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All that remained of chapter thirty-one of the Book of Job is explained, and submissiveness of mind, and moderation, patience, charity, and earnest interest for those under our charge, are especially commended.





1. That which has been often said by me already it is not troublesome for me to repeat many times, since the great Preacher too says, To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is necessary. [Phil. 3, 1] Blessed Job for this reason relates virtues achieved, because whilst caught between the words of rebuke and the wounds of the rod, he sees that his mind is being loosened from the assurance of hope. For he had heard from his friends upbraiding him that he had done numberless wicked things even, and lest his soul being driven hard by words and scourges simultaneously should break down into despair, by the recollection of his virtuous attainments he resets the same to hope, that it might never cast itself down in woe, in that if remembered that in the season of its repose it had done such lofty deeds. And so whereas we have told the reason of his purpose, it remains that we weigh with exactness his virtues so heard.


2. But this we are to have impressed upon us first of all, that he, who is supposed to be strong in any particular virtue is then really strong when he is not subject to evil habits in another quarter. For if he be under the dominion of evil habits in another thing, not even that is firm and solid wherein he was believed to stand fast. For each separate virtue is of less worth in proportion as the others are wanting. For very often it has happened to us to see some modest indeed but not humble, some seemingly humble but not pitiful, some seeming pitiful but not at all just, some in appearance just, but trusting in themselves rather than in the Lord. And it is certain that there is not even genuine chastity in the heart of him who lacks humility, since by pride corrupting him within he commits fornication, if from loving himself he departs from the love of God. Nor is that true humility that has not pitifulness joined to it, because that has no right to be called humility which refuses to bend itself to sympathy with the affliction of a brother. Nor is that true mercifulness which proves a stranger to the right line of justice, for that which is able to be defiled by injustice, knows not assuredly how to have compassion on its own self. Neither is it real righteousness, which puts its trust not in the Creator of all things, but in itself perhaps, or in things created; since while one withdraws his hope from the Creator, himself overturns to himself the order of the highest justice. And so one virtue without another is either none at all or but imperfect. For that (as it has seemed best to some persons) I may speak of the four first virtues, viz. prudence, temperance, fortitude, and justice, they are severally so far perfect, in proportion as they are mutually joined to one another. But separated they can never be perfect. For neither is it real prudence which has not justice, temperance, fortitude, nor perfect temperance which has not fortitude, justice, and prudence, nor complete fortitude which is not prudent, temperate, and just, nor genuine justice which has not prudence, fortitude, and temperance.


3. Accordingly blessed Job, because he had not one without another, but the virtues united together in himself, going over them severally makes them known. For telling the excellences of chastity, he says, If mine heart have been deceived upon a woman. [c. 31, 9] And that he might shew that to that chastity the grace of humility was in no degree wanting, he adds after the rest, If I did despise to undergo judgment with my man servant. [v. 13] And that he might shew that to his humility, mercy was joined, he says a little after, If I have withheld the poor from their desire. [v. 16] And that he might shew that his mercy was descended from the root of justice, he promised a little above, saying, If I have walked in vanity, or if my foot hath hasted in deceit. [v. 5] And that it might be shown how alarmed he was at all things, how guarded towards all, he declares below, saying, For I always feared the Lord as waves swelling over me. Which same if whilst placed in prosperous circumstances, and buoyed up by the abundance of good things, he had placed hope either in his own doings, or in the good things about him on every side, assuredly he would not be just. But when did this holy man place hope in himself, who says in express terms, Lo, there is no help to me in myself? [c. 6, 13] What then now remains but that what feeling he held those very riches with, he should make known. Thus he says,

I have made gold my strength, or have said to bullion, Thou art my confidence.




4. We give the name of ‘bullion’ [‘obryzum’] to gold in the rough. So then the holy man neither supposed ‘gold’ to be ‘his strength,’ nor that to him the ‘bullion,’ i.e. the mass of rude gold, was ‘his confidence,’ because resting his hope and satisfaction in the grace of his Creator alone, he sinned neither for the quantity of gold, nor yet in the kind thereof. For it would have been to have given up hope in the Creator, to have placed hope in the creature. But in uncertain objects that rich man had fixed his hope, who said, Soul, thou hast much good laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But the Voice Above rebukes this man, saying, Thou fool, this night do they require thy soul of thee; then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided. [Luke 12, 19. 20.] For the same night he was taken off, who had looked for long times in the abundance of good things to him, that in this way he who, whilst hoarding up means for himself, was looking forward a long way, should never see the next day though but a single one. For it is in a manner to lay a foundation in running waters, to wish to settle an assurance of hope in things fleeting. For God for evermore standing still, all things pass away. What then is it to fly from One standing, but to attach ourselves to passing things. For who ever being seized by the swoln eddies of running waters could himself remain fixed, the water racing on downwards? Whosoever then shuns to run to nought, it remains that he eschew that, that does run to nought, lest by that thing which he loves he be driven to go on into that which he avoids. For he that attaches himself to things slipping away, is surely drawn thither, where that is making its way, which he holds. And so it requires first to be looked to that a man love not things temporal, and next in those very temporal things, which he reserves to himself not for gratification, but for use, that he put not his confidence; seeing that by being united to objects running off the soul directly loses its own stay. For the wave of the present life draws away the man whom it lifts up; and he is wholly out of his senses, who is tossed adrift in the water, and yet tries to fix the sole of his feet. But there are very many who while they never place confidence in things transitory, yet when they are supplied to them in abundance for necessary purposes, are full of joy in secret feeling. Whence there is no doubt that every one is the less grieved that the things of eternity should be lacking, the more he is rejoiced that those of time are supplied to him; and he who grieves the less that temporal things are wanting, looks the more surely that eternal ones should be his. Accordingly this joy derived from things of earth, blessed Job, while testifying that he had not, adds, saying,

Ver. 25. If I rejoiced over my great wealth, and because mine hand found much.




5. For holy men in the wofulness of this pilgrimage, because that Appearance of their Creator, which they long after, they are not yet suffered to contemplate at all, account all the fulness of the present life as destitution, because nothing out of God suffices the mind which really seeks after God; and it is very often the case that to such persons their very abundance itself becomes exceedingly burthensome, because this thing alone they bear as a grievance, that in hastening to their country they carry many things on the journey. Whence it comes to pass that these things they devotedly share with their neighbours who are in want, in order that while this one gets what he has not, the other may lay aside what he had too much of, that neither the fellow-traveller may walk empty, nor that man whom it might delay on the way an overgreat burthen weigh down. And thus the Elect never rejoice for their great abundance, which same for love of their heavenly inheritance they either in bestowing distribute out of their hands, or by contemning forsake. It follows;

Ver. 26—28. If I saw the sun when it shined, or the moon walking in brightness, and my heart hath secretly rejoiced, and I have kissed my hand with my mouth; which is an exceeding iniquity, and denial against the Most High God.




