  But because he lost the greenness of interior love, he is henceforth ‘dry stubble.’  So let the holy man reflect both what meanness man is of, and what severity God is of, and let him say, Wilt Thou shew Thy power against a leaf driven to and fro?  and wilt Thou pursue the dry stubble?  As if he openly bewailed, saying, ‘Why dost Thou run him down with so much force of righteousness, whom Thou knowest to be so frail in temptation?’ It goes on;

Ver. 26.  For Thou writest bitter things against me.




61.  For seeing that every thing we speak passes away, but what we write remains, God is said not to ‘speak,’ but to ‘write bitter things,’ in that His scourges upon us last for long.  For it was said once to man, when he sinned, Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return?  And Angels many times appearing gave commandments to men.  Moses, the lawgiver, restrained sins by severe means.  The Only-Begotten Son of the Most High Father, Himself came to redeem us, He swallowed up death by dying, He announced that everlasting life to us, which He exhibited in Himself; yet that sentence which was given in Paradise concerning the death of our flesh remains unaltered from the very first beginning of the human race up to the end of the world.  For what man is he that liveth, and shall not see death?  which the Psalmist considering well saith again, Thou, even Thou, art to be feared: and who may stand in Thy sight when once Thou art angry?  Who being ‘once angry,’ when man sinned in Paradise, fixed the sentence of the mortality of our flesh, which now even to the very last may never be changed a whit.  Therefore let him say, Thou writest bitter things against me.  Hence it is further added;

And wouldest waste me with the iniquities of my youth. 




62.  Observe, that whereas the holy man finds not that he has ever sinned in his manhood [juventute], he dreads the sins of his youth [adolescentiae].  Now it is necessary to know, that as in the body, so are there advances of age in the mind also.  Thus the first age of man is infancy, when, though he lives in innocence, he cannot speak [h] the innocence which is in him; and then follows boyhood, in which he has henceforth the power of speaking what he wishes; to which youth succeeds, which we know is the first age in active life, which is followed by manhood, i.e. that which is suited to hardihood; and afterwards old age, which from mere time even is now fellow to maturity of mind.  Therefore, as we have called the first age fit for good actions ‘youth,’ and as the righteous when they are far advanced in perfect maturity of mind, sometimes recall to recollection the beginning of their deeds, and blame themselves for their first commencement in an equal degree as they have advanced deeper in gravity of mind, because they find that they were once void of discretion, in proportion as they afterwards more thoroughly attain possession of the stronghold of discretion, it is rightly that now, in the words of the holy man, the sins of his youth are dreaded.  But if this is to be held after the bare letter, we ought from this consideration to infer how grievous the sins of grown men and the aged are, if the just so greatly fear even that which they did wrong in the years of weakness.  It goes on;

Ver. 27.  Thou puttest my foot also in the stocks, and lookest narrowly into all my paths; Thou markest the prints of my feet.




63.  God ‘set man’s foot in the stocks,’ in that he bound fast his wickedness with the strong sentence of His severity.  And He ‘looketh narrowly into all his paths,’ in that He judges with minute exactness all the several particulars that belong to him.  For a ‘path’ is usually narrower than a ‘way;’ but as by ‘ways’ we understand actions, so by ‘paths’ we not unjustly understand the mere thoughts of them.  So God ‘looketh narrowly into all our paths,’ in that in all our several actions He takes account of the thoughts of the heart too; and He ‘marketh the prints of our feet,’ in that He examineth the intentions [i] of our works, how far they are placed aright, lest that which is done a good work, be not done with a right object.  But it is possible that by the prints of the feet the several things done badly may be understood.  For a foot in the body is a print in the way.  And very commonly, when we do some things wrong, whereas our brethren see it, we are setting them a bad example, and our foot being as it were turned out of the way, we leave to those that follow our footsteps all awry, while by our own deeds we lead the way for other men’s consciences to stumble.  But it is very hard for man to keep on his guard, that he never presume to do evil, that in his good actions he be not unsteady in the intention, and amidst upright deeds let no wrong purpose deceive him.  Yet all these particulars Almighty God minutely examines, and weighs each one of them in judgment.  But when can man, bound about as he is by the frailty of the flesh, have power to rise up against all of them with exact particularity, and to maintain the line of uprightness with the thought of the heart unmoved?  Hence it is properly added;

Ver. 28.  Who am as a rotten thing to be consumed, and as a garment that is moth eaten. 




