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The five concluding verses of chapter twenty-nine of the Book of Job

are more largely explained, together with the whole of chapter thirty,

chiefly on the subject of heretics and carnal persons distressing the Church.




1. ALTHOUGH all knowledge and all lore Sacred Scripture without all comparison far excels, to say nothing that it tells forth what is true; that it bids to the heavenly country; that it changes the heart of him that reads it from earthly desires to the embracing of things Above; that by its obscurer statements it exercises the strong, and by its humble strain speaks gently to the little ones; that it is neither so shut up, that it should come to be dreaded, nor so open to view as to become contemptible; that by use it removes weariness, and is the more delighted in the more it is meditated on; that the mind of him, who reads it, by words of a low pitch it assists, and by meanings of a lofty flight uplifts; that in some sort it grows with the persons reading, that by uninstructed readers it is in a manner reviewed, and yet by the well instructed is always found new; so then to say nothing of the weightiness of the subjects, it goes beyond all forms of knowledge and teaching even by the mere manner of its style of speaking, because in one and the same thread of discourse, while it relates the text, it declares a mystery, and has the art so to tell the past, that merely by that alone it knows how to announce the future, and the order of telling remaining unaltered, is instructed by the very self-same forms of speech at once to describe things done before, and to tell things destined to be done, just as it is with these same words of blessed Job, who while he tells his own circumstances foretels ours, and while he points out his own sorrows in respect of the phrase, sounds of the cases and occasions of Holy Church in respect of the meaning. For he says;

Ver. 21-23. They that heard me awaited my sentence, and listening kept silence at any counsel. They dared not to add any thing to my words, and my speech dropped upon them. And they waited for me as the rain, and opened their mouth wide as for the latter rain.




2. For this awe of those under him we unquestionably believe to have been towards blessed Job. But as we have already often said, Holy Church being driven to extremities by the inflictions of heretics or carnal persons, remembers the times past, in which all that is spoken by her is listened to with fear by the faithful, and lamenting the frowardness of her adversaries, she says, They that heard me awaited my sentence, and listening kept silence at my counsel. As though she expressed herself in plain speech, ‘Not like these forward and swoln ones, who whilst they refuse to admit the words of truth, do as it were in teaching forestall the sentences of my preaching.’ Whose disciples now ‘intent upon her counsel keep silence,’ because her words they dare not to impugn, but take on faith. For that they may be able to profit by these same words, they hear them, doubtless, not with a view to judge them, but to follow them.


3. Of whom it is rightly added, To my words they dared not to add any thing; surely because heretics, at that time when against her they are in liberty the most mischievous, free of all check, do ‘dare to add something to her words,’ in that they busy themselves as if to correct the rightness of her preachings. Which same still further adds touching the good hearers, And my speech dropped upon them.


4. By this dropping of speech, what else is understood but the measure of holy preaching? because it is requisite that the boon of exhortation be bestowed to each according to the capacity of his parts. And in respect of this that is said, To my words they dared not to add any thing; the reverential feeling of the persons hearing is extolled; but in respect of this, that is added, And my speech dropped upon them; the masters’ distributing is pointed out. For one who teaches ought to look exactly, that he be not forward to preach more than is comprehended by the one who hears him. For it is his duty by contracting himself to let himself down to the infirmity of his hearers, lest whilst he speaks to little persons lofty things, which for that reason will not profit them, he be more minded to make a display of himself than to benefit his hearers. Now at the Lord’s bidding, there are not only flagons but likewise, cups prepared for the table of the Tabernacle. [Ex. 25, 29. 37, 16.]  For what is denoted by ‘flagons’ but ample preaching, and what by cups but the smallest and slightest speaking about God? Therefore on the table of the Lord there are both flagons and cups made ready, in this way because in the teaching of sacred Revelation there are not only to be set forth things great and mysterious that intoxicate, but also little and minute ones, which afford knowledge as it were in a tasting. So then let Holy Church being borne down in the last times remember this most discriminating disposal of hers, and let her say, And my speech dropped upon them.


5. Where too it is fitly added, They waited for me as the rain, and opened their mouth as for the latter rain. For the words of holy preaching we undergo as rain, when by true humility we learn the dryness of our hearts, that we may be watered by the draught of holy preaching. Whence also it is rightly said to God by the Psalmist, My soul is like earth without water to Thee. [Ps. 143, 6] The Prophet charges us to be bathed with these streams of teaching, saying, Ho, every one that thirsteth come ye to the waters. [Is. 55, 1] Who whilst in the final portion of the world we now receive the words of holy preaching, as it were ‘open the mouth of the heart to the latter rain.’ For if there were not in the heart ‘a mouth,’ the Psalmist would not say, Crafty lips in heart, and with the heart they have spoken evil things. [Ps. 12, 2] The mouth of the heart, then, because we apply ourselves to the word of the preaching at the end, this, I say, we as it were open to the latter streams. Which same preaching came forth to us by the sacrifice of Him, Who says by the Psalmist, And the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice. [Ps. 141, 2] For because our Redeemer at the end of the world underwent the violence of those that persecuted Him, Himself He ‘gave an evening sacrifice for us.’ Of this ‘latter rain’ it is elsewhere written, I will give you rain, both the early, and the latter rain. [Jer. 5, 24] For He ‘gave the early rain,’ because in the former period He bestowed on His Elect the knowledge of the Law. [Deut. 11, 14] He ‘gave the latter rain,’ because He caused the mystery of His Incarnation to be preached in the last days. Which same mystery because Holy Church ceases not to tell forth day by day, she waters the mouths of her hearers’ hearts as it were by ‘the latter rain.’ It goes on;

Ver. 24. If I laughed on them, they believed it not; and the light of my countenance fell not on the ground.


6. If we understand this according to the words of the history, it must be imagined that the holy man had shewn himself such to those under him, that even in laughing he was able to be feared. But whereas he relates above that he had been ‘a father to the poor, and the comforter of the widows’; the case needs very great penetration to discriminate how and in what way in such terribleness of government there was likewise so much gentleness and mildness of pity there present. For without extraordinary gentleness of loving-kindness there was not this, viz. that he describes himself ‘the father of the poor, and comforter of the widows’; whilst again without great severity he could not even when ‘laughing’ be feared: on which point what else are we taught, but that such ought to be the management of governance, that he who is in command should rule himself towards those under him by this measure, that both while laughing he may be feared, and when angered be loved, that neither excessive mirth should render him contemptible, nor unlimited severity make him hated? For oftentimes we break in pieces those under our charge when we maintain the energy of justice beyond what is just, which energy will surely now no longer be that of justice, if it do not keep itself under just control. And often those under us we unloose from the fear of discipline, if to our rule we let go the reins of mirth, because whilst they behold us joyful as it were at our liberty, they are themselves boldly let loose to what they are not at liberty. But that the countenance of the ruler may even when joyful be feared, it is necessary that he should himself unceasingly fear the countenance of his own Maker. For credit then is with difficulty given to that mind as to gladness, which it is known by those under its charge chastens itself continually for the love of God. For he who with an unintermitted fever of spiritual desire seeks after things above, has this come into very great doubt concerning him, that he is sometimes glad of heart before men. And hence that same blessed Job was not long afterwards to say, For I always feared God as waves swelling over me. For he so feared his Judge as immediately impending assaults of waves, now, now on the point to die. He then into whose mind the sadness of the fear of God had poured itself, rightly did those under him not believe his joyfulness; because they were forced not to believe him when he laughed, whose heart they knew what unremitting sadness possessed under the fear of his Creator.


7. That also may not unsuitably be understood after the history, which is next brought in directly; And the light of my countenance fell not on the ground. Since it is written; But the eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth. [Prov. 17, 24] And again it is said by the same Solomon, The wise man’s eyes are in his head. [Eccl. 2, 14] Paul also said; The head of every man, is Christ. [1 Cor. 11, 3] So ‘the wise man’s eyes are in his head,’ in that he is ever contemplating the works of his Redeemer that he should imitate them. So ‘the light of his countenance fell not on the ground,’ because those things that are of the earth he beheld not in concupiscence.




8. But whereas we have made out the outside of the history in brief, what lies concealed in the points belonging to mystical meaning let us consider well. That Christ and the Church are one Person, we have very frequently said already, and it oftentimes happens that the voice of the Head passes to the voice of the Body, and often that the voice of the Body passes over to the voice of the Head. For they that consist in one flesh, nothing hinders but that they also accord in one voice. So then let her say in the voice of the Head touching His Elect members, let the Church say, If I laughed on them they believed it not; since for God to ‘laugh’ is for the ways of the Saints to be made to prosper by His favour following them. As it is also expressed by common usage of those, whom in this world the caresses of good fortune accompany; ‘The time smiled upon them.’ Whence reversely it is called the wrath of God to be disabled from good practice. As it is written; Lest the Lord be angry, and ye perish from the right way. [Ps. 2, 12] If then the Lord is said to be ‘angry’ when men lose the way of righteousness, the Lord is rightly described as ‘smiling’ when our good works the favour of grace from Above accompanies on the way. But all the Elect so long as they are in this life never hold out to themselves the assurance of security. For being at all times alive to suspicion against temptations, they dread the plottings of the hidden enemy, who even on temptation ceasing, are greatly disturbed even by the mere suspecting only. For oftentimes to many heedless security has proved great hazard, so that the plots of the crafty enemy they should be made acquainted with, not when tried, but when already laid low. For we have always to be on the watch, that the mind unceasing in its solicitude never be slackened in its heavenly bent, that abandoning what is painful, laid low in loose thoughts as in a kind of soft litters, the mind be not all undone and prostitute itself to that corrupter the devil on his coming. But the soul must always be gathered up for the encounter of the adversary, always there must be caution provided against secret snares. For hence the Prophet Habakkuk saith; I will stand upon my watch. [Hab. 2, 1] Hence again it is written; Set thee up a watch tower, make thee bitternesses, [thou that preachest glad tidings to Sion. (not in text)] [Jer. 31, 21] Hence it is said by Solomon, Happy is the man that always feareth; but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief. [Prov. 28, 14] Hence he saith again; Every man hath his sword upon his thigh, because of fears in the night. [Cant. 3, 8] The ‘fears in the night’ are the hidden snares of temptation. But ‘the sword upon the thigh’ is watch on guard, keeping down the enticements of the flesh. So then that ‘the fear by night,’ i.e. secret and sudden temptation, may not creep upon us, it is always necessary that the ‘sword’ of watching placed thereon should press our thigh. For holy men are so assured touching hope, that nevertheless they are ever mistrustful touching temptation, as being those to whom it is said; Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice unto Him with trembling: [Ps. 2, 11] so that by hope rejoicing should be produced, and by mistrust ‘trembling.’ In whose voice the Psalmist saith again, Let my heart rejoice that it may fear Thy Name. [Ps. 86, 11] Wherein it is to be noted, that he does not say, ‘Let it rejoice that it may be assured’; but, ‘let it rejoice that it may fear.’ For they remember that though their course of conduct be made to succeed, they are still in this life, touching which it is said by that same Job; The life of man upon earth is trial. [Job 7, 1] They remember again that it is written; For the corruptible body presseth, down the soul, and the earthly tabernacle weigheth, down the mind, that museth upon many things. [Wisd. 9, 15] They remember and they stand in fear, and they do not dare to promise to themselves in themselves assuredness, but being set between the joy of hope and the fear of temptation, they trust and they fear, they are heartened and they falter, they are assured and they are distrustful. Therefore it is well said by the voice of the elect member under a figure of our Head, If I laughed on them, they believed it not. Because our Redeemer as it were smiling on us we do not believe when His many gifts now bearing their testimony, we at once receive the boon of His favour, and yet still go faltering under His judgment for our own frailty.


9. Let us see how to Paul there is henceforth both a ‘smiling’ through grace from Above, and he himself still ‘believes not’ as it were through the fear of misgiving. Already the Lord as it were speaking to him from Heaven, and whilst opening his eyes inwardly, closing them outwardly, had displayed the power of His Majesty: already He had said to Ananias concerning Him; For he is a chosen vessel unto Me. [Acts 9, 15] Already he had been transported to the third heaven above himself. [1 Cor. 12, 2] Already carried into Paradise he had heard mystic words, which he might, not tell, and yet being still fearful he says, But I keep under my body and bring it into subjection, lest that by any means when I have preached to others I should be a castaway. [1 Cor. 9, 27] See how to Divine grace smiling on him he already trusts in respect of hope, and yet trusts not in respect of self-assurance. For that these words agree perfectly with the words of our Redeemer, those subjoined do also declare, when it is said, And the light of my countenance did not fall upon the earth. For what is styled ‘the earth’ but the sinner, to whom it was said by the first sentence; Earth thou art, and unto earth shalt thou return? [Gen. 3, 19] So ‘the light of the Lord’s countenance does not fall to the earth,’ because the brightness of His Vision does not appear to sinners. Thus it is written; Let the ungodly man be removed away that he see not the glory of God. [Is. 26, 10] For light would as it were fall upon the earth, if when He comes in the Last Judgment, He manifested the brightness of His Majesty to sinners.


10. But if we receive these words in the voice of Holy Church, we may not unsuitably understand that ‘the light of her countenance does not fall upon the earth,’ because to them that are busied in earthly courses she forbids to preach the highest mysteries of her contemplation. For what is strong she forbids to be spoken to the weak, lest whilst they hear things incapable of being comprehended, they be borne to the ground by the words of preaching by which they should have been lifted up. For the mere corporeal light, which illumines sound eyes, darkens weak ones, and whilst by weak seeing eyes the gaze is set on the brightness of the sun, there is very frequently darkness produced to them from light. Thus let Holy Church being borne down in the time of her persecution, but bearing in mind her foregoing discrimination, say, The light of my countenance did not fall upon the earth. But because these words we began to take as from her Head, let us in the Same still follow out what comes after. For it is added:

Ver. 25. If I was minded to go to them, I sat chief.




11. Because in the heart of lost sinners, the actions of the flesh are in the first place, and of the soul in the second, surely in their thoughts Christ ‘sits’ not ‘first’ but ‘last.’ But each of the Elect, because above all others they mind the things that are eternal, and if there be any things of a temporal kind, they manage them with an after and the least concern; to whom it is also said by the preceptress voice of Truth, Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you; [Matt. 6, 33] in their heart the Lord ‘sits first.’ In which place it is fitly prefaced, If I had been minded to go to them. For because, as has been said, He doeth all things according to the counsel of His Will, not in answer to our desert, but because He is Himself so minded, the Lord enlightens us with His visitation. And so He both comes ‘when He is minded,’ and when He comes He ‘sitteth first,’ because both His Coming in our heart is gratuitous, and the longing of the desire of Him in the thought of our heart is not the same as the rest of our desires. It goes on;

And when I sat as a king with an army standing round, nevertheless I was the Comforter of those that mourned.