6. There is no doubt that both these two luminaries, which are commissioned to ministrations for man, are called ‘the hosts of heaven.’ Into the worshipping whereof we know that numbers have fallen, as Scripture is witness; as where it is written, And worshipped all the host of heaven. [2 Kings 17, 16] And because the sun and moon are seen in one way for use, and in a different way for worshipping, in that way in which they are wont to be worshipped by their votaries blessed Job tells that he had never ‘seen the sun and moon, neither had his heart rejoiced; nor had he kissed his hand with his mouth.’ By which act of kissing what else but the gratefulness of adoration is set forth? which thing if he had ever done, he calls it ‘the highest iniquity and denial of God.’ But after that he had related of himself in passages above such great heights of virtuous qualities, what does he now tell so strange, if he shews that he had not ‘adored the sun and moon?’ Whence it deserves to be considered, that after he testifies that he had not had confidence in gold, nor had rejoiced in much riches, he is further led on to things of a higher pitch, that he might instruct so much the more, the more exactly he tells things touching himself. Thus he says, If I saw the sun when it shined, or the moon walking in brightness; and my heart hath secretly rejoiced. What is called to ‘see’ in this passage, but to behold with desire? Whence the Psalmist saith, If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear. [Ps. 66, 18] Which iniquity, surely, could never be set forth in the mouth, if it were not ‘regarded in the heart.’ But it is one thing to see in the way of judgment, and another thing to see in the way of desire. Thus then blessed Job tells that ‘the sun when it shined, and the moon walking in its brightness, he had never seen,’ that he might shew that he had not sought after the appearance of the present light. As though after contempt of his earthly abundance, he plainly told us; ‘why should I say, that I never at all rejoiced in gold, who in the very corporeal light itself never took delight? For holy men after that they set at nought all the enjoyments of the present life, in consideration of the sweetness of the light interior, turn away the mind from this light exterior as if from darkness; and they strive much with themselves within, that they be not carried away by the delightfulness of this light which shines outwardly. For if the visible light be incautiously delighted in, the heart is blinded to the invisible light, because in proportion as the soul is poured out in gazing out of itself, so much the more is it made to recoil in the interior regards. Hence all the wise-hearted, that by their corporeal senses they may not too much fall away to things without, by continual effort gather themselves up within the interior self by the hidden discipline of self-guarding, that they may be found the more whole within, in proportion as they are the less poured forth without. Thus by this vigorousness of discipline he had bound himself up within the depths of his own heart, who in fleeing the desire of the outward life, said, The day of man I have not desired, Thou knowest. [Jer. 17, 16] The same, then, that by the Prophet is expressed, The day of man I have not desired, Thou knowest, this blessed Job declares concerning his own self in other words, viz. that he had not ‘seen the sun when it shined, and the moon walking in its brightness,’ and that he did not ‘rejoice in these in the secret depths of his heart,’ surely because he could not possibly ‘rejoice’ for those things which he ‘saw’ not in the desire of delighting.




7. But if these several particulars, which we have gone through, handling them according to the history, we also examine into in respect of the mysteries of allegory, what else do we in this place take the gold to be, saving the wit of a bright understanding? what ‘fine gold’ but the mind, which whilst it is fined clear by the fire of love, ever preserves in itself the brightness of beauty, by a daily renewal of fervour? For the mind knows not to wax old by inertness, which is bent by desire ever to be beginning. Thus it is hence that it is said by Paul, renewed in the spirit of your mind. [Eph. 4, 23] Hence the Psalmist, who had already reached to the height of perfection, said as if beginning, I said, now I begin; [Ps. 77, 10] in this way, because that, if we are not minded to flag and go off from good begun, it is very requisite that we should believe ourselves to be daily beginning. Nor is it at variance with the order of reason that we say that by ‘gold,’ man’s wit is denoted; for as in ornamenting gold is laid under, that the order of the gems may be arranged above, so the bright talents of the Saints are humbly laid below the benefits of God, and receive the gifts of graces set out in order upon them. And excepting that gold had a something of a like sort with wisdom, that wise man would never have said, Wisdom hidden from sight, and a treasure, that is not seen, what use is there in either? [Ecclus. 20, 50] Now holy men do not account ‘gold’ to be their ‘strength,’ because let them shine out with ever so great ability, they take thought that by their own powers they are nothing. And whilst they are powerfully able to see into all things, they desire first to understand themselves, that the light of their wit, like the sun, may first illumine the place where it arises, and afterwards all the other things to which it is made to open out in going on; lest if by applying themselves to know others they know not their own selves, the ray of the sun should there be darkened, where it rises. Accordingly, the goodness of their natural parts they apply to acquainting themselves with their own infirmity, and by acquaintance with their own infirmity they are the more effectually endued with power. And so the gold is not taken for ‘strength,’ if there is not confidence had in the wit wherewith they are endowed. Which Solomon rightly advising of saith, Put confidence in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not on thine own understanding. [Prov. 3, 5] So then let him say, If I have made gold my strength, or have said to the fine gold, Thou art my confidence. As though he avowed in plain terms; ‘Neither what I really understood did I ascribe to my own parts, nor, if it chanced that I did any whit that was good, did I reckon such things primarily to my own mind:’ who still more particularly telling us the humility of his heart, adds, saying,

Ver. 25. If I rejoiced over my great riches, and because mine hand had found very many things.