64.  For as a garment is eaten by the moth sprung out of itself, so man containeth rottenness in himself, whereby he consumeth, and that which he is, is that whereby he consumeth that he should not be.  Which may be taken in another sense also, if it be said in the voice of man when tempted; And I as a rotten thing am to consume, as a garment that is moth eaten.  For man ‘as a rotten thing consumeth,’ in that he is wasted by the corruption of his flesh.  And because impure temptation springs up to him from no other source than from himself, like a moth, temptation consumes the flesh, as a garment from which it issues.  For man contains in himself the occasion whence he is tempted.  Therefore as it were ‘the moth consumeth the garment,’ whilst it proceeded from that very same garment.  However, we ought to bear in mind that the moth digs its way through the garment without any sound, and it very often happens that thought pierces the mind in such a way, that the mind itself is not sensible of it, until after it has been pierced by its sting.  Therefore it is well said that man ‘consumeth like a garment that is moth eaten,’ for sometimes we do not know the wounds of temptation, unless after we be pierced thereby within our souls.  Which same frailty of ours the holy man yet further considering justly adds;

Chap.  xiv. 1.  Man that is born of a woman liveth a short time, and is full of many miseries.


65.  In Sacred Writ ‘woman’ is taken either for the sex, or else for ‘frailty.’  For the ‘sex,’ as where it is written, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the Law [Gal. 4, 4].  But for frailty, as where it is said by the Wise Man, Better is the iniquity of a man than a woman doing well. [Ecclus. 42, 14]  For ‘a man’ is the term for every strongminded and discreet person, but ‘a woman’ is understood of the weak or indiscreet mind.  And it often happens that even the discreet person suddenly falls into a fault, and that another weak and indiscreet man exhibits good practice.  But he that is weak and indiscreet is sometimes lifted up the more on the score of what he has done well, and falls the worse into sin; but the discreet person even from that which he sees that he has done amiss, takes occasion to recall himself with closer application to the rule of strictness, and advances the further in righteousness from the same act, whereby he seemed to have fallen from righteousness for a time.  In which respect it is rightly said, Better is the iniquity of a man than a woman doing well; in that sometimes the very fault of the strong becomes occasion of virtue, and the virtue of the weak occasion of sin.  In this place then by the name of ‘a woman,’ what else but ‘frailty’ is denoted, when it is said, Man that is born of a woman?  As if it were said in plainer words, ‘What strength shall he have in himself, who was born in frailty?’


66.  Liveth a short time, and is full of many miseries.  Observe by the holy man’s words we have the punishment of man briefly set forth, in that he is at once stinted in life and filled out in misery.  For if we consider with exactness all that is done here, it is punishment and misery.  For to minister to the corruption of the flesh by itself in things necessary and permitted is misery, in such measure that clothing should be sought out against cold, food against hunger, coolness against heat.  That the health of the body is kept only with great care, that even when kept it is lost, when lost it is recovered not without great difficulty, and yet after being restored is always in risk; what else is this than the misery of the life of mortality?  That we love our friends, mistrusting lest they may be offended with us; that we dread our enemies, and truly are not secure touching those whom we dread; that we often talk to our enemies as confidentially as to friends, and often take the sincere words of our friends, and those, perhaps, that love us very much, as the words of enemies; and that we, who wish never either to be deceived or to deceive, err the more by our caution; what, then, is all this but the misery of man’s life?  That after the heavenly country has been lost, banished man is delighted with his exile, that he is weighed down with cares, and yet shuts his eyes to considering how great the burthen is, in that he is full of a multitude of thoughts; that he is deprived of the interior light, and yet in this life wishes to prolong his state of blindness; what else is this but misery, the offspring of our punishment?  Yet though he desire to stay here for long, still he is driven on by the mere current of his mortal life to depart out of it.  Hence the holy man lightly adds;

Ver. 2.  He cometh forth like a flower, and is crushed: he fleeth also as a shadow, and never continueth in the same state.




67.  For, ‘as a flower, he cometh forth,’ in that he shews fair in the flesh; but he is ‘crushed,’ in that he is reduced to corruption.  For what are men, as born in the world, but a kind of flowers in a field?  Let us stretch our interior eyes over the breadth of the present world, and, lo, it is filled as it were with as many flowers as there are human beings.  So life in this flesh is the flower in grass.  Hence it is well said by the Psalmist, As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. [Ps. 103, 15]  Isaiah too saith, All flesh is grass, and all the glory thereof is as the flower of the field. [Is. 40, 6]  For man cometh forth like a flower from concealment, and of a sudden shews himself in open day, and in a moment is by death withdrawn from open view into concealment again.  The greenness of the flesh exhibits us to view, but the dryness of dust withdraws us from men’s eyes.  Like a flower we appeared, who were not; like a ‘flower’ we wither, who appeared only in time.