12. The Lord ‘sits as a king in the heart,’ because He rules the clamouring motions of the heart in our thinking. For in the soul which He inhabits, whilst He stirs up the dull, bridles the restless, inflames the cold, tempers the inflamed, softens down the hard, and binds up the loose, by this mere diversity of thoughts, a kind of ‘army,’ as it were, ‘stands around Him.’ Or surely He ‘sitteth as King with an army standing around Him,’ because that King, whilst He presides over the minds of the Elect, a host of virtues surround. And He too is ‘the comforter of those that mourn,’ by that promise, by which He says, Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted. [Matt. 5, 4] And again; I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man shall take from you. [John 16, 22] But the things which we have delivered concerning the Head of Holy Church, there is nothing hinders us if we should apply to the voice of the same Church as well. For in her the order of the teachers presides like a king, whom the crowd of her believing ones surrounds. Which same multitude of believers is also rightly called ‘an army’, [Exercitus] because it is unceasingly making ready day by day against the wars of temptations in the array of good works. The hearts of them that mourn Holy Church also comforts, whilst she considers the souls of the Elect borne down by the wofulness of the present pilgrimage, and gladdens them with the promise of the Eternal Country. Moreover she sees that the hearts of the faithful are stricken with divine dread, and those whom she sees have heard concerning God strict things that they should stand in fear, she likewise brings it to pass that they should also hear the gentleness of His pity, that they may have boldness.


13. For thus does Holy Church mix hope and fear to her believers, touching the pity and justice of the Redeemer, in the continued course of her ministry; so that they may not either heedlessly rely on Mercy, nor hopelessly dread justice. For with the words of her Head she cheers up those that are alarmed, saying, Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. [Luke 12, 32] And again, those that are presuming she affrights, when she says, Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation. [Mark 14, 38] Again, those that are in dread she cheers, saying, Rejoice, because your names are written inn heaven. [Luke 10, 20] But those presuming in themselves she affrights, when she says, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Those in dread she cheers when she says, My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me, and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My Hand. [John 10, 27. 28.] But those presuming in themselves she affrights, saying, And shall skew great signs and wonders, insomuch that if it were possible they shall deceive the very Elect. [Matt. 24, 24] Those in dread she cheers, when she says, But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. [vs. 13] The presuming she affrights, when she says, Nevertheless, when the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth? [Luke 18, 8] The fearing she cheers, when He says to the robber, To-day shall thou be with Me in paradise. But she frightens the presuming, when Judas falls from the glory of the Apostleship into the pit of hell. Concerning whom it is said, in the laying down of a declaration, I have chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil. [John 6, 70] One in dread she cheers, when she says, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man’s, shall he return unto her again’? Shall not that woman be greatly polluted? But thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to Me, saith the Lord. [Jer. 3, 1] But one presuming she affrights, when she says; Why criest thou upon thine affliction? thy sorrow is incurable. [Jer. 30, 15] One dreading she cheers, saying, From this time at least call me, My father, thou art the guide of my virginity. [Jer. 3, 4] But the presuming one she frightens, saying, Thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother an Hittite. [Ez. 16, 3] One in dread she cheers, when she says, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the Lord; and I will not cause mine anger to fall from you; for I am holy, saith the Lord; and I will not keep anger for ever. [Jer. 3, 12] But one presuming she affrights, when she debars her prophet from interceding, in the words, Lift not up cry nor prayer for them; for I will not hear in the time of their crying to me, in the time of their affliction: for though Moses and Samuel stood before me, my soul is not toward this people. [Jer. 14, 11] Thus her hearer’s mind Holy Church both lifts up touching the lovingkindness of mercy, and disquiets touching the strictness of judgment, that in her preaching, whilst she rightly blends both, her Elect may neither presume on the score of righteousness set forth, nor despair on the ground of bygone iniquity.




14. Yet this which he says, And when I sat as a King with an army around, nevertheless I was a comforter of them that mourned, it is necessary for us to know that even taken according to the history it may very greatly edify the reader, if he considers well how with good rulers both authoritativeness of ruling and loving-kindness of consoling are mixed together. For he says; And when I sat as a King with an army around; see the authoritativeness of governance; nevertheless I was a comforter of them that mourned; mark the service of pitifulness. For discipline or mercy is much bared, if the one be maintained without the other. But towards their subjects there ought to be in the hearts of rulers both mercy giving comfort in justice, and justice dealing wrath with pitifulness. It is hence that to the wounds of that half-dead man, who was carried by the Samaritan into the inn, there is both wine applied and oil, that by the wine the wounds should be bitten, and by the oil they should be soothed; that so every one who has the charge over the healing of wounds may by wine apply the biting of strictness, and by oil the softness of pitying; that by the wine what is putrid may be made clean, and by the oil what is to be healed may be soothed. Thus then gentleness is to be mixed with severity, and a certain qualifying process by both to be performed, that those under charge may not either be made sore by much sharpness, nor be relaxed by overmuch kindness. This surely that ark of the tabernacle betokens, in which along with the tables there are the rod and manna together; because when there is the knowledge of sacred Scripture in the breast of a good ruler, if there is the rod of severity, let there also be the manna of sweetness. Hence also David says, Thy rod and Thy staff comforted me. [Ps. 23, 4] For we arc stricken by the rod, and we are sustained by the staff. If then there be the strictness of the rod that it may smite, let there also be the comfort of the staff that it may sustain. So then let there be love, but not that softens, let there be vigour, but not that grates, let there be zeal, but not that storms to excess, let there be pitifulness that does not spare more than may be expedient. It is good to regard in the breast of Moses mercy united with severity. Let us see him loving pitifully and venting himself severely. Surely when the people of Israel before the eyes of God contracted an almost unpardonable offence, so that its Ruler heard, Get thee down; thy people have sinned; [Ex. 32, 7] as though the Voice of God said to him, ‘That people which has fallen in so great a sin, is henceforth no longer Mine,’ and subjoined, Now therefore let Me alone, that My fury may wax hot against them, and that I may destroy them, and I will make of thee a great nation; once and again in behalf of the people that he was set over presenting himself as a bar to the assault of God in His indignation, he saith, Either forgive them this sin; or if not, blot me, I pray Thee, out of Thy book which Thou hast written. Let us reflect then with what bowels he loved that people, for whose life he begged to have himself ‘blotted out of the book’ of life. But yet this one who is tied and bound with such great love of his people, let us consider with what warmth of righteousness he is inflamed against its sins. For directly that by the first request he obtained pardon of the offence, that they should not be blotted out, coming to that people he says, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour. And there fell of the people that day about twenty three thousand men. [Ex. 32, 27. 28.] See, he who begged for the life of all even with his own death, killed the life of a few with the sword. Within he burned with the fire of love, without he was inflamed by the warmth of severity. So great was his pitifulness, that he did not hesitate to offer himself to death in the sight of the Lord in their behalf, such was his severity, that those whom he had feared to have stricken by divine power, he did himself strike with the sword of judgment; he so loved those whom he was set over, that in their behalf he did not even spare himself, and yet the persons offending, whom he loved, lie so persecuted, that even when the Lord spared them, he laid them low. Both ways a forcible ambassador, both ways an incomparable mediator; the cause of the people he pleaded before God by prayers, the cause of God he pleaded before the people with swords. Within loving he withstood the wrath of God by entreating, without venting himself he consumed sin by smiting. He succours all quickly by the death of a few being manifested. Therefore Almighty God listened the sooner to His faithful servant dealing in behalf of the people, because He saw what he was of himself about to do upon the people in behalf of God. In the governance therefore of the people Moses blended both, that neither should discipline be lacking to mercy, nor mercy to discipline. Hence here also it is said answerably to either excellency; And when I sat as a King with an army around, nevertheless I was a comforter of them that mourned. For to ‘sit with an army around’ is the vigour and discipline of governance, but ‘to comfort the hearts of them that mourn’ is the ministration of pitifulness.




But because in the midst of all this it is necessary that the line of interpretation should fall back to the spiritual meaning, Holy Church when borne down by her adversaries in the last times, calls to mind the laws of her past governance, calls to mind too what great benefits of pitifulness she displayed to them that were afflicted. Whose discipline and mercy are then derided by the light of mind. And hence it is added;

Chap. xxx. 1. But now they that are younger than I have me in derision.




15. All heretics when compared to the age of the Church Universal are fitly called ‘younger’ in time, because they went forth out of her, not she out of them. Whence it is rightly also said by John; They went out from us, but they were not of us: for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us. [1 John 2, 19] For ‘they that are younger in time deride Holy Church,’ when they that went out from her, set at nought the words of her instruction; concerning whom it is further added;

Whose fathers I would have disdained to set with the dogs of my flock.


Who is the ‘flock’ of Holy Church saving the multitude of the faithful? Or who else are called ‘the dogs’ of this flock, but the holy Teachers, who became the guardians of those believers? Which same whilst in behalf of their Lord they cried aloud, given up to daily and nightly watchings, uttered, so to say, loud barks of preaching. Concerning whom it is said to that Church by the Psalmist, The tongue of Thy dogs from the enemies by the same. [Ps. 68, 23] Since there are some that being recalled from the worshipping of idols are made the preachers of God. So ‘the tongue of the dogs’ of the Church goeth forth from enemies, because the Gentiles that are converted the Lord makes even preachers. Whence the slowness of the Jews, who refused to speak in God’s behalf by the Prophet upbraiding them is made matter of blame, where he says, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark. [Is. 56, 10]


16. Now we speak of the fathers of Heretics meaning those whom we style ‘Heresiarchs,’ by whose evil preaching, i.e. by the seed of speaking, the peoples following them were begotten in error. So then Holy Church ‘disdains to set the fathers’ of heretics ‘with the dogs of her flock,’ because the founders of erring tenets on trying she rejects, and contemns to number them among the true Fathers. Which persons though they seemed to have recalled some from the erroneousness of heathenism, to have trained the practices of some to the doing what is right, yet for this that they did not think right things of God, she does not ‘set them with the dogs of the flock,’ because she does not rank them with right preachers. For it is plain that Arius; Photinus, Macedonius, Nestorius, Eutyches, Dioscorus, Severus, and numbers like to these, endeavoured by teaching and persuading to appear fathers. But their errors the Holy Church Universal trying with strict severity, does not ‘number those persons among the keepers of’ her flock,’ whom she condemns as breaking up the unity of that flock. Of which same it is said to the Ephesians by the voice of Paul, For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. [Acts 20, 29] And because it sometimes happens that heretics in proportion as they fall away more into the erroneousness of misbelief, guard themselves the more fully in outward practising, so that they may appear to do great things above the rest of the world, the Holy Church Universal sets at nought all their works, which she observes do not come forth by the authority of faith. Whence also it is rightly added by the voice of blessed Job,

Ver. 2. The power of whose hands was nothing to me, and of life itself they were accounted unworthy.




17. ‘Power in the hand’ is greatness in practising. But ‘the power of the hands’ of Heretics is reckoned ‘as nothing to’ Holy Church, because she sees that, the true faith being lost, whatsoever they do it is of no merit. For the charity of God and our neighbour they forsake, who both imagine what is false concerning God, and by wrangling are separated from their neighbours. But ‘the strength of the hands’ without charity the great preacher bears witness is of no avail, in that he says, And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. [1 Cor. 13, 3] But sometimes Heretics perform signs and miracles as well, but in order that they may here receive back the rewards of their chastening and abstinence, i.e. the praises, which they go after. And hence it is said by the voice of the Redeemer, Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy Name, and in Thy Name have cast out devils, and in Thy Name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you, depart from Me, ye that work iniquity. [Matt. 7, 22] By which same sentence what is there given to be understood, but that in man it is the humbleness of charity and not the signs of miraculous virtues that ought to be revered? Whence Holy Church now, even if there be any miracles of heretics performed, sets it at nought, because she sees that these are no proof of holiness. Since the way to prove holiness is not to perform miracles, but to love every man as one’s self; and concerning God to think what is true, and of his fellow-creature to think better things than of himself. For that true power lies in love, and not in the manifesting of a miracle, ‘Truth’ shews, Who says, By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another. [John 13, 35] For He Who says not, ‘in this shall it be known that ye are My disciples, if ye shall perform miraculous signs,’ but Who saith, ‘if ye have love one to another,’ plainly proves that it is not miracles but charity alone that proves the true servants of God. So the witness to the heavenly discipleship is the gift of brotherly charity. Which same love, because all heretics refuse to have, whilst they are divided from the Unity of the Church Universal, it is justly said concerning them; the strength of whose hands was nothing to me. And because to these same signs, that they set forth, they do not accord themselves by any humility, it is rightly added, And of life itself they were accounted unworthy. Or indeed, all heretics Holy Church declares unworthy of life itself, for this reason, because under the Name of Christ, they fight against the Name of Christ. Of whom it is yet further added;

Barren by want and hunger.




18. All heretics, whilst in sacred Revelation they make it their aim to dive into secrets of God beyond what they are capable of, by their hunger become barren. For they do not seek those things, whereby they may train themselves to humility, may order their ways in tranquillity, keep patience, shew forth long suffering, but those alone which may prove them learned and talkers; they aim to know those things, by which they may seem to be in a special manner instructed. For they very often treat with boldness of the nature of the Divine Being, whilst, wretched as they are, they know not their own selves. And so they become ‘barren by want and hunger,’ because they desire to dive into those things, by which they should not bring forth the buddings of a good life. For the things which they dive into are beyond themselves. And whilst they make for that which they are unable to comprehend, they neglect to acquaint themselves with those things, by which they might have been instructed. Which same boldness of theirs the great Preacher rightly checks, saying, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly. [Rom. 12, 3] Hence Solomon says, Set bounds to thine own wisdom. [Prov. 23, 4] Hence again he says, Hast thou found honey? eat so much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it. [Prov. 25, 16] For the sweetness of spiritual meaning he who seeks to eat beyond what he contains, even what he had eaten he ‘vomiteth’; because whilst he seeks to make out things above, beyond his powers, even the things that he had made out aright, he forfeits. Hence he says again; As for one to eat much honey is not good, so he that would search out Majesty shall be crushed with, glory. [v. 27] For the glory of the Invisible Creator, which when searched into with moderation lifts us up, being dived into beyond our powers bears us down. Therefore heretics, because in proportion as they aim to be more completely filled by sublime perception, so much the more entirely they become empty, have it rightly said concerning them, barren by want and hunger. Since by unbounded attempts the more they go after the knowledge of heavenly acquaintanceship, the more they lose it.


19. But, on the other hand, they that in Holy Church are truly humble, and truly instructed, are taught touching heavenly mysteries, both some things when viewed to understand, and some things not understood to reverence, that so what they understand they may hold with reverence, and what they do not as yet understand they may look forward to with humility. Whence it is said to us by Moses, that in eating the lamb, that which remaineth of it we should burn, with fire; [Ex. 12, 10] for we ‘eat the lamb,’ when in understanding many particulars of the Lord’s human Nature, we deposit them in the belly of the mind. Wherefrom there are some things left to us, which cannot be eaten; because many particulars still remain concerning Him, which can by no means be understood. Which same nevertheless are to be ‘consumed with fire,’ because the things which we are unable to understand concerning Him, we reserve with humility for the Holy Spirit. Which same humility very often reveals even those things to the perceptions of the Elect, which appeared to be things impossible to be understood. For the froward minds of heretics, whilst they proudly attribute understanding to themselves, as it were presume to deliver fixed decisions even touching what is unknown. Whence it comes to pass, that the self-elation itself which lifts them up in themselves within, should without drive them off from the truth, and that in the declarations of God they should hardly even comprehend the outward things, who thought that they had in an especial manner gone to the bottom of spiritual secrets. Whence it is also added here;

Ver. 3, 4. Who gnawed in solitude, being scurvy with calamity and misery, and chewed herbs and the barks of trees.