8. What do we fancy the ‘great riches’ so called in signification, but the abundant subtleties of counsels, which same ‘the hand’ of him that seeks ‘finds,’ in that the thought of him who deals thereunto produces them. For it was these ‘riches’ of wisdom that Solomon having before his eyes, saith, The crown of the wise is their riches. [Prov. 14, 24] Which same person, because it is not metals of the earth but understanding that he calls by the name of ‘riches,’ thereupon adds by way of a contrary; But the foolishness of fools is imprudence. For if he called earthly riches ‘the crown of the wise,’ surely he would own the senselessness of fools to be poverty rather than imprudence. But whereas he added ‘the foolishness of fools imprudence, he made it plain that he called prudence ‘the riches of the wise.’ These ‘riches’ of wisdom Paul viewing in himself and lowering his view by the thought of human infirmity, says, But we have this treasure in earthen vessels. [2 Cor. 4, 7] Accordingly we find much riches in ourselves, when in searching into the sacred oracles, we receive the gifts of abundant understanding, and therein see a number of things, yet not at variance with one another. But it is not safe rejoicing to learn in the pages of God things either forcible or many in number, but rather to keep safe the things that we learn. For he that understands aright, sees what by so understanding he owes as a debt. Since the more he is enlarged in perception, the more heartily he is tied and bound to fulfilling deeds. Whence Truth saith in the Gospel; For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required; and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more. [Luke 12, 48]


9. Therefore let us reckon understanding given like borrowed money, because the more we have entrusted to us in lovingkindness, the more we are held debtors in practice; and it very often happens that the same money of understanding received, when it is bestowed upon hearers for usury, is lost except it be given in a cautious spirit. For neither should it be slightly regarded in the book of Kings, that while the sons of the prophets were hewing wood on the Jordan, to one of them his ax-head having slipped off the handle into the deep water, disappeared from sight. For the iron on the handle is the gift of understanding in the heart: but to cut down wood thereby is to rebuke persons doing wickedly. Which same sometimes whilst it is done loosely, whilst the downfall of vain-glory in that same knowledge vouchsafed us is not avoided, the iron is lost in the water, because understanding is made witless by undone practice, which same understanding assuredly we know to be given for this end, that before the eyes of the Giver it may be rendered back by good conduct. Whence it happened rightly that he who had lost the iron exclaimed, Alas, alas, my master, for it was borrowed. [2 Kings 6, 5] For the Elect have this proper to them, that if at any time a furtive sin of vain glory creep upon them in their knowledge, they speedily turn back into their heart, and whatever they find in themselves worthy of condemnation before the eyes of the strict Judge, they follow hard upon with tears. Who whilst weeping, not only heedfully scan the evil things they have been guilty of, but what good ones as well they ought to have paid back for the benefit vouchsafed them, because surely they the more fuel themselves sinners, in proportion as they are held debtors in the neglected good that they ought to have done. Rightly then did he who lost the iron cry out, Alas, alas, my master, for it was borrowed. As though he said, ‘That by the undoing of negligence have I lost, which thing in order that I should pay it back by good works I received from the grace of the Lender.’ But God never abandons the soul which owns itself in its sins in a true way. Hence too Elisha immediately on coming sends the wood down below, and raises the iron upon the surface, because surely our Redeemer regarding us with pity humbles the heart of a sinner, and fashions anew for him the understanding, which he had lost. He sinks the wood, and lifts up the iron, because He chastens the heart, and restores the knowledge. Whence it is well said in another translation, that he ‘broke in pieces the wood’ and cast it in, and so raised up the iron. For ‘to break the wood in pieces’ is to break up the heart from self-exaltation; to cast the wood below is to abase the uplifted heart in acquaintance with its own infirmity, as we said. And thereupon the iron is brought back to the top, because understanding returns for the service of the former mode of employment.


10. Therefore because the gift of understanding that is obtained, is with such numberless difficulties hardly kept safe (for there must be care taken that it be not deadened by inactivity, there must be care that in the exercising of practice it do not go out by the evil of self-elation,) holy men do not exult, when they learn the things for them to do, but when they do the things they have learnt. And if in understanding they congratulate themselves in the benefaction of the Giver, yet sorrowing they take thought of the debt of practice, that is to say, that they may discharge by conduct what has been advanced to them in knowledge. For he is a foolish debtor, who receives rejoicing the money lent, and never minds the time when he must pay it back. But the joy of receiving is abated, when with prudential foresight the appointed season for paying back is thought on as well. Therefore because just men in the things which they perceive by lively attention are not lifted up by assured rejoicing, let it be said aright, If I rejoiced over my great riches, and because my hand found very many things. As though it were put in plain words; ‘Never did I account myself rich by righteousness in this respect, that I knew right things, which I ought to do, even many in number; nor did understanding lift up the heart, because that the thought of the practice owed in debt kept down.’ But it is to be borne in mind, that it very frequently happens that when a high pitch of understanding is received, the mind being very full of anxiety about itself is kept from the downfall of self-exaltation. But when the wonderful things it understands it begins to put in practice likewise, sometimes by the mere circumstance that it is made to display itself without, it slips, and glories that itself excels in its doings all the rest of the world. As, then, the ‘gold’ of understanding did not uplift blessed Job, so neither did the light of extraordinary practice either before the eyes of men lift him to a height. Hence too he fitly adds;

If I saw the sun when it shined.




11. Since ‘the sun in brightness,’ is good practice in outward manifesting. For it is written, Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father Which is in heaven. [Matt. 5, 16] And again, Let your loins be girded about, and your lamps burning. [Luke 12, 35] For what in this passage is denoted by the ‘sun shining,’ is in the Gospel denoted by ‘lamps burning.’ For when good practice shines in the midst of faithless persons, ‘a lamp burns’ in the night, but when it shines out in the Church, ‘the sun shines’ in the day. For good practice if it be as yet such as bad men only wonder at, is doubtless a ‘lamp’ in the night; but if it so makes way that it may be admired by the good and more perfect kind, then it is the sun in the day time. When good practice shines by the active life of the body, it is as if after the manner of a candle light shineth out of an earthenware vessel. But when by the excellence of the mind alone it is raised up in contemplation, it is as if after the manner of the sun light is seen coming from heaven. Therefore because blessed Job had told of himself many good things appertaining to hospitality and mercifulness, which same surely he knew as still the least, in proportion as done in the bodily way of doing; recalling the eye of the mind to the topmost height of spiritual virtues, he remembered his own perfectness, and the light of examples which he gave to others in himself, he called ‘the sun.’ But there are some persons who when they do any good things, directly forget their wickednesses, and they fix the eye of the mind in the contemplation of the good practices which they exhibit; and henceforth account themselves holy, in the degree that amidst the good things that they do they shun the recollection of their evil deeds, in which perchance they are still entangled. Which same persons if with lively attention they marked the strictness of the Judge, would fear more for their evil things than exult for their imperfect good ones, would more look to it that for things that are still to be done they are held debtors, than that by practising some things they are already paying a portion of the debt. For neither is the debtor quit who pays back much, but who pays back all; nor does he attain to the prize of victory, who in a large proportion of the exhibition runs with speed, if on nearing the goal, in that which is left he goes off. Nor to persons going to any destined places does it avail when setting out to despatch a long way, if they are not at the same time able to achieve the whole of it. We then who are seeking the Eternal Life, what else are we about but performing a kind of journeys, whereby we are hastening onward to our country. But what does it matter that we despatch so many, if the rest which remain for our arriving we neglect?