68.  And whereas man is daily being driven into death moment by moment, it is rightly added, He fleeth also as a shadow, and never continueth in the same state.  But as the sun is unceasingly going through his course, and never stays himself in a state of stedfastness, why is the course of man’s life likened to ‘a shadow’ rather than to the ‘sun,’ excepting that, when he parted with the love of the Creator, he lost the heat of the heart, and remained in the coldness of his iniquity alone?  Since according to the voice of Truth, Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. [Matt. 24, 2]  He, then, who hath not warmth of the heart in the love of God, and yet keepeth not the life, which he loves, assuredly he ‘fleeth like a shadow.’  Hence it is well written concerning him, that he hath followed a shadow. [Ecclus. 34, 2]  Now it is well said, and never continueth in the same state.  For whereas infancy is going on to childhood, childhood to youth, youth to manhood, and manhood to old age, and old age to death, in the course of the present life he is forced by the very steps of his increase upon those of decrease, and is ever wasting from the very cause whence he thinks himself to be gaining ground in the space of his life.  For we cannot have a fixed stay here, whither we are come only to pass on; and this very circumstance of our living is to be daily passing out of life.  Which same flight the first man could not have known before the transgression, seeing that times passed, himself standing.  But after he transgressed, he placed himself on a kind of slide of a temporal condition, and because he ate the forbidden fruit, he found at once the failure of his stay.  Which liability to change man suffers, not only without, but also within him, when he strives to arise to better works.  For by the weight of its changeableness the mind is always being driven forwards to some other thing than it is, and, except it be kept in its stay by stringent discipline in self-keeping, it is always sliding back into worse.  For that mind which deserted Him, Who ever standeth, lost the stay in which she might have continued.


Henceforth now when he strives after better things, he has as it were to strain against the force of the stream.  But when he relaxes in his bent to ascend, without effort he is carried back to the lowest point.  Thus whereas in ascent there is effort, in descent rest from effort, the Lord warns us that we have to enter by a narrow gate, saying, Strive to enter in at the strait gate [Luke 13, 24]; for when about to mention ‘the entering in of the narrow gate,’ He premised, Strive, since unless there be an ardent striving [k] of the heart,’ the water of the world is not surmounted, whereby the soul is ever being borne down to the lowest place.  And so whereas man ‘springeth up like a flower and is cut down, and fleeth also as a shadow, and never continueth in his place,’ let us hear what he further subjoins in this train of reflection.  It goes on;

Ver. 3.  And dost Thou deign to open Thine eyes upon such an one, and to bring him into judgment with Thee?




69.  For he surveyed above both the power of Almighty God and his own frailty; he brought before his view himself and God, he considered Who would come into judgment, and with whom.  He saw on the one side man, on the other side his Creator, i.e. dust and God; and he lightly exclaims, Dost Thou deign to open Thine eyes upon such an one?  With Almighty God, to open the eyes is to execute His judgments, to look whom to smite.  For as it were with eyes closed He does not wish to look at him, whom He does not wish to smite.  Hence it is immediately added also about the judgment itself, To bring him into judgment with Thee?  But whereas he had viewed God coming to judgment, he again takes a view of his own frailty.  He sees that he cannot be clean of himself, who, that he might be able to be, came forth out of uncleanness.  And he adds,

Ver. 4.  Who can make clean a thing conceived of unclean seed?  Is it not Thou, Who only Art?




70.  He That alone is clean in Himself can cleanse the unclean thing.  For man, who lives in a corruptible flesh, has the uncleannesses of temptation engrained in him, seeing that he derived them from his birth.  For his very conception, for the sake of fleshly gratification, is uncleanness.  Hence the Psalmist saith, Behold, I was shapen in wickedness, and in sin hath my mother conceived me. [Ps. 51, 7]  Hence it is therefore that he is very often tempted even against his will.  Hence it is that he is subject to impurities in imagination, even though he strive against them by reason, because being conceived in uncleanness, whilst he follows after cleanness, he is striving to get the better of that which he is.  But whoever has mastered the motions of secret temptation, and overcome uncleanness of thought, must never ascribe his cleanness to himself, in that none can make clean a thing conceived of unclean seed, save He Who alone is clean in Himself.  Let him, then, that has already reached in mind the place of cleanness, cast his eye upon the way of his conception, which he came by, and thence satisfy himself, that in his own power he has no cleanness of life, the beginning of whose existence was made in uncleanness.  But the meaning here may be that blessed Job, regarding the Incarnation of the Redeemer, saw that That Man only in the world was not conceived of unclean seed, Who so came into the world from the Virgin’s womb, that He had nothing derived from unclean conception.  For He did not proceed from the man and the woman, but from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary.  He only then proved truly clean in His Flesh, Who was incapable of being affected by the gratification of the flesh, seeing that it was not by the gratification of the flesh that He came hither.