20. That is wont to be ‘gnawed,’ which cannot be eaten. Now heretics because they apply themselves to make out Scripture by their own power, assuredly never can comprehend it, which same whilst they do not make out, they, as it were, do not eat. And because, not being aided by grace from on high, they are unable to eat it, they as it were ‘gnaw’ it with certain efforts. Since they handle it outwardly, when indeed they endeavour but do not attain to the interior parts of it. Which same because they are separated from the society of the Church Universal, are mentioned as gnawing not any where, but ‘in solitude.’ To which same ‘solitude’ that the false teachers draw their followers, Truth long before forewarned, saying, If they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert, go not forth. [Matt. 24, 26] And these are rightly recorded as ‘scurvy with affliction and misery,’ because they are despicable at once by the destructiveness of their practices, and the badness of their perceptions. Who do also ‘eat herbs and the barks of trees,’ because being kept off by the bar of self-exaltation, they are unable to perceive in sacred Revelation what is great and interior, but with difficulty discover therein a few things that are tender and exterior. Since by ‘herbs’ the plainer statements, and by ‘the barks of trees’ the exterior declarations of the Fathers are betokened. Those then who seek to know those things, by which they may not at all be learned, but seem to be, whilst in the sacred volumes they do not from the heart’s core search out the force of charity towards God and our neighbour, are as it were ‘fed by the herb and the bark,’ because they are either the lowest or the outer things which nourish the souls of those who carry themselves proudly. Or surely to ‘eat herbs’ is touching Holy Scripture to observe the least precepts, and to disregard the greater ones. Whom Truth rightly rebukes, saying, Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the Law. [Matt. 23, 23] Who do also ‘eat the barks of trees,’ because there are some who in the sacred volumes respect the outside of the letter only, nor keep in safety any thing belonging to the spiritual meaning, whereas they imagine that there is nothing more in the words of God, but that which they may hear on the outside. Which persons nevertheless the passion of vain glory possesses in all their errors, and the thirst after honour holds them captives, and generally by the very things that they speak they seek after nothing else but earthly profits. Concerning whom it is said by Paul, For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly. [Rom. 16, 18] Whence too it is rightly subjoined;

And juniper roots for their meat.




21. For the juniper tree has prickles instead of leaves, for so bristly is that which they put forth, that like to thorns it is able to prick the person handling it. Now a thorn is all sorts of sin; because whilst it draws into self-gratification, as it were by pricking it wounds the soul. Whence it is spoken by the voice of one righteous and penitent, I was turned in my calamity, while the thorn is broken, [Ps. 32, 4] surely because the mind is turned to lamenting, that the prick of sin may be broken by repenting. But in another translation, the thorn is described not as ‘broken’ [‘confringi’],’ but ‘fixed,’ [‘configi’] which same is not at variance with the same sense, because the mind of the penitent is brought to sorrow when the sin that has been committed is retained fixed fast in the recollection. What then is there denoted by the ‘root of the juniper’ saving avarice, from which the thorns of all the sins are produced? Concerning which it is said by Paul, For the love of money is the root of all evil. [1 Tim. 6, 10] For that springs up covertly in the mind, and brings forth openly the prickles of all sin in the practice. Which same prickles arising from this root the great preacher immediately implies, when he subjoins, Which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. For he who spoke of ‘many sorrows’ made known as it were the prickles arising from this root. So by ‘junipers’ we understand sins, but by ‘the root of junipers’ what else do we understand, but avarice, i.e. the material of sins? So then because heretics in their words generally go after external gains alone, yet are not ignorant that they make up what is wrong, but do not abandon the preachings of error, whilst they wish to receive their emoluments as teachers, it is well said of them now by the voice of the holy man, and juniper roots for their meat, because whilst they think of avarice with all the faculties of their minds, they are as it were fed by that nourishment, wherefrom assuredly the prickles of sins ensuing are used to be produced. Which persons if ever in sacred Revelation they seemingly discover things with sagacity, which while they do not understand, they fancy make for their statements, they directly scatter these vociferating them to their wretched hearers, whom they covet not the souls of but the substance. Whence it is fitly brought in next,

Ver. 5. Who carrying these same off from the valleys, when they found each of then, ran to them with clamour.




22. They ‘carry them off from the valleys,’ because with a high spirit they gather them from the lowly sayings of the Fathers. Which same whilst they exult to have found making for their cause, they run to them with outcries, because every thing that they have a perception of, by the appetite of praise they strive to cry abroad to the ears of men. It goes on;

Ver. 6. They shall dwell in the desert places of the torrents, and in the caves of the earth, or upon the ground.




23. We give the name of ‘torrents’ to the brooks, that are gathered by the winter rains, which likewise at certain seasons are dried up. Thus with justice the framers of wrong doctrines are called ‘torrents’; because being cold to the warmth of charity, they grow to a height in the deadness of the winter season; because they do not flow out with perpetual fulness, but by the pleadings of Catholics, as by summer suns, are dried up. And indeed the fabricators of wrong doctrines springing up against Holy Church, are already made an end of by the heat of truth, yet notwithstanding the things which they taught their disciples do not cease to maintain and to defend. Thus then they that follow the errors of those persons ‘dwell in the desert places of torrents,’ i.e. put their trust in the preaching of those, whose effusions are already by the answering and reasoning of Catholics dried up. Now what else do we take ‘the caves of the earth’ for, but the hidden preachings of heretics? For heretics meet together in secret conclaves in such sort, that the reverence, which they cannot invest their erring belief with by reason, they may by concealment, and that to weak souls the speech of pervertedness may appear more to be treated with awe in proportion as it is secret. Hence in Solomon the woman as a type of heresy persuades, saying, Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant. [Prov. 9, 17] Which self-same secret preachings ‘Truth’ abhors, saying, Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there, believe it not. And again; Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert, go not forth; Behold, he is in the secret chambers, believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the East, and shineth even unto the West: so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be. [Matt. 24, 23. 26. 27.] So then that is ‘in the secret chambers’ there, which here is phrased in ‘caves.’ Thus heretics ‘dwell in caves,’ because they generally conceal their error by preachings in secret; that in the degree that they forbear to shew themselves to the more learned and wiser sort, they may the more irresistibly draw to them the uninstructed. Whence also the words are rightly brought in next; Or upon the gravel. For we call by the name of ‘gravel’ those very little stones which the water of the river draws along. Accordingly, the teachers of perverted doctrines ‘dwell upon the gravel,’ because they draw after them those minds of men which are not established with any stedfastness of gravity, which the streams of errors are as it were ever carrying from place to place. And hence the great preacher, whereas he desired that his hearers should not be led by the chances of time, but that they might be established by firm gravity, charged them, saying, That we henceforth be no more like children, tossed to and fro, and carried about by every wind of doctrine. [Eph. 4, 14] Thus Holy Church, being borne down by her adversaries for a space, when she sees the bold minds of those in error insulting over her, recalls to remembrance what the behaviour of those was, saying, They shall dwell in the desert places of torrents, and in the caves of the earth, or upon the gravel. For because their wrong preaching, the fire of charity being gone, gained power by coldness of feeling, surely it ‘dwelt in the desert places of torrents.’ And because it was not open and at large, it ‘lay hid’ in caves. And because it held the people not fixed but lightly moved, it remained not upon the rock but ‘upon the gravel.’ Concerning which it is yet further added;

Ver. 7. Who rejoiced in the midst of the like, and reckoned there were delights under brambles.




24. What do we understand by the name of ‘brambles,’ but those ‘piercings’ [§. 21] of sins, which we have already described above. Now because froward minds delight in wickednesses, which they should have bewailed, all heretics uplift themselves with vain joy in proportion as they gain power for worse acts; and they ‘reckon there are delights under the brambles,’ because they lift up the froward mind to joy, from the same cause that they bear the thorns of sins. For if ever they have been able to draw any one to their error, they plume themselves in glee; and by the same act, whereby they are daily heaping to themselves sins, even by ruining others, they exult that they are as it were leaders to righteousness. And so it is well said; Who rejoiced amongst the like, and reckoned that there are delights under brambles. For they drag all that they are able to their own destruction; and to be under sins, or to add offences to offences, they imagine their heaping up a superabundance of virtuous acquirements.

Ver. 8. They were children of fools, yea, children of base men; and in the earth not appearing at all.




25. That is to say, the children of those, who were the masters of errors. So they are called ‘children,’ not as engendered by the seed, but by the imitating of those, who by teaching what is wrong were ‘fools’ in respect of ignorance, and by living wicked lives ‘base men’ in respect of conduct. Who are not allied to our Redeemer by any relationship of wisdom, or by any of life. Concerning which it is said by the voice of Solomon in commendation of Holy Church, Her husband is noble in the gates. [Prov. 31, 23] So these, because they followed the froward examples of those going’ astray, were recorded as being ‘the children of fools and of base men.’ Now it is rightly subjoined, and on the earth not appearing at all. Because whilst they aim to appear something here, surely from the land of the living they are made outcasts.


26. But this which we have delivered in a type of heretics, nothing is at all in the way, if we understand it as well of persons froward and carnal, though set in the right faith. For neither does Holy Church account those only adversaries to her, who, as placed without, dissent from her faith, but those also who by living amiss inwardly stifle her life. So then let her, afflicted with the wofulness of adversity coming down upon her, survey how in the season of her prosperity, by the wickedness of evil-doers living within her even she was burthened. Let her consider that in due of the deserts of some, the life of all was not unjustly disturbed in her, and let her say, Who gnawed in solitude, scurvy with affliction and misery. As I before said in the first part of this work, the solitude of the interior is sometimes used to be understood in respect of the excellency of contemplation.  But in this place, where ‘solitude’ is mentioned in the way of reproach, what else is there demonstrated but a barrenness of goodness? And hence, under the type of Judaea, Jeremiah mourns over the soul of the sinner, saying, How doth the city sit solitary that was full of people! [Lam. 1, 1] But when it is said by blessed Job respecting the evil-doers, they gnawed in solitude, it is well to look at that also which is delivered by the Psalmist, His enemies shall lick the dust. [Ps. 72, 9]


27. For there are two sorts of men that lend themselves to their own ambition, i.e. one which always employs the flatteries of the tongue to serve to avarice, another which is bent on robbery by open force. For we ‘gnaw’ when we wear away any thing outwardly with strong effort. For there is ‘licking’ when that which cannot be eaten with ease is tasted by the lightness of the tongue being pressed upon it. All persons then who even under a guise of faith live wickedly, who long after what belongs to another, but are not any way able to seize upon the object that they long after, but try by flattering speeches, and as it were by the softening of sweetness, to carry off the things coveted, what else do they save ‘lick the ground?’ because the several things of earth, which they cannot by power, they strive to make away with by the softness of the tongue. But they who are sustained in this world by any degree of power, and whilst coveting the things of others, scorn indeed to cozen by deceit, because they are able even by unjust strength to fulfil what they have a mind for, the thing that they long for these persons do not ‘lick’ but ‘gnaw’; because they demolish the life of their fellow-creatures by the forcibleness of power as by the effect of teeth. So then let Holy Church regard the true riches of the Eternal Country, let her behold the throng of the citizens Above, let her discern in her Elect Children the culture of the mind, and the excellencies of countless virtues, and from these let her recall the eye of the mind to the life of the wicked, which is made void of all goodness, and by comparison with them let her see how and in what way that life is destitute of all virtuous attainments, because it has abandoned the things on high, and coveted those beneath. Let her see how very often that thing which he longs for, if perchance he has power, he even seizes by violence. Let her see that she has long been subject to such persons as set within her pale, and that by their offences she has come even to the very jeopardy and hurts of the good too, and let her say, Who gnawed in solitude. As though she complained openly, saying, ‘The things of others they would not gnaw, even by seizing them by violence, except they themselves first remained in their own interior solitary, and bare of the culture of virtues.’ But she rightly explains the kind and sort of those, saying, Scurvy with affliction and misery. For unhealthy flesh, if it be overlooked to be heedfully taken care of, is by foulness growing over it worse pressed with disease, and whilst to the misfortune of sickness the wretchedness of neglect is superadded, heavier inconvenience is undergone by scurf arising.


28. Therefore Human Nature having been created aright, but having sunk into disease by the demerit of its own will, it fell into utter overthrow, because being pressed by countless necessities, it found nought in this life save that whereby it should be beaten down; but whereas those same necessities of our nature we generally minister to beyond what is advisable, and overlook the care of the soul, by the wretchedness of neglect we add to our infirmity the foulness of sin. For the necessities of nature are such as to have this in them fraught with the greatest danger, that often there is no discerning therein, what there is done relating to them in the aim at usefulness, and what in the evil of self-gratification. For very frequently occasion of beguilement being met with, whilst we render the things due to necessity we are doing service to the evil of self-gratification, if our self-excusing cloaks itself with the veil of infirmity before the eyes of discernment, and as it were hides itself under the countenance of discharging the useful. But to let loose the frailty of our nature by neglect is nothing else than to add misery to affliction, and by that misery to redouble the foulness of the vices. Whence holy men, in every thing they do, discriminate with the most earnest aim, that the frailty of their nature exact not from them more than is owed, and that under the cloak of necessity there grow not up in them the evil of gratification. For they undergo one thing from infirmity, and another thing from the prompting of temptation, and being appointed as a kind of most equitable umpires between necessity and pleasure, they lift up the one by comforting, and bridle the other by keeping down. Whence it comes to pass, that even if they are exposed to the affliction of their infirmity, yet they never descend from neglect to the foulness of misery. For this mere thing, to be in affliction, is to be subject to the necessities of nature from the frailty of flesh still liable to corruption. Which same necessities he longed to get quit of, who said, Deliver me from my necessities. [Ps. 25, 17] For he knew that, for the most part, the sins of the pleasures break forth by occasion of necessities, and that he might not of his own will commit aught unlawful, he was busy to have that itself plucked up which he was subject to unwillingly in the roots. [An example of this case is found in St. Augustine’s Confessions, B. x. § 43—47.]


29. But on the other hand, the evil-minded take delight in those necessities of their corrupt state, because they force them back to serve the occasion of gratifications. For while they minister to nature by recruiting their bodies with food, through the gratification of the palate they are swelled out in the glutting of delight. When they seek clothing for covering the limbs, they look out not only for things that may cover, but also may uplift, and against the numbness of cold not only what may defend by thickness, but likewise delight by softness; not only what may soothe the touch by softness, but also beguile the eyes by the colour. So then, to turn occasion of necessity to the use of pleasure, what other thing is it but to join the foulness of misery to his affliction? Thus let the Church, being borne down in the season of adversity, call to mind those by whose deserts she undergoes these things, and let her say, Who gnawed in solitude, scurvy with affliction and misery. They indeed would not be made foul by affliction, if they did not superadd to inherent necessities the misery of gratifications. Which same necessities we have earned by the offence of the first parent. But they who add misery to their affliction, from the torture of punishment, break forth into augmentations of guilt. But would that such persons, whilst they scorn to be changed for the better, did things wrong in such a way as not to proffer them to others as well. Would that their own death only were enough for them, and that by their baneful persuasions they did not kill another’s life likewise. For they grudge others being what they are not, they grieve for others to obtain the thing that they lose; for if by chance they perceive any good points springing up in the acts of others, they directly pluck them up with the hand of mischievous reviling. Whence too it follows, And they did eat herbs and the barks of trees.