12. Thus after the manner of travellers we ought not ever to look how much way we have already gone through, but how much there remains for us to carry through, that by slow degrees that may become past and over, which is unceasingly and fearfully marked as still to be. Therefore we ought much more to survey what good things we have not yet done, than those good things which we are glad that we have already done. But human frailty has this belonging to it, that it is more attractive to it to look at that which pleases it in itself, than that which displeases it in itself. For the sick eye of the heart, while it dreads to be put to pains in its contemplation, as it were asks for a kind of bed of delight in the mind, where it may lie softly; and for this reason it makes out what benefits it has secured by the good things it has done, but what losses it sustains from those which it has left undone it is blind to. For it very often happens that even the Elect are tried by this evil, very often it is put to the hearts of those, that the several good deeds which they have done they should recall to mind, and exult now in the joyfulness of security. But if they be really Elect persons, from that in which they are pleasing to themselves they turn away the eyes of the mind, and force down in themselves all joyfulness for the good things they have done, and for those which they perceive that they have never done they seek out sorrowfulness, they account themselves unworthy persons, and are almost the only ones that do not see the good things, which they afford in themselves to be seen for an example to all men. It is hence that Paul, when he was putting behind him the good things completed in himself, and thinking of those only still remaining, that had to be completed, said, I count not myself to have apprehended. [Phil. 3, 13] It is hence that in order that he might abase himself as to the good things he was doing, he set himself to recall to mind the evil things that were past, saying, Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious. [1 Tim. 1, 13]


13. And even if he at any time said, I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; [2 Tim. 4, 7] we ought above every thing to turn our eye to the fact, that he brought the thing forward at that time when he knew that he was now about to depart out of the body. For he there premised, saying, For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. [v. 6] For then he recalled to his recollection the perfectness of his practice, when he now foresaw time for practising no more to be his as to a field of large extent. For as whilst we live we are bound to drive out of our recollection our good deeds, that they may not lift us up, so on our departure drawing nigh, we very often bring them again to our recollection, that so they may afford us confidence, and keep down despairing fear. Who though in reckoning up he related his good points to the Corinthians, was bent to confirm them, and not to make a display of himself. For that he paid no regard to the same good points in himself, he taught by the affliction of his own tempting being laid open, which being set forth, he added; Therefore I take pleasure in mine infirmities. [2 Cor. 12, 10] So then that he might instruct the disciples, he told what was most high of himself, while that he might keep himself in humbleness, he had fixed the eye of his observation not in his virtues but in his weaknesses. Accordingly, holy men have this proper to them, that the good things they do they see indeed, yet when they have done them they turn away their eyes from the remembrance thereof. Whence it is rightly said by blessed Job, If I saw the sun when it shined. As though he said in plain speech; ‘My practice, even when it afforded the light of examples to others, I minded not for the boon of foreassurance; because whilst I feared to be uplifted on the grounds thereof, I turned mine eyes away from regarding it.’ It goes on;

And the moon walking in her brightness.




14. After the sun had been premised, he justly likewise added, ‘the moon walking in her brightness,’ because after good practice there follows the praiseworthy report whereby a name of renown is won in this night season of the present life. But if that be true which some think, that the moon through his hidden circuit receives illumination from the ray of the sun, so that she should be able to display light by the courses of the night, this supposition likewise is not at variance with the order of this representation. For fame gains its means from good practice, and it spreads the esteem of applause like the brightness of light. There is also another thing in the moon, which may agree in likeness with fame spreading good. For the light thereof even in the season of darkness shews the road to persons going afoot, because both whilst the light of praise shines out from another’s life, it lightens others for the exercising of good practice; and when the esteem of the one is seen in a clear light, to the other as it were going his way upon a journey the light of example is afforded. But it sometimes happens that the practice which is derived from the esteem of another man is framed with an aim not duly pure in the mind. For weak minds when they hear good things of others, sometimes kindle themselves to right practice not by the love of virtue, but the delightfulness of applause. And indeed it is evident that as it is the nature of the sun that whatsoever things it touches it burns and dries up, so it is the property of the fire of the moon that whatever it touches, it burns indeed, but in so burning renders the thing moist. Thus then to a good life, some an affecting of good practice for the love of God kindles and inflames, whilst others the love of praise. But when we are set on fire with an affection to right practice, we are as it were dried up by the fire of the sun from the humidity of evil habits. While him whom the love of praise prompts to good practice, fame coveted touches like the moon, because his mind it at once inflames and unlooses. That is to say, it inflames him to the exercising of practice, but unlooses him to the desire of applause. Yet very often for the exercising of good deeds the examples of others influence us to good effect. And when we adopt the good of another’s reputation with a humble mind, we either advance our own good things for the better, or change the bad to good; and when the brightness of fame from the life of our neighbour sheds its rays on ourselves, our mind, as we before said, which is guiding itself with a view to winning the way of virtue, sets the steps as it were in the light of the moon. But as we make way by the esteem of another, so it very often occurs that if we give heed to the praises of our own fame, we are emptied of virtue, because when the mind is made to take delight in that which it sees to be held without concerning it, it loses sight of that, which it was panting for within.


15. Therefore because the understanding of knowledge did not corrupt the holy man, he held it beneath him to rejoice in his great riches. Now because the greatness of his practice did not puff him up, he ‘saw not the sun when it shined;’ and because neither did the credit of applause uplift ‘him, he never’ regarded the moon walking in its brightness.’ For there are some persons who are brought down into self-exalting in the degree, that by a nice understanding they find out good things even that they do not do. These, surely, ‘rejoice over great riches,’ when by making out they discover any things of the highest, and by those self-same discoveries are spoilt in self-exaltation. But there are some persons whom understanding does not indeed uplift, but the practice set forth exalts, who whilst they regard their own doings in their own heart by shewing disdain, set the rest of the world in the background to themselves. These same, though they do not rejoice in great riches, yet ‘see the sun when it shineth,’ because upon the greatness of good practice alone, they as it were swell themselves out despising others. And there are some whom not even their own practice uplifts, but when they begin to be commended by their fellow-creatures for that same good practice, being overcome by the mere applause of men, by themselves they view themselves as certain great ones in their own imagination, and are unbound from the safe keeping of the heart. These, surely, though they refused to ‘see the sun when it shineth,’ yet ‘behold the moon walking in its brightness;’ because amidst the darkness of this world, while they fasten the mind on the brightness of their reputation, as it were by the light of the night they lose the grace of humility, and, whilst beholding the moon, they see not themselves, in that they begin to be blind to themselves, while they fix the eyes of the mind on transitory applause.