30. For what is denoted by ‘herbs,’ but the life of those beginning well tender and close to the ground? and what by the barks of trees, but the outward deeds of those who henceforth seek after things aloft? For bad men, when they see persons beginning what is right, either by deriding or as if counselling them, offer opposition. But when they now think with themselves that certain persons are making way to the highest things, because they cannot wholly and entirely scatter to the winds their advancements, they divert those persons from some of their deeds. Thus then to ‘eat herbs and the barks of trees,’ is by pestilent persuasions as by a kind of teeth of their evil-mindedness to scatter to nought, whether the aims of those beginning aright, or the doings of persons now henceforth after the manner of trees making towards that which is above. The children of perdition ‘eat herbs,’ when by scoffing they consume the beginnings of the frail sort. Likewise they ‘eat the barks of trees,’ when with the hand of evil counsel they withdraw from the life of those growing rightly the covering of good deeds. Now these latter they strip like trees in particular actions, but those because like herbs they drag whilst despising them, they as it were eat what they tread under them. The strength of some now rising on high they in part make away with, but the tenderness of some even still placed below they utterly break in pieces. So then let him say, they eat herbs and the barks of trees, because by wicked mockings in some they broke up piecemeal external deeds, and in some hearts in hope growing lively.


31. Or surely to ‘eat herbs’ is to copy some things light and tender belonging to the ancient Fathers. Whilst to ‘eat the barks of trees’ is to practise their deeds so far as the outside, but in these same works not to maintain a right intention. For there are some persons who, whereas they cannot obtain the glory of the present world by that world’s courses of conduct, seek after a semblance of sanctity, assume the garb of reverence, long to appear imitators of the old Fathers, and some few things indeed, little and light, they do employ themselves upon, but their strong things, and such as come forth from the root of charity alone, they are indifferent to imitate. These truly ‘eat herbs,’ because they overlook what is great, and are filled with what is worthless. Yet very often they put in execution even some deeds seemingly more vigorous, but they do not hold a right intention in those same deeds. To which persons surely to ‘eat the barks of trees’ is to take to them the outward acts of the Elect, and not to have a good intention in good acts. For whilst for the sake of human applause they search out right deeds, but are indifferent to imitate the heart of those doing rightly, they are filled ‘by the barks of trees’ alone. For with all the desire they seek after the glory or abundance of the present life. Whence too it is rightly subjoined, And the root of junipers was their meat.


32. For being set within by faith, whilst they for the most part lend themselves to thoughts of avarice, they as it were ‘eat’ that, whereby in the final close of life the roughnesses of punishments are put forth. Which persons, while they do not long after the fruitage of divine revelation, but make themselves subservient for the going after things temporal, are never filled with the bread of wheat, but with the ‘root of the juniper.’ For the mere things springing up from what is beneath and lowest engross them, that they may prick them afterwards after the manner of the juniper by the hardness of recompensing, as by the sharpness of leaves. For whilst they despise God here, they are never made sensible what great evil it is that they do. For still they are ‘eating the root of the juniper,’ but how sharp the branches of this root are they do not give heed; because verily bad conduct now as it were in the root gives delight in sin, but afterwards as it were in the branches it pricks in punishment. Where also it is well subjoined; Who, carrying these same off from the valleys, when they found each one, did run thereto with clamour.


33. In comparison surely with things above, all the present life is a ‘valley.’ But these, because they know not to contemplate the heights of mountains, i.e. the strong deeds of the Saints, are always busied in the lowest gratification as in ‘the valleys,’ and when they find any gain, even of a slight acquisition, they run with clamouring, because they strive even by wrangling to make off with this, for ‘upon each being found in the valley to run with clamour,’ is on the occasions of cases arising to wrangle even for small payment. Now it very often happens that him, whom good conduct exhibits as holy, occasion of earthly advantage springing up puts to the proof. For you may see persons already employed on what is lofty, already in the practice of abstinence, already in the work of instruction, following after the patterns of the fathers that went before; but when they suddenly find the gain of the present life, as the fruit of the valley, they ‘run thereto with clamour’; because the quiet of overlaid sanctity being broken through they spring forth to that.


34. It may be too that by ‘herbs and the barks of trees’ not only the deeds of the good are meant, as has been said before, but consolations and blessings in this life. For oftentimes Almighty God, when He enriches His Elect with interior gifts, uplifts them with external honours as well. And while He renders them objects of honour by advancing them above others, He exhibits them the wider as objects of imitation; and sometimes the evil-minded despise indeed the life of those, but long to attain their good success in this world. And so because they seek here below the flatteries of transitory comfort, they ‘eat herbs’; because in their thoughts they dwell on the external glory of these persons, they ‘chew the barks of trees’; and because in all these they minister to avarice alone with the entire bent of their mind, they are filled with the ‘root of the juniper.’ All which things they ‘carry off from the valleys,’ because from love of this low corruptible life they are made to burn with boundless lusts. And ‘when they find each one, they run thereto with clamours,’ because surely of the holy Fathers, whose merits they never seek to acquire, they are busy to lay hold of the posts and governments, and when they very frequently cannot attain these by quiet means, they even try it by bursting asunder the peacefulness of concord.


35. And for this that these are widely separated from the conduct of the Fathers going before, it is rightly subjoined; They dwelled in the desert places of torrents, and in the caves of the earth, or upon the gravel. For on the side of good we rightly take the ‘torrents’ for the holy preachers, who whilst in the present life they flow into us by divine effusions, are as it were collected by a concourse of waters in the winter season. Who also withdraw themselves on the summer sun appearing, because when the light of the Eternal Country shines forth, they will cease to preach. ‘The desert places of these torrents’ are the benefits of the life of time. For these they abandon, and betake themselves to the obtaining of heavenly gains. But all these that ‘torrent’ had forsaken who said; For whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung. [Phil. 3, 8] But because the minds of the wicked seek to obtain those things in this life, which the righteous abandon despising them, they are related to ‘dwell in the desert places of the torrents.’ For those things which are unworthy of the Saints, those same long to win as great. But the ‘caves of the earth’ are wicked thoughts, in which they bury themselves from the eyes of their fellow-creatures. For as they are evil, they shun being seen by men, and whilst they pretend themselves something else than what they are, they conceal themselves in the lurking places of their conscience, as ‘in caves of the earth,’ which persons would not do all these things, unless they were hopeless of an eternal and substantial life, unless they set their mind in this uncertainty of the temporal state. Whence it is well added, Or upon the gravel.


36. For the ‘gravel’ is the present life, which by the mere failure of mutability, as by the impulse of a river, is unceasingly being brought to its end. Hence to ‘dwell upon the gravel’ is to attach one’s self to the tide of the present life, and there to set the bent of the mind, where it cannot stablish the step by standing firmly. There is another circumstance ‘in gravel,’ which ought in no wise to be passed over in silence, namely, that when the foot is set upon the top of it, it slips by the mere rolling tendency thereof, and is made to roll down to the bottom. From which circumstance the life of the wicked is in nothing at variance, because whilst for love of the world they set themselves to do some things lawful and respectable, they in a manner set the foot flat upon the top, but suddenly the foot slips to the bottom, because their course of conduct, whilst it ever seeks after more, descends even to what is wicked and unlawful. So then, when Holy Church meets with the crosses of this period, let her in remembrance have recourse to the life of the carnal, whom even in her prosperity she bore as adversaries to her, and by whose deserts it is that she suffers these things let her see and know, saying, They dwelled in the desert places of torrents, and in caves of the earth, and upon the gravel. For because they are bared of the teaching of the Fathers, they are related to ‘dwell in the desert places of the torrents’; because they cover themselves up in the hidden thoughts of the heart, they are related to ‘dwell in caves of the earth’; whilst because they desire to fix their aim in the changeableness of the present state of being, they are related to ‘dwell upon the gravel.’ But would that such, seeing that sins when they tempt they have no mind to do violence to, even after they have been committed, cleansed them away by weeping: would that at all events, when done, they acquainted themselves with their evil deeds, ‘and applied to the barren fig-tree the basket of dung, i.e. to the unfruitful soul the richness of lamenting.


37. But the mind of man has for the most part this thing proper to it, that as soon as ever it falls into transgression, it is still further removed from the knowledge of self. For this very evil, that it commits, inserts itself to the soul as a bar before the eye of reason. Whence it comes to pass, that the soul, being first encompassed by voluntary darkness, afterwards does not any longer even know the good it should seek. For the more it attaches itself to evil things, the less does it apprehend the good ones that it loses. Since the light of truth, because it minutely tries the offences of lost sinners, in the same degree that it is neglected when had, so does it, judging rigidly, allow it to be, that not even when lost it should be sought back, and when it is banished from the act, it departs from the perception; that that whereof the face, as it were, is slighted in practice, should now no longer have its very hinder parts appear in the remembrance. Thus, hence it is that lost sinners, whilst subject to sins to be lamented, rejoice; concerning whom it is said by Solomon, Who rejoice to do evil, and delight in the worst things. [Prov. 2, 14] Hence it is that occasions of lamentations they go through dancing; hence it is that the business of their death they carry on laughing. Whence here also it is fitly subjoined,

Ver. 7. Who rejoiced in the midst of the like, and reckoned there were delights under the brambles.




38. ‘They rejoice in the midst of the like,’ because, surely, they give heed to the transitory things which they receive, and neglect to look at the lasting blessings which they lose. And whilst they are on fire with the love of things temporal, they are willingly ignorant of the true joy. Which same if they earnestly sought to acquaint themselves with, how greatly the delights which they seek after are to be wept for, they would see. But, while they are unconcerned to know what are better, they choose those alone for themselves, as the highest, which flatter the eyes in the visible by a fleeting beguilement. That is to say, they fix fast their heart, following after the visible, and rejoice so much the more outwardly, in proportion as they are without the remembrance of themselves inwardly. Yet, generally, there are mixed with their joys calamities, and by the actual things, by which they are filled with pride, they are scourged. For neither can they, without grievous inconveniences of anxieties, either seek when not possessed, or retain when sought, the temporal things that they desire; among their equals aim at superior glory; from inferiors exact respect beyond what is meet, and to superiors shew forth the same less than they ought; for the most part display the mastery by masterfulness; ever do what is wicked, and yet, that they may not have the credit of wickedness, guard themselves with dread. All these things surely sting the wretched persons, but those same stings they do not feel, from being overcome by the mere love of the things of time. And hence it is rightly said now, And reckoned there were delights under the brambles; because, being closely encompassed by the enjoyments of sins, from the affecting of the present life, how sharp the things they are that they undergo they are not aware.


39. Therefore they ‘rejoice,’ but ‘under brambles’; because they delight in earthly things indeed, but yet, whilst they are unable to manage those same things of time without trouble, the wretched persons are stung by that same care which they are pressed by. They continue ‘under the brambles,’ and this very thing they account delight, because they at once endure hardships indeed from the love of the present life, but yet, being bound about by the absorption of over-great desire, they account the trouble of that endurance to be pleasure. Hence Jeremiah, rightly taking upon himself the likeness of all human conduct, complains in lament, saying, He has made me drunken with; wormwood. [Lam. 3, 15] For as we have already said before in a part above, any one drunk knows nothing what he is undergoing. But he that is made ‘drunk with wormwood,’ both has the thing that he has taken bitter, and yet does not understand that same bitterness which he is filled with. So the race of man, being by the right judgment of God left to themselves in their pleasures, and by those same pleasures consigned to voluntary sufferings, is ‘drunk with wormwood’; because both these are bitter things which it endures for the love of this life, and yet that same bitterness, by the blindness of concupiscence, as by the insensibility of drunkenness, it remains ignorant of. For thirsting after the glory of the world, whilst it finds instead thereof numberless tribulations, what it drinks is bitter. But because it took this too eagerly, from mere drunkenness it is not now able to discern the evil of that bitterness. For bad men, for the sake of the glory of this world, love tribulations even, and on account of it willingly lend themselves to all toils, and most devotedly submit their necks to the yoke of heavy labours. Which is well described by Hosea whilst prophesying, under the likeness of Ephraim, saying, And Ephraim is a heifer that is taught to love threshing. [Hos. 10, 11] For a heifer accustomed to the labours of threshing, very often, when loosed, returns even not forced to the same customariness of labour. So the mind of the wicked being devoted to the services of this world, and accustomed to the wearyings of temporal things, even if it be allowed to be freely at liberty to itself, yet is eager to submit itself to earthly pains and toils, and seeks the usage [al. ‘from usage’] of a wretched way of life, ‘the threshing’ of labour, that it should not be acceptable, even if it were allowable, to give over the yoke of worldly servitude. Which same yoke the Lord loosed from the neck of the disciples, when He said, And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness; and straightway added, and cares of this life; and so that day come upon you unawares. [Luke 21, 34] And again, Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart. [Matt. 11, 28] What is it for the Lord to call Himself ‘meek and lowly’ in preceptorship, save leaving behind the difficulties for exercising self-exaltation, to point out some plain ways of living well? But because the minds of the wicked are more pleased by what is harsh in self-exalting than by what is gentle in mildness and humility, they ‘suppose there are delights under brambles.’ For from love of the world they are ready to bear what is hard as things soft and delightful, whilst they try in this life to lay hold of the topmost pinnacles of affairs.

40. The Lord bids ceasing from the labours of the world, He prompts the sweetness of holy tranquillity, and yet the frenzied mind of the wicked is more rejoiced to obtain what is harsh in the carnal way than to hold what is mild in the spiritual way. It is more fed by the bitterness of wearisomeness than by the sweetness of tranquillity. Which the Israelitish people openly shews us in itself, which same, whilst it received the refreshment of manna from above, lusted after the flesh-pots, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, from Egypt. [Numb. 11, 5] For what is denoted by the ‘manna,’ but the food of grace, having a sweet savour, given from Above for the refreshment of the interior life to persons rightly free? And what by the ‘flesh-pots,’ saving carnal works, which are with difficulty to be dressed by the toils of tribulations, as by fires? What by ‘melons,’ but earthly sweets? What by ‘leeks and onions,’ which those who eat very often shed tears, excepting the hardness of the present life, which is both gone through by the lovers of it not without mourning, and notwithstanding is loved with tears? Therefore, forsaking ‘manna,’ together with melons and fleshmeats they sought leeks and onions, surely because bad minds despise the gifts of tranquillity, sweet by grace, and for the sake of carnal pleasures they covet the wearisome ways of this life, even though full of tears; they scorn to have where they may rejoice in a spiritual manner, and ardently seek where they may even groan in a carnal way. So then, let Job with a truth-telling voice rebuke the madness of these persons, for no other reason than that by a perverted judgment they set the troubled before the tranquil, the hard before the gentle, the harsh before the mild, the transitory before the eternal, the suspicious before the assured. The madness of such let Holy Church call to remembrance, when she is encompassed with cruel adversities without, which persons she held within herself as if believers, but for long endured their life opposing the faith, and let her say, Who rejoiced in the midst of the like, and reckoned there were delights under brambles; surely, because the evil things that they do, they learnt by the badness of the wicked going before. Whence also it is rightly subjoined;

Ver. 8. They were children of fools, yea children of base men.


41. It is right for us to know that some within the pale of Holy Church are styled ‘fools,’ but yet ‘noble,’ whilst others are ‘fools’ and ‘base.’ For they are called ‘fools,’ but cannot be ‘base,’ who contemning the wisdom of the flesh, desire foolishness that shall stand them in stead, and after the newness of the interior descent are exalted by the nobility of virtue, who set at nought the foolish wisdom of the world, and covet the wise foolishness of God. Since it is written, Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men. This ‘foolishness’ Paul charges ourselves to lay hold of, when he says, If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. [1 Cor. 1, 25] This ‘foolishness’ they that perfectly followed obtained to hear from the voice of Wisdom, Ye which have followed Me in the regeneration, when the Son of Man shall sit in the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. [Matt. 19, 28] Mark how by abandoning temporal things they purchased the glory of eternal power. Accordingly what is there more foolish in this world than to abandon one’s own? And what more noble in the eternal world than to come with God as judges? Verily the nobility of these judges is made mention of by Solomon bearing record, where this which I have already spoken before is said, Her husband is noble in the gates, when he sitteth among the senators of the land. [Prov. 31, 23] For noble above measure does he regard those, whom he calls ‘senators.’ This ‘nobility’ Paul had beheld in himself, when being united by the spirit to the relationship of the Creator, he said, Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone graven by art or man’s device; [Acts 17, 29] i.e. we are styled ‘the offspring of God,’ not as being brought forth in His Nature, but as being by His Spirit both created by His Will and made anew by His adoption. So much the more then is each one lifted up to this nobility, in proportion as he is renewed in the image he has received to the likeness of That Being in a copy.


42. But contrariwise they are ‘fools and base men,’ who while, in following themselves, they flee from the wisdom Above, are lulled to sleep in their ignorance as in the vileness of an abject descent. For in proportion as they do not understand that for which they were made, in the same measure they lose the relationship of high birth vouchsafed then in the Likeness. So they are ‘fools and base men,’ whom the slavery of the soul withholds from the fellowship of the Eternal Inheritance. As it is written, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. [John 8, 34] And it is spoken by the voice of the great preacher, For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. [1 Cor. 3, 19] They then, who whilst they were wise in earthly things were held back from the interior nobility, were ‘fools and base men’ at once. Whose actions while very many imitate they are rendered ‘the children of fools and base men,’ and whilst they follow these in notions and practices, they are at once ‘fools,’ because they do not understand true wisdom, and ‘base men,’ because they are not renewed by any freedom of the Spirit. But these persons though they may practise the arts of the wicked, yet very often in this life occupy the places of the just, and they account themselves the children of those, whose offices from lust of honour they outwardly discharge. Which persons holy correction recals to the knowledge of themselves, i.e. that being settled in bad desires, they should mind whose children they are. For they are not the children of those whose places they occupy, but whose deeds they execute: Therefore let it be rightly said, The children of fools and base men. Where it is fitly subjoined;

And on earth utterly not appearing.




43. For as there are very many persons upon earth, and they are hidden from the knowledge of their fellow creatures by the lowness of their vile condition, as by a kind of overlaying of a cloak, so there are some in the Church, who whilst they submit themselves to the degradation of wicked deeds, are not known to the Divine sight. To which persons it is one day to be said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. So, ‘to be on earth and appear’ is in a right faith through the excellency of practice to display the nobility of the soul. ‘To be on earth and utterly not appear,’ is to be set fast in the Church indeed by faith, but to show forth nothing worthy of faith in practice. These then being within the pale of Holy Church, to the eyes of the Divine Being both ‘appear’ in respect of judgment, and yet do ‘not appear’ in respect of the deserts of a good life, because those things, which by confessing they hold, by living they do not shew forth. Concerning whom Paul saith, They profess that they know God, but in works they deny Him. [Tit. 1, 16] These persons in Holy Church bear down rather than venerate the faith which they protest that they hold, whereas by her name they covet rather to secure their own profits than her’s. But the Elect, whilst they take care to preserve the deservingness of faith by right deeds, are brought near to the knowledge of their Maker even amidst the throngs of lost sinners. Which is well denoted in the Gospel by the woman suffering from the bloody flux. Concerning whom the Lord says, Who touched Me? Peter answered reasoning, Master, the multitude throng Thee and press Thee, and sayest Thou, Who touched Me? [Luke 8, 45. 46.] But he obtained to hear the causes in true reason, when the Lord said to him, Somebody hath touched Me, for I likewise perceive that virtue is gone out of Me. See how the throng ‘pressed’ the Lord, but she only ‘touched’ Him, who came to Him in humility, because surely even many lost sinners in Holy Church by learning ‘press’ the truth, which same they neglect to ‘touch’ by living well. They ‘press’ and are far off, because by professions they follow Divine knowledge, by habits flee it. They ‘press,’ I say, and are far off, because by acting they contradict that faith, which by speaking they assert. As then we are instructed by this testimony, that by touching some do not ‘touch’ the Lord, so some are not ‘seen’ by the Lord, even when they are seen; because to His secret regards, and for the punishment of condemnation, they do appear, but for the claim of Election they do not appear. Therefore let it be rightly said, And on earth utterly not appearing, because though the Church held them to the extent of seeming, yet those being within her the Creator did not see, in that He did not know them. Who in the season of peace for this reason maintain the faith to the extent of words, because they see that that faith flourishes generally. But when a sudden storm of adversity rises up against that Church, they are directly parted from her by a public denial; and whatever they before held as if venerating her, they afterwards fight against the same as deriding her. Whence it is fitly added;

Ver. 9. And now am I their song, yea, I am become their byword.




44. By which same words that time of Holy Church is set forth, when she is openly derided by the lost; when the wicked gaining ground, faith shall be for a reproach, and truth shall be for a ground of accusation. For so much the more contemptible shall each individual be in proportion as he may be more righteous; and the worse object of abhorrence, the more worthy object of praise. Therefore the Holy Church of the Elect in the time of calamity ‘becomes a proverb’ to the wicked, because when they see the good die by torments, they take their likeness of cursing from those. For in proportion as they see a passing death, but do not see a lasting life, so much the more in scoffing do they flee present ills, in proportion as by the understanding interiorly they do not reach to lasting goods. But the particulars that are subjoined because they are not involved in obscurer sorts of sentences, we must run through in brief, that we may be able to come the sooner to those parts, wherein we have to labour. It goes on;

Ver. 10. They abhor me, they flee far from me, and spare not to spit in my face.




45. All the wicked ‘fly far’ from Holy Church, not by the paces of footsteps, but by the characters of practices; they fly far not in place, but desert, whereas, pride gaining ground, they contemn her with open upbraiding. For ‘to spit in his face’ is not only to detract from the good in absence, but to give the lie to each one of the just even in presence. And these then whilst the wicked by openly deriding set at nought, they as it were let out in insults upon them loose words, like streams of spittle running down. But Holy Church knows how to gain ground in sufferings, and in the midst of reproaches to maintain an honourable life; she is taught neither to be cast down by adversities, nor to glory in prosperity. She is instructed, in meeting prosperity, to lay low the mind in downcasting; she is taught, in meeting adversity, to lift up the soul to the hope of the height above. She knows how to ascribe her good things to the mercifulness of the Redeemer, she knows how to ascribe her evil things to the justice of the Judge, that both what is good she has by His bestowing, and what is bad she suffers by His permitting. And hence He immediately adds touching the Lord, saying,

Ver. 11. Because He hath opened His quiver and afflicted me.




46. What is denoted by ‘the quiver’ of God, but secret counsel? Now the Lord casts the arrow from the quiver, when from His secret counsel He sends forth an open sentence. For that any man is scourged, we know, but for what cause the scourge comes, we know not. But when after the scourge amendment of life follows, the actual power of counsel is itself disclosed as well. So the quiver shut is hidden counsel. But we are chastened by an open quiver, when by that which follows after the scourge, we see with what counsel we are stricken. When the Lord beholds sins, and yet does not move the hand to vengeance, He as it were holds the quiver shut, but by striking He shews, how greatly that displeased Him in us, which He bore long beholding it. Therefore let the Holy Church of the Elect being pressed by tribulations say, For He hath opened His quiver, and afflicted me. Which same on meeting with the insolent voices of her adversaries, when she sees that her preaching is not received, giving over the hardness of some, restrains the words of her preaching. For reflecting that her persecutors are rendered worse at the voice of her exhortation, she rather prefers to hold her peace. And when she sees them persons unworthy to hear, she binds up her preaching with silence drawn over. Whence he fitly adds;

And put a bridle into my mouth.




47. They were acquainted with ‘a bridle put upon themselves’ before certain persons, who said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you, but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. [Acts 13, 46] Holy men see ‘the bridle’ of silence put upon themselves with the hard hearts of lost sinners, when they say by the Prophet, How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? [Ps. 137, 4] Paul also charged ‘a bridle to be put,’ who enjoined the disciple, saying, A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject, knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth condemned of himself. [Tit. 3, 10] For holy teachers very often by lofty ken survey the hearts of those that oppose them, and when they see those hearts forsaken by God, afflicted and groaning they hold their peace. Doth not Solomon sometimes ‘put a bridle’ upon the teachers, who saith, Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee, [Prov. 9, 8] but if we hold our peace from rebuking for this reason, because we are afraid for the scorner’s hates to rise up against us, we no longer seek God’s profits, but our own. Wherein it requires to be known that sometimes when bad men are reproved they become worse. Them therefore we spare, and not ourselves, if from the love of those we cease from the rebuking of them. Whence it is needful that we sometimes endure keeping to ourselves what they are, in order that they may learn in us by good living [al. ‘by seeing’] what they are not. Therefore because Holy Church, who ever gives forth her words in a spirit of charity, sometimes also withholds them on the principle of charity, let her say, He hath put a bridle in my mouth. As though he confessed openly, saying, ‘Because in some I did not see the advancement of preaching, from those I refrained assault, that my life at all events by patience they might be taught, whereas my words they would not by the preaching proffered consent to receive.’ But very often this grieves us most in tribulations, that we meet with them from those, in whom we trusted with the love of kin. And hence it is added;

Ver. 12. At the right hand of the East my calamities on the spot arose.




48. For ‘calamities’ would ‘rise to the left,’ if at the hand of any persons set without the pale of Religion, and openly denying Christ, she met with the adverse dealings of persecution. But when she undergoes from persons seemingly believers the trial of tormentings, it is as if calamities arose to her at the right hand, because they who are enlisted under Christ’s name, assail Christ’s name in her. For by the very usage of speech we speak of having as ‘on the right’ what we account as great, and as on the left that which we look down upon, which Zechariah openly teaches, saying, And he shewed me Jesus the high priest standing before the Angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. [Zech. 3, 1. 2.] Who that he might the more plainly shew this that he set before, added going on; And the Lord said unto Satan, The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan; even the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee. Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire? Now Jesus was clothed with filthy garments. ‘Jesus was [al. ‘is spoken of as’] clothed with filthy garments,’ because though He was a stranger to all sin, yet He came into the likeness of the flesh of sin. And to Him on His coming Satan stood on His right hand. For the Lord appeared to hold the Jewish People as great, and the Gentiles as nought. But after that He appeared Incarnate, the Gentile world, which had been held as ‘on the left’ believed, whilst the Jewish People swerved aside to unbelief. Thus ‘Satan stood on the right hand to Him’; because he carried off from Him that People, which had been for a long while beloved. But because that same Jewish people, being now lost, shall in the end one day believe, as the Prophet testifies, who says, The remnant shall be saved; [Is. 10, 21] the Lord removes Satan from His right hand, saying, The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan. And betokening the deliverance of that same people, he adds, because He hath chosen Jerusalem. Which same people because under the guidance of unbelief it let itself run down to the burnings of hell, but whilst it is brought back to faith, is set free from that same burning of everlasting fire, has it directly added there concerning it, Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?


49. So then as there for ‘the right hand’ the Jewish people is denoted, so in this place by the term of ‘the right hand,’ the faithful people of Holy Church is denoted. And hence the Judge that is to come ‘shall set the goats on His left Hand, and the sheep on His right Hand.’ But when these very persons too fret Holy Church in the time of adversity, who seemed to be of the faithful, surely ‘calamities arise to her on the right hand.’ Now rightly is this same called ‘the right hand of the East’; since it is written of the Head itself of the same, The East is His Name. [Zech. 6, 12 Vul.] For seeing that the light springs from the East, He is rightly called ‘the East,’ by the light of whose righteousness the night of our unrighteousness is enlightened. So ‘calamities arise to the right hand of the East’; because these likewise leap forth to persecution, who were supposed to be Elect Members of our Redeemer. Which same calamities he rightly declares ‘arise on the spot,’ because whereas they who persecute were not persons without her pale, evils are brought about by them suddenly and on the spot. But if ‘the right hand’ is a designation of those who are truly believers, ‘calamities arise to the right of the East,’ because on the crisis of persecution breaking forth, the righteous undergo the cruel assaults of the wicked. It follows;

Ver. 12. They overturned my feet, and oppressed with their footpaths as with waves.




50. What are denoted by the Church’s ‘feet,’ but her outermost members? which while they lend themselves to earthly deeds, are able to be the sooner deceived by adversaries in proportion as they do not understand things on high. Therefore these ‘feet adversaries overturn,’ that is to say, when they draw her outermost members to the error of their doctrine. The ‘feet overturned’ cannot keep the way, in that all the weak being either persuaded by the promises of their persecutors, or affrighted by their threats, or broken by their tortures, swerve from the right path. Now ‘the paths’ of adversaries are rightly likened to waves, when it is said, and they oppressed with their footpaths as with waves; in this way, because the life of the evil-minded, mischievous with wayward restlessness, comes down as a tempest for the overwhelming the ship of the heart, so to say. Concerning which same tempest it is said by Solomon, As a tempest passing, the wicked shall not be. [Prov. 10, 25] And when the weak man sees the froward flourishing, that man the wave of wretched imitation plunges into the sea of frowardness. It follows;

Ver. 13. They did away with my paths, they plotted against me, and prevailed, and there was not any to bring help.