16. Now so is the progress of men, as we see the growths of trees to be. For the essence of the future tree is first in the seed, afterwards in the springing, and at last it is carried out into boughs. Thus then, surely the goodness of every one doing works grows up. For it is sown in understanding, it springs up in practising, and at last it is consolidated to the full width of great advancement. But when his understanding uplifts any one, the tree that might have sprung up rots in the seed. And when after good practice he is spoilt by the bane of self-exaltation, it is as if, having already sprung up, it withered. But when neither understanding nor practice corrupt, but its greatness growing up, when the applause of persons commending follows, and overturns from its seat the mind of him that doeth rightly, the tree has encountered the winds of the tongues, and all that had grown up strong in it, the tempest of fame has plucked up by the roots. For in proportion as the tree has risen higher to the regions above, forcibly does it feel the violence of the winds; because the more a man is lifted to a height in good practices, with so much the greater blast is he oppressed by the mouth of those that praise him. Therefore if the tree is still in the seed, there is need to fear lest it should be made rotten by the mere acquaintance with knowledge; if it has now already issued into a shoot, we have to be on our guard that the hand of self-exaltation touch it not, and parch it of the greenness of its conduct; but if it already lifts itself up on high with vigorous strength, it is very greatly to be dreaded lest the over strong wind of praise that is applied pluck it up from the roots.


17. But herein it is necessary to be borne in mind, that, to the end that we be not rooted up by immoderate praises, very often, by the marvellous regulating of our Ruler, we are allowed to be torn in pieces by calumnies even, that so when the voice of one commending lifts up the heart, the tongue of one calumniating should abase it, because the tree too oftentimes, which is so driven by the impulse of one wind as to seem now that it might well nigh be rooted out of its place, is set up again by a blast of another wind from an opposite quarter; and the tree which suffered bending from this side, is brought back from another to its standing position. And hence that tree, being deeply rooted, had as it were stood fixed amidst contending winds, which said, By honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report. [2 Cor. 6, 8] For it often happens that praise being unwonted brought home to the ears of the well doer, whilst it echoes in talkings without, engenders to the mind within a kind of tempest in silence, and it comes to happen that this thing, that the soul is delighted by the applause of men, it does not easily display outwardly, but yet it feels the force of corruption in no slight degree inwardly. And there are some whom praise so puffs up that it forces them on even to words of self-exalting. But some, as we said before, are ashamed to lay open this same thing, that they are lifted up, and their encomiums being heard by them they are exalted, but yet do not come forth to the extent of words of exaltation, and never shew openly that they delight in such things. Hence blessed Job, because he knew that he had not been arrogant not only at all in words, but also in the secret thought of the heart as well, after that he said, If I saw the sun when it shined, or the moon walking in its brightness; therefore added;

Ver. 27. And my heart rejoiced in secret.




18. By which same recording, what else is conveyed to us, but that there is need of great fear and circumspection, lest our mind at any time rejoice even in secret on the grounds of its commendations. For that man who looks on the greatness of his fame as ‘the brightness of the moon,’ and creates delight to himself in the secret of the heart, to whom but to the Maker did such a man prefer himself, by Whose gift he obtained it that he should practise aright, and yet in His benefit is made glad upon the favour of his own praise? For the honour of his Creator being disregarded, he is convicted of loving himself more, by the proclaims of whom he is so gladdened. Though sometimes even holy men rejoice in their own good repute; but when they reflect that through this good repute those that hear them advance to better things, they now no longer rejoice in their own reputation, but in the profiting of their neighbours; because it is one thing to seek marks of favour, and another thing to exult on the ground of advancement. Wherein it follows, that when it does not advance the welfare of the hearers, fame for credit should not lift up, but oppress our mind. For when we are commended by the witnessing of the human tongue, we are asked by a secret smiting what we think concerning our own selves. For the uplifted soul, even when false good is told concerning it, exults, because it makes out in thought not how it lives with God, but how it makes itself known with men. For disregarding the judgment of Almighty God concerning itself, and only seeking after that of men, it is lifted up amidst the praises it hears, and the soul which had looked out for this alone is gladdened as if by the prize of its practice. But on the contrary if the heart be really humble, the good things that it hears of itself it either does not at all acknowledge, and is afraid that false things are said, or otherwise if it knows that they are really there to it, dreads lest they should be lost to the eternal recompensing of God, by this alone that it sees them to be published abroad to men; and it fears very greatly lest the hope of the future reward should be changed into the wages of transitory applause.


19. From which circumstance it takes place that the soul of the Elect is tortured by a great fire of their own praises, and by sorrowfulness of thought fined clear of all the rust of its inertness. For by heedful taking thought it is filled with fear lest either for those things, in the which it is praised, and they do not exist, it should meet with a worse judgment of God, or for those things wherein it is praised, and they do exist, it lose the suitable reward. Whence it most commonly takes place that like as the unjust man is defiled by his praise, so the just person is purified by his praise reaching his ear. For when the good things he has done he finds out are put forward by men, he dreads, as has been said, the exact inquest of the Final Judgment upon himself, and full of affright flees to the conscience, and whatever there is therein worthy of blame, he corrects. For while he dreads to have his good things made known, fearing greatly the exactness of the Inquest to follow, if there be any hidden evil things in him, he cuts them away. For he is alarmed if he be not exhibited at least such to God, as he is held by men, neither is he satisfied that in that state in which he may have been made known to men he should continue to remain. For already he reckons compensation as it were made to him for his good things, except he add thereto others also which are not known by men. Whence it is well said by Solomon; As silver is tried in the fining pot and gold in the furnace, so man is tried by the mouth of him that praises. [Prov. 27, 21] For silver and gold if it be refuse is consumed by the fire, but if proof, it is brought out by the fire. Thus surely is the mind also of him that worketh. For what sort of man he is, is shewn herein that he is praised; for if when his praises reach his ears, he is uplifted, what else was such an one but refuse gold or silver, whom surely the furnace of the tongue consumed? But if on hearing the marks of favour towards him, he returns to the consideration of the Judgment Above, and entertains fear lest he should be heavily charged for these things in the sight of the secret Arbiter, as it were by the fire of purifying he is made to grow to greatness and splendour, and from the same source whence he undergoes the burning of affright, he shines so much the brighter. Therefore blessed Job, because he never preferred himself on the ground of practice, says with confidence, If I saw the sun when it shined. And because fame to his credit never diverted this man from the regarding of the Interior Judgment, he adds, And the moon walking in her brightness. And because he never suffered, not even in secret thought, that his mind should be mastered by the boon of his repute, he directly added, And if my heart rejoiced in secret. And because it very often happens that the unheeding mind, when it does not set itself against transitory applause, is drawn on even to this pass, that it praises itself what it does, to the condition which was set before it is in a manner fitly annexed ,

And have kissed my hand with my mouth.