51. Let blessed Job tell these things of evil spirits, i.e. of secret enemies. Let the Church Universal speak them of bad men persecuting, i.e. of open adversaries. For these ‘do away with her paths,’ when in the souls of certain weak ones they interrupt the ways of truth by crafty persuading. These in ‘plotting prevail, when those, whom they cannot openly force to evil, they turn aside by pretending what is good, but that is very wonderful, which he subjoins, And there was not any one to bring help, when the Psalmist exclaims touching the help of God; A helper in seasons, in tribulation. And, Let them hope in Thee, who know Thy Name, for Thou, Lord, wilt not forsake those that seek Thee. [Ps. 9, 9. 10.] And when it is written again, Did ever any trust in the Lord and was confounded? or did any abide in His commandments, and was forsaken? Or whom did He ever despise, that called upon Him? [Ecclus. 2, 10] On what principle, then, is it now said; And there was not any to bring help, excepting that those, whom Almighty God loves for all eternity, He sometimes leaves for a time? Whence it is written; For a small moment have I forsaken thee, and with great mercies will I gather thee. In a little wrath I hid My face from thee for a moment, and with everlasting kindness will I have mercy upon thee. [Is. 54, 7. 8.] Hence too the Psalmist besought, saying, O forsake me not utterly. [Ps. 119, 8] He then knew that he might be left for a little while with advantage, who prayed that he might not be ‘utterly forsaken.’ For the Lord by coming helps His Saints, by ‘leaving’ puts them to the proof, by gifts he establishes, by tribulations he tries. Whence too it is rightly said by one of Wisdom, For at the first she will walk with him by crooked ways, and bring fear and dread upon him, and torment him with her discipline until she try him in his thoughts. [Ecclus. 4, 17] Since the soul of the righteous grace calls, trial puts to the question. And Almighty God allows the adversaries of His Elect to grow to a height in time, that the life of the good may be purified by the pitilessness of the bad.


52. Since the Lord would never suffer them to be hostile to the good except he also saw what great good they did. For whilst the unrighteous deal cruelly, the righteous are purified, and the life of the wicked is enlisted to the advantage of the innocent, in that this same both by bearing down it abases, and by abasing ever fashions to better. Hence too it is rightly said by Solomon; the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart. [Prov. 11, 29] And yet we often see the wise subordinate, and fools occupying the stronghold of dominion, wise men paying obedience in servitude, and fools lording it with tyrannical exultation. How then by the marking out of God’s sentence is ‘the fool servant to the wise,’ when generally speaking he keeps him down by the right of temporal dominion? But it is to be borne in mind, that whilst against the life of the wise man the fool being uppermost enforces the terribleness of power, whilst he wearies him out with labours, rends him with insults, such a person surely by burning he purges from all the rust of bad habits. Thus the fool even in ruling is ‘servant to the wise,’ in that by bearing him down he advances him to a better state. In this way it is sometimes the case that over masters under age servants are set for the tutorage of discipline, they frighten, they bear hard upon them, strike them, yet do not at all cease to be servants, because they are appointed to this very end, that to their masters whilst progressing they should render service even by striking them. Therefore because the ills of the children of perdition purify whilst they torment the good, even the power of the wicked is enlisted to the welfare of the just. But very often the just when seized by tribulation account the hand of Him Who helps them slow, when the barbarity of those persecuting them wrings them somewhat too long. And the remedies of the deliverer indeed are quickened, but that which is done quickly by the deliverer, appears slow to him that is in grief. And when there is sought help to present itself to the supplicating voice, if it does not follow the voice directly, it is reckoned that it is wanting. Whence it is said now; And there was not any one to bring help. In which same utterance we have set forth the actual force of the suffering, because help from Above, though it is there as to the appointed providence of the protector, yet is thought to be wanting as to the quickened wishes of the sufferer. It follows;

Ver. 14. As by a wall being broken, and a door being opened, they rushed in upon me, and were rolled down to my miseries.




53. What is in this place designated by the title of ‘a wall,’ but the Redeemer of the human race, concerning whom it is said by the Prophet for the edifying of Holy Church, There shall be set in her a wall and a bulwark? [Is. 26, 1] For that same Redeemer is ‘a wall’ to us, Who forbids the rushing of evil spirits to reach to our hearts. Who also set ‘a bulwark’ as well to our faith, because before that He shewed Himself in flesh, He sent prophets as preachers of His mystery. Since they are rightly entitled by the name of ‘a bulwark,’ [‘antemurale’] because, whereas they preached the Lord coming after, they stood as it were ‘before the wall.’ But it is as if ‘the wall were broken,’ when by the promptings of the wicked, faith, which is in our Redeemer, is done away in the hearts of some. And when power is awarded to the perverse in this life, what else but ‘a door’ of error is opened? And so it is as if the wall being burst asunder and the door opened the wicked rush in upon the good, when power being received temporally, the corrupt set themselves to pull down the very defences of faith too in the hearts of some. Concerning whom it is fitly said; And were rolled down for my miseries; that is to say, because in the first instance to their own miseries. For except that by living corruptly they fell before to their own ‘miseries,’ they would never afterwards persuade others also to those miseries. But after their own the children of perdition are ‘rolled down to our miseries’ also, when to those evil things wherein they are themselves already involved, they draw persons as well who are linked to ourselves.


54. It is possible too that by the title of a wall may be understood the defence of discipline, as Solomon bears witness, who says, I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding. And lo, it was all grown over with nettles, and thorns had covered the face thereof; and the stone wall thereof was broken down. [Prov. 24, 30. 31.] For to ‘pass by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding,’ is to look into the life of any careless liver, and to take a view of his deeds. Which same ‘nettles or thorns fill up,’ because in the hearts of the careless, itching earthly desires and the prickles of bad habits sprout forth, since it is written, In desires is every one that is idle. ‘The stone wall was pulled down,’ i.e. the discipline of the Fathers was loosened from his heart. For because ‘the stone wall being pulled down’ he saw that discipline was loosened, he directly added in that place going on; Then I saw and laid it up in my heart; and by example I learned instruction. And therefore as it were the wall being burst the enemy enters in, when by the crafty persuading either of evil spirits, or of bad men, the defences of discipline in the heart are scattered away. But when the vigour of that same discipline is relaxed in the heart of the lost, in their eyes all the deeds of the good are had in contempt, and they account it nothing, whatever they see relating to virtues in the Elect. And hence it is added;

Ver. 15. I was reduced to nought.




55. For in the reckoning of the wicked we are ‘brought to nought,’ when those temporal goods, which they themselves love as chief, we do not retain in our bands. Because the promises from Above being disregarded they desire the things of earth, and if ever aught rises up in the mind of those persons in the way of longing after the Eternal world, it is quickly done away by transitory gratification springing up. And hence it is directly subjoined;

As the wind thou didst take away my desire.


Since the faithful People declares that itself suffers that, wherein those whom it loves it grieves should suffer. Thus ‘the wind takes away desire,’ when any transitory object does away the longing after Eternity. And hence it is yet further fitly subjoined; And as a cloud my health hath passed away. Since the cloud towers on high, but the breath of wind drives it into career. Thus, surely, then is it with the temporal good things of the wicked. They appear as it were by loftiness of honour to pass their time as on high, but they are daily driven on to the career of life as by a kind of blasts of their mortality. So ‘health passes as a cloud,’ because the glory of the wicked, in the degree that it is lofty, is not fixed. But after the desires and the courses of persons going weakly have been finished, the discourse is made to turn to the voice of the Elect, when it is forthwith introduced,

Ver. 16. But now my soul in mine own self is withered, and the days of affliction have taken hold upon me.




56. Since ‘the soul’ of the Elect ‘withers now,’ because it is afterwards made green in that eternal triumphing. ‘Now, the days of affliction take hold upon them,’ because the days of joy follow afterwards. As it is written, To him that feareth God it shall go well at the last. [Ecclus. 1, 13. 19.] And again it is delivered touching the Church, And she shall laugh in the last day. [Prov. 31, 25] For now is the time of affliction to the good, that one day exulting may follow them apart from tears. Hence it is elsewhere said by those, Thou hast humbled us in the place of affliction. [Ps. 44, 19] Since ‘the place of affliction’ is the present life, so the righteous here below, i.e. ‘in the place of affliction,’ are ‘humbled,’ because in the eternal life, i.e. in the place of delight, they are elevated. But when he said that ‘the soul was withered,’ he rightly put before too, in mine own self; because in our own selves, indeed, our soul is afflicted, but in God refreshed, and it is become far removed from the greenness of joy, in proportion as still being withheld from the light of the Creator, it draws back to itself. But then it attains to the greenness of true joy, when being lifted up by the grace of eternal contemplation it even transcends its very self. Now these particulars which we have run through by allegorical investigating, it is requisite that we hold in all points after the history as well. Which particulars however I now for this reason pass over, because I am not unaware that they are plain to those that read them. Now in the days of final persecution, because there are many that are lost and a small number that are saved, for this reason the holy man, in the time of his suffering, both utters few particulars touching the good, and a great many touching the wicked. And hence he directly turns his words to the person of those who are brought to the ground, and so conveys his own circumstances, that the things he relates may accord with those that fall. Thus it follows;

Ver. 17. In the night season my bone is pierced with pangs, and they that eat me sleep not.




57. If we mark the history by itself, the case appears plain, because the body of the holy man, through the hollows of ulcers, a swarming multitude of worms was wounding. But if we dive into the mystery of the allegory, what are denoted by ‘the bones,’ but the strong ones severally in the body of Holy Church? Who, as it were, by their solidity hold together the members, while they bear with stedfastness the practices of those going weakly. But when the heat of the last tribulation is grown to a head against her, in the night season her bone is pierced with pangs; because sometimes being overcome with torments, even the very persons let themselves run off to faithlessness, who seemed to be keeping fast others to the faith. Therefore she says, In the night season my bone is pierced with pangs. As though she said in plain words, ‘Pressed with the darkness of tribulation, they are so penetrated with affliction, that even the very persons, who had within me the firmness of strength, have now, as it were, a kind of piercing of fear.’ And it is well said, And they that eat me take no sleep; because the evil spirits, that ‘eat up’ all the carnal out of the Church, know not how to rest from tempting in proportion as they are not burthened with any weight of flesh. But the persecutors of Holy Church, because they are very corrupt, would that they were few in number! It goes on;

Ver. 18. In, the multitude of them is my garment consumed, and they have bound me about as with the collar of my coat.




58. If we give heed to the history, what else do we take ‘the garment’ of blessed Job for, but his body? whose ‘garment indeed is consumed’ when the flesh is put to torment. But according to the mystery of allegory, ‘the garment’ of Holy Church is the life of the faithful. For as the whole Church together is ‘the garment’ of Christ so the faithful severally are accounted ‘garments’ of that same Church. For if Holy Church were not Christ’s ‘garment,’ Paul surely would not say, That He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle; [Eph. 5, 27] i.e. neither in respect of sin ‘having spot,’ nor in respect of a double mind ‘having wrinkle,’ because both by righteousness she is clean, And by a single bent stretched. She then that is washed that she should not ‘have spot,’ and stretched that she should not ‘have wrinkle,’ assuredly is a ‘garment.’ Therefore as the clothing of Christ is the name given to the whole Church in general, so the clothing of the Church are the souls of the several persons which being converted from error, by believing that same Church, encircle her by attaching themselves with faithfulness to her. Concerning which same the Lord saith to that Church by the Prophet, As I live, saith the Lord, thou shalt surely be clothed with them all, as with an ornament. [Is. 49, 18] But when the storm of cruel persecution arises, very many of the faithful are separated from the love thereof, who seemed to have themselves attached to her heartily. So then let her say, In the multitude of them is my garment consumed; because whilst there are many that torment, the greatest number are brought to an end, who were attached to her by the binding tie of love.


59. Now it is well added, And have bound me about as with the collar of my coat. Since ‘the collar of a coat’ encircles the neck of the wearer, but if the neck is tied up, the use of the voice and the puff of life is done for. Holy Church, then, do the children of perdition ‘tie up as with a collar of a coat,’ because they endeavour by their persecutions to put out in her the life of faith, and the voice of preaching. Since this thing her persecutors are in a special manner wont to essay, that before all things they may take away from her the word of preaching. And hence these persons who withstood the first beginnings of the holy faith told the Apostles beaten with rods, saying, Did we not straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine. [Acts 5, 28] So the body of Holy Church they had as it were girded with ‘the collar of a coat,’ who, the preachers being tied up, as it were pressing her neck, wished to shut up the way of the voice in her. But the several Elect are more ready to die in the time of their persecution than to hold their peace. Who whilst they are brought down in death in the body, are accounted despicable and mean by all the foolish and the carnal, because when the lost are unable to see what good things the Elect hold in the spirit, these whom they see brought to an end in the flesh, they account unhappy. And hence it is added;

Ver. 19. I was likened to mire, and became like dust and ashes.




60. Since in the judgment of lost sinners the Holy Church of the Elect is ‘likened to mire,’ because it is trodden under and despised in time; it is ‘compared to dust and ashes,’ because while they do not see her interior good things, they calculate that she has been brought to those bad things alone, which they see brought to view in her in the body. But the faithful people of the Elect, while it sees many fall from itself, wishes, if it might obtain this, to have the times of its adversities reversed. Because the prayer of this people is delayed, its groaning is increased. Hence it is further added;

Ver. 20. I will cry unto Thee, but Thou wilt not hear me; I stand, and Thou regardest me not.




61. Since Holy Church in the time of her persecution ‘stands’ by faith, and ‘cries’ by longings. But she is grieved that she is ‘not regarded’ as it were, when she sees her wishes under tribulations delayed. For by a high counsel, Almighty God, when His Saints are wrung tightly by the persecutions of adversaries, and when they cry with never ceasing entreaties that they may be set free, is wont to put off their voices in entreating Him, that their merits in suffering may be increased, in order that they may be the more heard in answer to merit, the more they are not heard quickly in answer to wishing. Whence it is elsewhere written, O my God, I cry in the day time, but Thou hearest not, and in the night season. [Ps. 22, 2] And the very usefulness itself resulting from the delay of hearing is immediately added, when it is there brought in directly, And not for foolishness to me. Since for redoubling the wisdom of the Saints it is beneficial, that what is prayed for they receive slowly, that by delay desire may increase, and by desire the understanding may be augmented. But when the understanding is stretched to the full, there is opened a more ardent affection thereof towards God. And the affection is made large for obtaining the things of heaven, in proportion as it was long suffering in expecting. Yet in the midst of these things grief prompts the patience of the Saints to utterance, and whilst being delayed they gain ground, they dread lest their powers failing they should being despised be rejected. It goes on;

Ver. 21. Thou art changed to cruel unto me; and in the hardness of Thy hand Thou opposest Thyself against me.






62. The old translation is widely at variance with this sense, because what is spoken in this concerning God, is related in that of adversaries and persecutors. Yet because this new translation is said to have transferred every thing from the Hebrew and Arabic more truly, we should believe whatever is delivered in it, and the right way is that into the word of it our interpretation should search with exactness. Accordingly he says, Thou art changed to cruel unto me, and in the hardness of Thy hand Thou opposest Thyself to me. In Holy Scripture when any thing is said of God unworthy, the mind of the reader is affected, as if it were ever the case that any thing that is worthy were spoken of God. Since well nigh every thing that is spoken touching God, is by this alone henceforth unworthy, that it admitted of being spoken. But for Him to Whose praise the conscious faculty, being astounded, is not equal, when may the tongue by speaking suffice? But the Holy Spirit teaching to men that understand this same truth, how unutterable are the things above and the things of God, sometimes uses even those words concerning God, which amongst men are held as a fault, that from these things which seem unworthy of men, and yet are spoken concerning God, men should be admonished to know that neither are those things even worthy of God, which whilst they are accounted worthy among men, are thought worthy of God.