20. For by the ‘hand’ doing is denoted, and by the ‘mouth’ speaking; as when it is said by Solomon, A slothful man hideth his hand in his bosom, and it is labour to him to bring it to his mouth. [Prov. 19, 24] To the slothful man it is a labour to stretch his hand to his mouth,’ because the slothful preacher has no mind to practise even the very thing that he says, Since to stretch the hand to the mouth, is to harmonize with his voice in practice. And so he ‘kisses his hand with his mouth,’ who praises the thing that he does, and by the testimony of his own speech awards to himself meritoriousness of practice. In which case who is there that is despised, saving He Who bestows the very gifts for practising themselves? Whence it is well said by the great Preacher; And what hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it? [1 Cor. 4, 7] Now holy men know themselves to be sprung since the fall of our first parent from a corruptible stock, and that not by their own goodness, but by grace from above preventing them they are changed to better wishes and works, and whatever of evil they find to be in them, they feel is earned by mortal derivation, but whatever of good they espy in themselves, they acknowledge as the gift of immortal grace, and they are made debtors to Him for the benefit vouchsafed, Who both by preventing vouchsafed to them to will the good that they willed not, and by following after vouchsafed them to be able to do the good which they will. Whence it is well said by John; And worshipped Him That liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne of the Lord. [Rev. 4, 10] For ‘to cast their crowns before the throne of the Lord’ is to attribute not to themselves but to the Maker the victories of their conflicts, so as to refer the glory of praise to Him, from Whom they know themselves to have received powers for the conflict. And so blessed Job, because he so tells the good things that he had practised, that, nevertheless, he never attributes them to his own doing, but goes back to the praise of his Creator, denies that he had ‘kissed his hand with his mouth.’ As though he said in a plain way, ‘I do not bring forward my deeds as mine own; because he is proved to disown the grace of his Creator, whoever attributes to himself the thing that he does in practice.’ And hence he adds directly;

Ver. 28. Which is the chiefest iniquity, and denial against the Most High God.




21. For it is clear that he does deny Him, when setting at nought His grace, he claims to himself the powers of good practice. Which too is rightly called as well ‘the chiefest iniquity’ because every act of sin which is from infirmity destroyeth not hope, seeing that it asks forgiveness from the Judge Above. But presuming on our own goodness is so much the worse in desperateness, the further it is removed from humility. And when it ascribes the strength of practice to itself, it does not have recourse to the aid of the Maker, and it is brought to pass that the sinner perishes so much the worse, for that even this very thing, that he is a sinner, he is ignorant of. It follows;

Ver. 29. If I rejoiced at the destruction of him that hated me, or lifted up myself when evil found me.





22. That we are disciples of Almighty God, the keeping of charity is the only proof. For it is hence that Truth saith by Itself, By this shall all men know that ye are My Disciples, if ye have love one toward another. [John 13, 35] Which same love, if it really fills our heart, is wont to be exhibited in two ways; viz. if we at once love our friends in God, and our enemies for God. But it needs to be known that the love of our enemy is then really kept, when we are neither given up to suffering [‘addicimur’] upon his advancement, nor rejoiced at his destruction. For very often in a semblance of love with reference to an enemy, the mind is deceived, and such an one it reckons that it loves, if it do not prove a foe to his life; but the efficacy of love either the promotion, or the fall of an enemy, secretly and really puts to the proof. For on this point the mind of man knows not itself to the full, except that him whom he takes for an enemy to him, he finds whether by advancement or diminution to have changed the measure of his standing. For if he is given over to suffer by the prosperity, and rejoiced by the calamity of him who hates him, it is plain that he does not love him, whom he does not wish to be better; and him he persecutes, even when standing, in wish, about whoso fall he congratulates himself.


23. But herein it is needful to know that it very often happens that without charity being lost, both the destruction of an enemy rejoices us, and again his glory without any sin of envy saddens us, when both he falling to ruin, we believe that there are persons rightly set up, and he being advanced we dread very many being unjustly borne down. In which case neither does his diminution now lift up our mind, nor his aggrandisement give it over to suffer, if the right thought of our heart regard not what is done in the individual, but what is done by the individual towards others. But for preserving these things a scrutiny of the exactest discrimination is absolutely requisite, lest when we are carrying out our own hatred, we be deceived under the appearance of the utility to another. For if there were not to be any rejoicing at all for the death of an enemy, the Psalmist would never say, The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance on the ungodly. [Ps. 58, 10] For it is one thing to bear an ungodly man, and another thing to bear an enemy. For there are a great many enemies that are not ungodly, and there are some ungodly persons who seem not in any special manner enemies to us. But the mind of man accounts every one whom it bears as an enemy, to be ungodly and wicked as well, because the faults of that man spleen as his accuser heightens in its own thinking. But with whatever wickednesses he may be sunk down, he little passes for wicked, if he is not felt to be an adversary. In which point there must be the distinguishing, that it is one thing wherein our enemy harms ourselves, and another thing wherein he harms himself and the rest of the world. For if he is good to others, perchance it may be that it is not without our fault that he is bad to us; nor should there be altogether a rejoicing in his ruin now, whoso hostile treatment it is certain we alone have undergone. But when the enemy of ourselves and a great many persons is destroyed, it must needs be that our heart should be glad for the escape of our neighbours, rather than for the destruction of our enemy.


24. For it is requisite that when an adversary perishes we should minutely consider both what we owe to the destruction of the sinner, and what to the justice of the smiter. For when Almighty God smites any bad man, there must be sorrowing in unison with the wretchedness of the ruined, and rejoicing in unison with the justice of the Judge, so that both the punishment of our neighbour dying should be a sorrow to us, and again the equity exhibited by God in judging should be an occasion of joy, that so we may neither prove enemies to a man in his perishing, nor be found unthankful to God in His judging. And so because he perfectly trod down all feelings of hatred in opposition, let blessed Job say, If I rejoiced at the destruction of him that hated me, or lifted up myself when evil found him. Who, that is to say, in loving even his enemy, whereas he sympathized with an adversary when ruined, by that one’s evil things was himself advanced to good, that this one should go on growing to loving-kindness by the same cause that the evil that he deserved had found that other. But because often there are persons who because they cannot with power, assail with cursing those whom they account enemies to themselves, in which persons it appears plain what evil things they would do if they could, who never cease to imprecate those which they cannot do, blessed Job exhibiting himself free from the sin of cursing as well, added, going on,

Ver. 30. Neither have I suffered my mouth to sin by wishing a curse to his soul.