63. For God is called ‘jealous,’ as it is written, The Lord, his Name is ‘jealous.’ [Ex. 34, 14] He is called ‘wroth,’ whence it is written, The Lord was wroth against Israel. [Numb. 32, 13.] The Lord is called ‘repentant,’ as where it is written, It repenteth Me that I have made man upon the earth. [Gen. 6, 7] And again; It repenteth Me that I have set up Saul to be king over Israel. [1 Sam. 15, 11] He is entitled compassionate, as where it is written, Merciful and pitiful is the Lord, patient and full of compassion. [Ps. 86, 15.] He is called ‘foreknowing,’ as the Apostle saith concerning Him, For whom He did foreknow, He did also predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son. [Rom. 8, 29] Whereas neither ‘jealousy,’ nor ‘wrath,’ nor ‘repentance,’ nor strictly speaking ‘compassionateness,’ nor ‘foreknowledge,’ can be in God. For all these particulars are derived into Him from human qualities, while there is a descending to words expressive of infirmity, that as it were a kind of steps being made for us, and set beside us, by the things which we see close to us, we may one time be enabled to mount up to the high things of Him. For He is said to ‘feel jealous,’ who guards the chastity of his wife with torment of mind. ‘He is said to be ‘wroth,’ who is inflamed with heat of spirit against evil that deserves to be punished. He is said to ‘repent,’ to whom that which he has done is displeasing, and contrarily by changing does some other thing. He is called ‘compassionate,’ who is moved with pity towards his neighbour. Now ‘misericordia’ (‘commiseration’) is so called from ‘miserum cor,’ (‘a miserable heart,’) for this reason, because each individual sees a person wretched, and sympathizing with him, while he is affected with grief of mind, he himself makes his heart miserable, that he may free from misery the man that he is set on. He is said to ‘foreknow,’ who sees each particular event before it comes, and that which is future foresees before it becomes present. How then is God described as being ‘jealous,’ Who in watching over our chastity, is not affected by any torment of mind? How is He ‘wroth,’ Who in taking vengeance on our evil ways is not stirred by any agitation of mind? How is He ‘repentant,’ Who what He has once done is never at all sorry that He has done? How is He ‘commiserating,’ Who has not ever a heart of misery? How is He foreknowing, whereas nothing but what is future can be foreknown? And we know that to God there is nothing future, before the Eyes of Whom things past there are none, things present pass not by, things future come not; seeing that all that to us was and will be is in His sight at hand, and all that is present He is able to know rather than foreknow. And yet He is called ‘jealous,’ He is called ‘wroth,’ He is called ‘repentant,’ He is called ‘commiserating,’ He is called ‘foreknowing,’ that because He watches over the chastity of each individual soul, He should after man’s method be called ‘jealous,’ though He be not touched by torment of mind. And because He smites sins, He is said to be ‘wroth,’ though He be not affected by any agitation of the spirit. And because Himself unchangeable He changes that that He is minded, He is said to ‘repent,’ though it is the thing He changes, not His counsel. And when He succours our misery, He is called ‘commiserating,’ though He succours the miserable, and has not ever a heart of misery. And because the things which to us are future He sees, which same however to the Same Being are always at hand, He is styled ‘foreknowing,’ though He does not in any way foresee the future, which He sees as present. For even whatsoever things are, in His Eternity are not therefore seen because they are, but therefore they are because they are seen. Whilst therefore there is a coming down to the words of our changeableness, by those, as being made a kind of steps, let him, who is able, mount up to the unchangeableness of God, that he may see One shewing jealousy, without jealousy, One wroth without wrath, One repentant without sorrow or repentance, full of commiseration without a miserable heart, foreknowing without foresight. For in Him can neither the past nor the future be found, but all things changeable last unchangeably, and things, which in themselves cannot exist together, are all of them at once and together present to Him, and nothing that goes by passes away in Him, because in His Eternal Being, in an incomprehensible manner, all the rolls of ages whilst passing remain, whilst running a race stand still.


64. As then we understand Him ‘jealous’ without jealousy, ‘wroth’ without wrath, so He might by the holy man be also called ‘cruel’ without cruelty. Since he is called ‘cruel,’ who while smiting with severity spares not; that is to say that in this passage ‘cruel’ should be taken for one striking with severity, and not sparing the avenging of sin. Hence also Isaiah, when he saw the day of final Judgment was destined to come not henceforth with pardon but with rigour, says, Behold the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath, and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate; and to destroy the sinners thereof out of it. [Is. 13, 9] Therefore the holy man, that he might declare that this same cruelty is more suited to himself than to God, says, Thou art changed to cruel unto me. As though he said in plain terms, ‘Thou, Who hast in Thine own Self nought of cruelty, to me, whom Thou sufferest not to draw breath from persecution, Thou seemest cruel.’ For so God is not capable of being cruel, just as He is not in the least degree capable of being changed. But because in God there comes not either cruelty or changeableness at any time, whilst He says ‘unto me,’ he shews that he is sensible that God is in Himself neither ‘cruel’ nor ‘changeable.’ But because as concerns ourselves things prosperous and things adverse shift to and fro, in this that we ourselves are changed, we as it were imagine as concerns ourselves His mind changed. But He the same Being remaining unchangeable in Himself, in the thought of men’s hearts comes to be felt now one way and now another, according to the character of their minds. For the light of the sun too, whereas it is not at all unlike to itself, seems to weak eyes harsh, but to sound eyes gentle; that is to say, by their changing, not by its own. Therefore as we before said, in saying, Thou art changed, he added unto me, that this very ‘cruelty’ and ‘changing’ might be not in the attributes of the Judge, but in the mind of the sufferer. Which he laid open by other words also, saying, And in the hardness of Thine hand Thou opposest Thyself to me. For ‘the Hand’ of the Lord is thought ‘hard,’ when being opposed to our will, that thing which displeases Him in us, it follows hard upon by striking; and He redoubles the strokes, when the soul of the sorrower looks for clemency.




Which words, howsoever, according to the mystery of the allegory, suit well the words of Holy Church speaking in the accents of the weak, who very often reckon themselves to be smitten more than they fancy they deserve, and esteem as cruelty of the Judge the severity of the lancing howsoever most just, seeing too that when the wound of the sick man is cut away by the chirurgeon’s steel, the operator is called cruel, who however by the hardness of the hand that cuts is opposed to the wound, but in concert with the health. It proceeds;

Ver. 22. Thou liftedst me up, and as it were setting me upon the wind, thou dashedst me down strongly.




65. Because the glory of the present life is seen as on high, but is not set firm by any stedfastness, one is as if he were ‘lifted up and set upon the wind,’ who rejoices in earthly prosperity, because the breath of fleeting happiness lifts him up only for this end, that it may in a moment prostrate him the worse below. For whereas Holy Church is high in honour with all persons, the weak ones in her, who rejoice in transitory successes, [Some read ‘successibus,’ others ‘successionibus,’ which last may mean ‘advancements occurring in the change of things.’] whereunto do they seem lifted up but as set upon the wind? Because in the succeeding season of persecution, when the breath of prosperity is gone by, their ‘lifting up’ is brought to the earth in a moment, if instantly they learn by falling, that, whilst lifted up before they were seated upon the wind. Which very words in a peculiar manner accord with the person of the holy man also, not as to the thing that was, but as to the thing that seemed to be. For never had fleeting prosperity ‘lifted up’ his mind, which mind in the midst of such overflowing stores of good things he ever kept down by a wonderful weight of virtue. But according to that which might have externally appeared, he who was little in his own eyes, was exalted in the eyes of others, and as it were ‘placed upon the wind,’ he was ‘dashed down strongly,’ because being buoyed up by outward goods, by the same means, whereby he was accounted to rise, he appeared to have fallen. Which same fall in the interior the holy man did not undergo, because no bad fortune throws down the man, whom no good fortune corrupts. For he who is attached to the truth, is in no degree brought under to vanity, because, whereas he has planted with a firm foot the bent of the thought within, all that is brought to pass in change without, reaches not in the least degree to the citadel of the interior. It goes on;

Ver. 23. I know that Thou wilt deliver me to death, where is the house appointed for all living.




66. In the preceding part of this work [Book xiii. §. 48 &c.] the point was treated of, that before the Coming of the Lord even the righteous did descend to the abodes of hell, though they were kept not in woes but in rest. Which thing we omit to prove by testimonies now, because we think it is already sufficiently proved there. This, then, that is said, I know that Thou wilt deliver me to death, where is the house appointed for all living, is rightly suited to blessed Job even according to the history, whereas surely it appears that before the grace of the Redeemer even the just were carried to the caverns of hell. For the mere entering [‘admissio’] of ‘hell’ is itself called ‘the house of all living,’ because no one came hither, who before the Advent of the Mediator did not pass by thereunto by the simple constitution of his state of corruption. No one came hither, who did not go on to the death of the flesh, by the steps of that same corruption belonging to him. Of which selfsame death it is evidently said by the Psalmist; What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? [Ps 89, 48] For though Elijah is related to have been transported to heaven, nevertheless he delayed, and did not escape death. For by the very mouth of Truth it is said; Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. [Matt. 17, 11] For he shall come to ‘restore all things,’ since for this end surely is he restored to this world, that he may both fulfil the functions of preaching, and pay the debt of the flesh.




Which sentence however of the holy man suits the accents of Holy Church in the person of the weak sort, who hold the faith to the extent of the word of the lips, but contrary to the precepts of faith act the slave to their desires. For she says; I know that thou will deliver me to death, where is the house appointed for all living. For because she sees multitudes in her devoted to pleasures, and already foresees the destruction of those, she reflects that in the course of the present life they serve their desires indeed, but yet all are brought to the house of death, who in that same course live carnally. But there are some that are brought down into the pit of their gratifications, yet by the tears of repentance quickly recover the foot from below, which persons the strokes of smiting from Above cut rather for instruction than destruction. In the person of whom it is fitly subjoined;

Ver. 24. Howbeit Thou dost not put forth thine hand for the destroying of them; and if they are brought to the ground, Thou wilt save them Thyself.





67. In which words assuredly this ought to be perceived with penetration, that blessed Job, while he is telling his own circumstances transfers others into himself.




For he as it were in a special manner said of himself; Thou liftedst me up, and as it were setting me upon the wind dashedst me down with strength: I know that Thou wilt deliver me to death, where is the house appointed for all living; and yet he adds not concerning himself but others, Howbeit Thou dost not put forth Thine hand for the destroying of them. For whereas whilst speaking of himself in arguing, he subjoins cases applying to others, he shews how many he represents the persons of in himself. Accordingly the Lord ‘puts not forth His hand for the destroying’ of those that sin, when by striking He reforms from sins, and ‘He saves those that are falling to the ground,’ when those falling into transgression He wounds as to the health of the body; that being brought low outwardly they should arise inwardly, in order that lying prostrate in the body those should be brought back to the standing of the interior, who whilst standing outwardly lay low to the standing of the soul. It goes on;

Ver. 25. I wept of old over him that was in trouble; my soul suffered with the poor.






68. Though it is true compassion to concur with the suffering of a fellow creature by bountifulness, yet sometimes when the several outward things are abundantly provided for us to bestow, the hand of him that gives finds the act of giving more quickly than the feeling does sorrow. Hence it is necessary for us to know that he gives in a perfect way, who together with that, which he reaches forth to the afflicted, takes in himself the feeling of the afflicted as well; that he should first transfer the suffering of the person sorrowing into himself, and then, to meet the sorrow of that person by the act of service render concurrence. For often, as we said before, the abundance of good things creates the bestower of a benefit, and not the excellence of compassion. For he, who perfectly compassionates the afflicted, generally even gives that to the persons in want, wherein he himself, if he gives it, is brought to shifts. And then the compassion of our heart is to the full, when we are not afraid to take upon ourselves the evil of want in behalf of a fellow creature, in order that we may set him free from suffering.


69. Which model of pitifulness in very deed the Mediator between God and Man gave to us. Who when He could have succoured us even without dying, yet was minded to come to the aid of mankind by dying, because plainly He would have loved us too little, except He took upon Him our wounds as well; nor would He exhibit the face of His love to us, unless the thing that He was to take away from us, He did Himself undergo for a time. For He found us subject to suffering, and mortal beings, and He, Who caused us to exist out of nothing, doubtless had the power to restore us from suffering even without death. But that He might shew how great the virtue of Compassion is, He deigned to become in our behalf what He would not have us to be, that He should take upon Him death temporally in His own Person, which death He should banish for evermore from ourselves. Could not He, while continuing invisible to us in the riches of His own Godhead, have been able to enrich us with wonderful powers? But that man might be brought back to the interior riches, God deigned to appear poor without. Hence also the great Preacher, that he might kindle to the kindness of bounty the bowels of our compassion, said, For our sakes He became poor, when He was rich. [2 Cor. 8, 9] Who speaks in this way also; Not that to others there should be a releasing, but to you tribulation. [ib. v. 13] These things doubtless he brought in condescending to the weak, because some not having the strength to bear want, it is better borne to give less, than after one’s bounty to murmur on account of straitness of poverty. For that he might kindle the minds of those that heard him to great affections for giving, a little while after he introduced the words, saying, But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly. [2 Cor. 9, 6] But we sometimes say that it is more to sympathize in heart than it is to give; because every one who perfectly sympathizes with one in want, reckons as less all that he gives. For except that good will surpassed the hand of a person in giving, that same great Preacher would not have said to the disciple, Who have begun before not only to do, but also to be forward a year ago. [2, Cor. 8, 10] Since it is easy in good deeds to obey even against one’s will. But this great excellence had appeared in the disciples, that the good that was enjoined them, they had been forward to even before.


70. Thus because the holy man knew that with Almighty God greater sometimes is the gift of the mind than of the benefit, let him say, I wept of old over him that was in trouble, and my soul compassionated the poor man. For in bestowing outward things, he rendered an object without himself. But he who bestowed upon his neighbour weeping and compassion, gave him something even from his very self. But on this account we say that compassion is more than the gift, because for the most part some sort of thing even he gives who does not entertain compassion, but never does he, who feels true compassion, withhold that which he sees to be necessary for his neighbour.


71. Which sentence surely is well suited to the accents of Holy Church, who while she sees persons afflicted in the tears of penitence, joins her own tears thereto by continual prayer, and sympathizes with the needy person as often as by the entreaties of her intercession she helps the mind bared of virtues. Since we lament over the afflicted sympathizing with him, when we reckon the hurts of others as our own, and by our tears strive to cleanse away the sins of those guilty of transgression. In the doing which, indeed, we very often help ourselves more than we do those in whose behalf it is done, because before the Inmost Umpire, Who also breathes into us the grace of charity, he perfectly washes out his own several acts, who disinterestedly bewails those of others. Therefore let Holy Church, being seized in the time of the last persecution, recall to remembrance the good things which she has done in the time of peace, saying, I wept of old over him that was afflicted, and my soul compassionated the poor man. Who longing for the eternal delights of the interior light, yet still delayed, because she is beset with outward ills, may subjoin in the accents of the holy man;

Ver. 26. When I looked for good, then evil came unto me; and when I waited for light, there broke forth darkness.




72. For the faithful people ‘looks for good,’ but receives evil, and it ‘waits for light,’ and meets with ‘darkness,’ because by the grace of the recompensing it hopes to be now already admitted to the joys of the Angels, and yet being delayed for a longer time here below, it is exposed to the hands of those that persecute it; and he who calculates to enjoy as quickly as possible the recompensing of the Light Eternal, is still forced to suffer here the darkness of his persecutors. Which same ills of those persecuting them would grieve them the less, if they arose from unbelievers and adversaries. But they torture the mind of the Elect the worse in proportion as they proceed from those, upon whom they were foreassuring good. Whence it is yet further added;

Ver. 27. My bowels boiled, and rested not.


Since for ‘the bowels’ of Holy Church ‘to boil’ is for her to endure in the fierceness of persecution, these very persons too, whom she had before in the love of the faith carried as ‘bowels.’ Which same first acquainting themselves with her secrets, in the same proportion as they know where she suffers the greatest pain, to so much the worse degree never rest from the afflicting of her; which persons however even in the time of her peace she bears heavily with, because she takes thought of their ways as opposite to her own preachings. For she groans when she espies the life of those as unlike to herself. Concerning whom also it is fitly subjoined;

The days of affliction prevented me.


For the Holy Church of Elect persons knows that in the last persecution she shall suffer many ills, but ‘the days of her affliction prevent her’; because even in the time of peace she bears within herself the life of the wicked with a heavy spirit. For though in the last days there follow the open persecution of the unbelievers, yet this same even before it comes to light, those in her who are believers to the extent of the word only by bad practices forerun. It goes on;

Ver. 28. I went mourning: without rage rising up, I cried out in the crowd.






73. I see that it is a thing to be carefully noted historically considered, that the holy man who a little before said, Thou hast lifted me up, added below, I went mourning. For by a wonderful arrangement at one and the same time there is wont to meet together in the courses of good men, at once without, the honour of the highest pitch, and within, the mourning of afflicted abasement. Hence the holy man likewise, whilst lifted to a height by substance and by honours; ‘went mourning’; for though this man the high credit of power displayed advanced above his fellow-creatures, yet inwardly he offered to the Lord by his mourning the secret sacrifice of a contrite heart. Since the sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit. [Ps. 51, 17] Now all the Elect are taught by inward reflecting to fight against the temptations of outward superiority. Which persons, if they set their heart to their outward good fortune assuredly would cease to be righteous. But because it cannot be that upon the mere grounds of the successes of fortune alone the heart of man should never be at all tempted with however slight a degree of pride, holy men strive hard within against their very good fortune itself; I do not say, lest in self exaltation, but lest in the love of that prosperity at all events they should be brought to the ground. And it is most effectually to have been brought under this, to have surrendered the mind in a state of captivity to the desires thereof. But who that has a taste for earthly things, who that embraces temporal objects, would not look upon blessed Job as happy amidst so many circumstances of prosperity, when the health of the body, the life of his children, the preservation of his household, the completeness of his flocks, were all vouchsafed to him? But that in all these circumstances he did not take delight, he is his own witness, in that he says, I went mourning. For to the holy man still placed in this state of pilgrimage, all that is full of abundance, without the Vision of God, is destitution; because when the Elect see that all things are theirs, they lament that they do not see the Author of all things, and to them all this is too little, because there is still wanting the appearance of One. And in such sort does the grace of Heavenly Appointment exalt them without, that nevertheless, within, the sorrow of the instructress charity holds them under discipline. By which same they learn, that for the things which they receive outwardly, they should ever be the more humbled to themselves, should keep the mind under the yoke of discipline, should never by the liberty of power be made to break out into impatience. Whence also it is fitly subjoined, Without rage rising in the crowd, I cried out. For it often happens that the tumults of seditious men provoke the spirit of their rulers, and by disorderly emotions they transgress the limit of their orderliness.


74. And very often they who are set at the head, except in the mouth of the heart they be held in with the bridle of the Holy Spirit, leap forth into the fierceness of enraged retribution, and as much as they are able to do, reckon themselves to be at liberty to do with those under them. For impatience is almost always the friend of power, and that power when evil it even rules over as subject to it. For what that same feels, power executes. But holy men bow down themselves much more to the yoke of patience inwardly, than they are above others outwardly, and they exhibit without the truer governance, in proportion as they maintain within more lowly servitude to God: and they for this reason often endure persons the more fully, the more they have it in their power to revenge themselves upon them, and lest they should ever pass over into things unlawful, they very often will not put in execution in their own behalf even what is lawful; they are subject to the clamours of those under their charge, they rebuke in love those, whom they bear in mildness. Whence it is rightly said now, Without rage rising up in the crowd, I cried out; in this way, because against the clamours of the unruly the good have ‘crying out,’ but they have not ‘rage,’ because those whom they bear with gently they do not cease to teach.




But these particulars which after the historical view we have delivered concerning one individual, it remains that we understand after the allegorical view concerning diverse Elect ones of Holy Church. For she too in her Elect ‘goes mourning,’ even in prosperous circumstances. For she accounts nothing truly prosperous to her, until the good, which she is preeminently seeking after, she may lay hold of. Since her faithful ones enjoy temporal peace indeed, but sigh evermore; they are honoured, and afflicted: because very often they are seen at the highest pitch there, where they are not citizens. She too ‘rises in the crowd without rage, and cries out,’ because she presses upon the life of the evil doers with the eagerness of right jealousy, not with the frenzy of rage. She is angry and loving, she deals wrathfully and is tranquil, that so her weak members she may reform by zealousness, and cherish in pitifulness. It goes on;

Ver. 29. I was a brother to dragons, and a companion to ostriches.




75. What is there denoted by the title of ‘dragons,’ but the life of evil minded men? Of whom also it is said by the prophet, They drew up the wind like dragons. [Jer. 14, 6] For all wicked men ‘draw in wind like dragons,’ when they are swoln with evil minded pride. But who are used to be understood by the designation of ‘ostriches,’ saving pretenders? For the ostrich has wings, but has not flight; because all pretenders have an appearance of sanctity, but the goodness of sanctity they have not. For those persons the appearance of good conduct adorns, but the wing of virtue never lifts them from the earth. So let the Elect people of Holy Church, because in the time of its peace it suffers within itself persons that are evil minded and pretenders, say the words, I was a brother to dragons, and a companion to ostriches. Which too in a special manner accords with the words of blessed Job, who to the highest pitch of great fortitude was a good man amongst bad. For no one is perfect who amidst his neighbours’ evil things is not patient. For he who does not bear others’ evil with composure, is by his impatience witness to himself that he is very far removed from the plenitude of goodness. For he refuses to be Abel, whom the malice of Cain does not exercise.


76. Thus in the threshing of the floor the grains are squeezed under the chaff; thus the flowers come forth between thorns, and the rose that smells grows along with the thorn that pricks. Thus the first man had two sons, but one was elect, the other refuse. The three sons of Noah too did the ark contain, but while two continued in humility, one went headlong into the mocking of his father. Two sons Abraham had; but one was innocent, the other the persecutor of his brother. Two sons also Isaac had, one saved in humility, while the other even before that he was born was cast away. Twelve sons Jacob begat, but of these one was sold in innocency, while the rest were through wickedness the sellers of their brother. Twelve Apostles too were chosen in Holy Church; but that they might not remain untried, one is mixed with them, who by persecuting should try them. For to a just man there is joined a sinner together with wickedness, just as in the furnace to the gold there is added chaff along with fire, that in proportion as the chaff burns the gold may be purified. So then those are truly good men, who are enabled to hold on in goodness even in the midst of bad men; herein too it is said to Holy Church by the voice of the Spouse; As a lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters. [Cant. 2, 2] Hence the Lord saith to Ezekiel And thou, son of man, unbelievers and overturners are with thee, and thou dwellest among scorpions. [Ez. 2, 6] Hence Peter magnifies the life of blessed Lot, saying, And delivered righteous Lot, when oppressed, from the wrongful conversation of the wicked. For to be seen and to be heard he was righteous, living among, those, who from day to day vexed the soul of the righteous man by wicked works. [2 Pet. 2, 7. &c.] Hence Paul magnifies the life of his disciples, and in magnifying strengthens it, saying, In the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world, holding the word of life. [Phil. 2, 15. 16.] Hence by John, the Angel of the Church of Pergamus is borne witness to in the words, I know where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is; and thou holdest fast My name, and hast not denied My faith. [Rev. 2, 15] So then let blessed Job, that he may evince what firmness he is of, tell with whom he lived, saying, I was a brother to dragons, and a companion to ostriches. Because it would have been but little that he himself did good things, except that for the heightening of his goodness he likewise sustained what was evil at the hands of others. It goes on;

Ver. 30. My skin is black upon me, and my bones are burned with heat.




77. This we forbear to take account of after the history, for this reason, that the force of the speech appears from the pain of the suffering. But because, as we have already often said, blessed Job very frequently so relates things done, as to foretell things to be done, this excellently agrees with the accents of Holy Church, who in her weak members grievously feels the pain of the last persecution. And when others die off from her, all the stronger ones are wrung with sorrow. For her outward concern is earthly dispensing, but the interior is a heavenly charge. And so by the name of the ‘skin’ the weak are denoted, who now do service in her to exterior usefulness. While by the bones the strong are represented, in that in them the whole jointing of her body is cemented. And therefore because either being invited by bribes, or distressed by persecutions, many weak persons in her fall from the standing of faith, and themselves after they have fallen persecute her, what is it but that she suffers a ‘blackness of her skin,’ that in those very ones she should afterwards appear foul, in whom she before shewed fair. For whilst they who had been before accustomed to manage outward things aright, afterwards rage against the Elect of God, as it were ‘the skin’ of the Church has lost the hue of foregoing righteousness, in that it has come to the blackness of iniquity. Which Jeremiah also bewails under the likeness of the principal metal, saying, How is the gold become dim; how is the fine colour changed? [Lam. 4, 1] The froward, therefore, when they go forth from her sacraments, very often take a place of honour amongst the children of perdition, so that the very persons should rage against Holy Church with authority, who as it were in knowing despise this Church more cruelly. And hence when he said, My skin is black, he added, upon me; because those whom she before had as it were white as to the beautifulness of righteousness, she afterwards carries ‘black’ the worse. But when ‘the skin’ is turned to ‘blackness,’ the strong that are in her are consumed with jealousy of the faith. And hence he fitly subjoins; And my bones are dried up with heat. For in this way in the time before too that strongest bone of Holy Church, Paul, burned with a certain dryness of weariness, when he said to some persons on their falling; Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is offended, and I burn not? [2 Cor. 11, 29] And so ‘the skin is made black, and the bones are dried up with heat;’ because while the weak leap forth to iniquity, all the strong are tortured with the fire of their zeal. It goes on;

Ver. 31. My harp also is turned to mourning, and my organ into the voice of them that weep.




78. Whereas the organ gives its sounds by means of pipes, and the harp by chords; it may be that by the ‘harp’ right practising is denoted, and by the ‘organ’ holy preaching. For by the pipes of an organ we not unsuitably understand the mouths of persons preaching, and by the chords of the harps the bent of those living aright. Which whilst it is stretched to another life by the afflicting of the flesh, it is as if the thin drawn chord in the harp sounded in the admiration of those beholding. For the chord is dried that it may give a suitable note on the harp; because holy men also chasten their body, and subject it to service, and are stretched from things below to those above. Moreover it is to be considered that the chord in the harp, if it be strung too little, does not sound, if too much, it sounds harsh; because doubtless the virtue of abstinence is altogether nothing if a man does not tame his body as much as he is able; or it is very ill ordered if he wears it down more than he is able. For by abstinence the imperfections of the flesh are to be done away, and not the flesh, and every one ought to rule himself with such great control, that both the flesh may not carry itself high for sin, and yet that it may be upheld in practice for the carrying out of righteousness. It is a satisfaction herein to look at the great preacher, with what great skill of preceptorship the souls of believers like chords strung on the harp, one set by stretching the more, he draws fine, another by loosening from their stretch he preserves. For to some he says; Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness. [Rom. 13, 13] And again he says; Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth. [Col. 3, 5] And yet to the most beloved preacher he writes, saying, Drink no longer water, but use a little wine, for thy stomach’s sake, and for thine often infirmities. [1 Tim. 5, 23] Thus those chords by drawing thin he stretches, lest by not being stretched they altogether give no sound. But this chord he abates of its stretching, lest whilst it is stretched more, the less it should sound.


79. But whether it be the holy preachers in the Church, or the simpleminded and temperate generally, as far as they are vouchsafed powers, they render to their neighbours in her the song of goodly exhortation. For both the wise sort severally keep discreetly on the watch to the fruit of preaching, and that they may draw others to life they ply themselves with a sound of mighty persuading; and they that appear to be of slower wit within her, by the mere merit of their lives, to the extent that they see that they are able, take upon them authority of exhortation towards others, and cease not to draw to the heavenly Country those whom they are able. But Holy Church being borne down by the last persecutions, when she sees her words to be set at nought by the children of perdition, shapes the goodness of her love to lamentations alone, because surely she bewails those whom she is not able by exhorting to draw. Let her say then, My harp also is turned to mourning, and mine organ into the voice of them that weep. As though she avowed in plain words, saying, ‘In the season of my peace, indeed, by some I preached little things after the manner of a harp, whilst by others things great and sounding after the manner of an organ; but now ‘my harp is turned into mourning and mine organ into the voice of them that weep,’ because whilst I see myself to be despised I mourn over those who hear not the song of preaching.’ Such things is Holy Church to do by certain persons in the end, these things has she already done by certain in her beginnings. For the first martyr Stephen endeavoured by preaching to benefit the Jews that persecuted him, which persons when he saw, notwithstanding, after the words of preaching to have flocked together to throwing stones, he prayed with his knees set fast, saying, Lord Jesus, lay not this sin to their charge. [Acts. 7, 60] How then was it to him who for long had told things both small and great, but that the melody of his ‘harp and of his organ’ was already mute, and they were ‘turned into mourning,’ because those whom he had not drawn in preaching, he wept for in loving? Which same Holy Church ceases not daily to do, because she already sees that the word of preaching is almost every where become mute. For some close their mouths from speaking, others scorn to hear right things. But the mind of the Elect whilst it sees the song of preaching to be stilled, returns groaning and in silence to lamentations. Therefore let her say, My harp is turned into mourning, and mine organ into the voice of them that weep, because every elect person in proportion as the voice of holy preaching has been stilled, so much the more sorely does he bewail the woes of the Church.


Thus far blessed Job has described the evils that he underwent; but from this place he begins to relate with more particularity the good things that he did. Now the words of grief we have run through by an historical and allegorical explanation: but the deeds of virtuous qualities we in great measure hold according to the text of the history alone, lest if we draw these to the exploring of mysteries, we should perchance appear to be making void the verity of the deed.