25. For he would sin, if he were to desire that to be done by God, which he himself either could not at all be able to do, or if he could it would not be in any wise right. For they who assail an enemy with curses, what other thing do they wish God to do in his case, but what they are either unable or ashamed to do themselves? For they wish death to their enemy, which same even if they have the power, they are afraid to bring upon him; lest they should either be bound as guilty of murder committed, or shew themselves wicked even when they are. What then is it to say to God, ‘Kill the man whom I hate,’ but to cry out to him in audible accents; ‘Do Thou that to mine enemy, which it is not proper for me to do towards him even as a sinner.’ In which same words it is to be thought where had this person read, Love your enemies? [Luke 6, 27] where had he read, Bless, and curse not? [Rom. 12, 14] and again, Not rendering evil for evil, nor railing for railing? [1 Pet. 3, 9] But the precepts of grace from above, not heard with the outward ears he observed, because the inspiration of the Holy Spirit wrote them in the heart of that man. To whom however it would have been but little that he loved those adversaries situated without, excepting he had to bear these also living within, and holding daily converse with him, even those of his household, as adversaries. Whence he adds,

Ver. 31. If the men of my tabernacle said not, O that we had of his flesh, that we might be satisfied!





26. Which same sentence may also be taken in mystery of

the voice of our Redeemer. For ‘the men of his tabernacle’ longed to be ‘satisfied by his flesh,’ i.e. whether the Jews in persecuting or the Gentiles in believing. For both the one set themselves as it were by consuming it to put an end to His Body, and the latter desire to satisfy their hungering soul with His flesh, by the daily sacrifice of His immolating.




But now following the gist of the history alone let us reflect with what strenuousness the mind of the holy man, full of concern for all things, is divided within and without; who to those acting unjustly had he either submitted in silence, or not withstood in righteous living, assuredly he would never have had them as adversaries. But hereby, that he kept the paths of life, he found hearty desires of his death. Adversaries he met with, shewing themselves outwardly, lurking inwardly. Now it is inferior goodness in a conflict for a man to see without evils that he has to get the better of, and not to have within aught that he may have to bear. But it is the praise of perfect greatness to meet hostile treatment, without bravely, and within mercifully. For there are some things in the actual common dealing of those of a household, that cannot be corrected without sin in the corrector, and therefore when they either defile him who corrects them, or do not weigh heavily on him who does them, with a great skill of tutoring they require to be winked at, and by this very winking to be borne with, which same when put upon ourselves are the more quickly dismissed from our hearts, if we know our own misdemeanours against our neighbours. Whence it is well said too by Solomon; Take no heed to all words that are spoken; lest thou hear thy servant curse thee: for oftentimes also thine own heart knoweth that thou thyself also hast cursed others. [Eccles. 7, 21, 22] For whilst we reflect what we have been towards others, we are the less concerned that others should have proved such persons towards ourselves, because the injustice of another avenges in us what our conscience justly accuses in self. It proceeds;

Ver. 32. The stranger did not lodge in the street; but my door was open to the traveller.




27. Whereas, Paul being witness, charily is described as patient and kind, by patience it bears with composure the ill turns of others, by kindness it also renders with mercifulness its own good ones. Whence blessed Job at once patiently bore those of his own household cursing him, and received to him kindly the travellers and strangers, to the first affording examples of morals, the other meeting with the succour of external things. For the holy man viewing by the Spirit of prophecy the Redeemer of mankind, also kept his pardoning words in practice, whereby He warns us, saying, Let go, and it shall be let go to you; give and it shall be given unto you. [Luke 6, 37] For our giving relates to the things which we have outwardly, but our letting go to the dismissing the grief, which we have inwardly contracted by the offence of another. But it requires to be known, that he who ‘lets go’ but does not ‘give,’ though he has not done to the full, yet has observed the better part of mercifulness. But he who ‘gives’ but never ‘lets go’ does not execute mercy at all; because by Almighty God the gift is not accepted from the hand, which is proffered by a heart tied and bound in wickedness.


28. For there is need for the soul that offers alms first to be made clean, because every thing that is given to God is reckoned according to the feeling of him who gives it. Therefore every stain of evil must be wiped clean from our interior man by the changing of the thought, because the offering has it not to appease the wrath of the Judge, except it be acceptable by the purity of him who offers it. Whence it is written; And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offerings; but unto Cain and to his offerings He had not respect. [Gen. 4, 4. 5.] For it is not that sacred Revelation says that ‘He had respect to the offerings of Abel, but to the offerings of Cain He had not respect;’ but he first says, that He had respect to Abel, and afterwards subjoined, And to his offerings. And again he says that to Cain He had not respect, and next added, nor to his offerings. For according to the heart of the giver is the thing that is given received. Therefore not Abel by virtue of his offerings, but by virtue of Abel the gifts offered were well pleasing. For it is read that the Lord had regard first to the person who gave, before the things which he gave. Hence blessed Job going on to tell us his bountifulness in the boon of hospitality did right in bringing forward first his patience and kindness towards enemies, how that he did not ‘exult in the destruction of his enemy;’ that he did not ‘assail his persecutors with words of cursing;’ that those enraged against him within, he bore with equanimity; and then at last he brought forward the bountifulness of his hospitality, that, namely, by the order of his relation being listened to, we might learn that exterior gifts are seasoned by the interior pureness of the heart, that the combination of his virtues might teach the reader what sort of person he ought to be in himself, when he administers external good to others.


29. But who would not account himself to be a holy man in the midst of such heights of his virtues? Who would not be in some measure tempted by his mere merits alone being so many in number, so that if at any time as being but man he went wrong, he would not have his transgression made known to men; and would account it as trivial if he did any thing wrong in lesser things; and would rather prefer to cover his offence by silence than disclose it by the voice of confession? For it often comes to pass that the mind being lifted up by virtuous attainments, when it knows that many good things are scattered abroad concerning it in the esteem of neighbours, does not wish it to be known, if there is any thing that it does deserving of blame. Which same darkness of mistaking the mind is for this reason exposed to, because high-swelling clogs the eye of the heart. Hence blessed Job, in the midst of so many distinguished achievements in virtues, who became so lofty in practice, in order to shew how lowly in mind he was, added directly;

If I covered my transgression as man, and did hide mine iniquity in my bosom.


30. For these are the proofs of true humility, both for a man to ascertain his own wickedness, and on being ascertained to discover it by the voice of confession; but on the contrary it is the accustomed evil practice of man’s race, at once to commit sin keeping himself hidden from sight, and when committed to hide it by denying, and when brought home to him, to multiply it by standing up for it. For from that fall of the first man we draw these accessions of wickedness, from which we also draw the very original of sin. For thus he, when he had touched the forbidden tree, hid himself from the face of the Lord amidst the trees of Paradise. In which hiding, because surely he could not escape the eye of God, it is not the effecting of self-concealing that is related, but the affecting thereof is betokened. Who when he was charged by the Lord, how that he had touched of the forbidden tree, thereupon answered; The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. [Gen. 3, 12] The woman likewise on being asked, answered, saying, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. [v. 13] For to this end they were enquired of, that the sin, which by transgressing they had been guilty of, they might by confessing wipe out. Whence too the serpent, that prompter, inasmuch as he was not to be brought back to pardon, was not asked concerning the sin. Thus man was asked the question ‘where he was,’ that he might review the offence committed, and by confessing it take knowledge how far he had departed from the face of his Creator. But both preferred to take to themselves the cordials of defence rather than of confession. And whilst the man was minded to palliate the sin through the woman, and the woman through the serpent, they added to the sin, which they endeavoured to vindicate; Adam by indirectly glancing at the Lord, how that he had Himself proved the author of their sin, in that He had made the woman; and Eve in referring the sin to the Lord, Who had placed the serpent in Paradise. For they who had heard from the mouth of the devil deceiving them, Ye shall be as Gods; [v. 5] because they were not able to be like to God in Godhead, for the heightening of their error endeavoured to make God like to themselves in transgression. In this way then, whilst they set themselves to defend their guilt, they made the addition that the sin should be rendered more heinous when examined, than it had been when committed.


31. Hence now also the branches of the human race derive bitterness still from this root, so that when a man is charged home for the evil in him, he hides himself under words of self-defence, as under a kind of leaves of trees, and as it were flies the face of his Creator to a kind of darkened retreats of self-exculpation, whereas he has no mind to have that known that he has been guilty of. By which same concealment he has not hidden himself from the Lord, but the Lord from himself. For he manages that he should not see Him Who sees all things, not that he himself should not be seen. Contrarily to every sinner the first step now of enlightenment is the humility of confessing, in that he now refuses to spare himself, who does not blush to avow the evil that he has done, and he who by defending himself might have been laid open to be accused, by accusing himself defends himself most quickly. And hence to dead Lazarus, who was kept down by a great weight, it is not said, ‘be thou restored to life;’ but, Come forth, [John 11, 43] by which same rising again, which was carried on in the body of that man, it is signified in what way we ourselves rise again in the heart, i.e. when it is said to the dead man, Come forth; that is to say, that man being dead in his sin, and through the mass of bad habit already buried, because he lies hidden from sight within his own conscience by wickedness, should go forth from himself without by confession. For to the dead man it is said, Come forth, that from the excusing and concealing of sin he may be called forth to come out to the accusing of himself with his own lips. Whence David the Prophet, in coming to life from that death of his great guilt, as it were went forth at the voice of the Lord, when being rebuked by Nathan he brought accusation of what he had done.


32. Therefore because this sin of concealing grew to a dreadful excess in the human race, blessed Job, when he was saying, If I covered my transgression, rightly inserted the words as man, because he sees that to be proper to man, which descends by the copying of our old parent. Whence it is fitly subjoined; And did hide mine iniquity in my bosom. For sacred Scripture is very often used to put the ‘bosom’ for the mind; as where in the voice of Holy Church it is said by the Psalmist of our persecutors, who are joined to us indeed in nature, but disjoined in life, And render unto our neighbours sevenfold into their bosom. [Ps. 79, 12] As though he said in plain speech; ‘Let them receive that in their minds, which in raging against us they practise over our bodies, that whereas they punish us outwardly in part, they may themselves be punished inwardly to a complete degree.’ And so because the ‘bosom’ is interpreted the privacy of the mind, to ‘conceal iniquity in the bosom’ is to hide it in the recesses of the conscience, nor to uncover it by confession, but to veil it by defence. Contrarily James says, Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be saved. [James 5, 16] Solomon also says, He that covereth his sins shall not prosper, but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy. [Prov. 28, 13]


33. But herein it is necessary to be known that men very often both confess their sins and are not humble. For we know many who when no man charges them confess that they are sinners, but when perhaps they are rebuked for their sin, they seek the support of defence that they may not seem to be sinners; which persons, if, when they say the thing of their own accord, they did then with genuine humility see themselves to be sinners, when they are charged home by others would never deny that they are what they had confessed. In which case the tokens of true confession are, if when a man calls himself a sinner, he does not contradict another as well advancing that about him. For because it is written, The just man in the beginning is the accuser of himself; [Prov. 18, 17] he does not rather aim to appear a sinner, but a just man, when any one confesses himself a sinner, no man charging him. But when another inveighs against the evil that we have done, he proves the truth of confession. Which same if we defend in a proud spirit, it is clear that it is feignedly that of ourselves we called ourselves sinners. Whence it is above every thing to be taken care of that the evil things we have done, we both confess of our own accord, and do not deny them when others charge us home with them. For it is the evil of pride that the thing which a man as if by his own act deems it meet to confess about himself, this he should disdain to have said to him by others.


34. Thus blessed Job shewed what singular humility he was of, in that he both knew that he was living amongst adversaries, and yet was not afraid to disclose his offences with the voice of confession. But observe that above he tells his virtuous qualities, lower down he confesses his sin. For hence he clearly proves what truth he had spoken of the good in him, in that he would not hold his tongue concerning the evil. One while he points out his virtues, at another time transgressions; that he had both committed sin, and had not kept it silent, he makes plain. Whence it appears without all doubt what extraordinary purity he was of in the sight of Almighty God, who both avoided evil things that he should not commit them, and yet what things it did chance to him to commit he did not conceal from men; so that to him there should at once be the high credit of righteousness to have shunned sin, and the safe keeping of righteousness to have brought to light what he was not able to shun. Let this man seem to any one great in his virtues, to me without doubt he appears most grand even in his sins. Let those, who are so minded, admire in him the self-control of chastity, let them admire the faithfulness of justice, let them admire the bowels of pitifulness; I do not less admire in him the humblest confession of sins, than such lordly achievements of virtue. For I know well that through the shame of infirmity it is generally a worse conflict, to bring to light the sins we have committed, than it is to avoid them not being committed, and each instance of evil, though it may be avoided with more vigorousness, is yet brought to view with greater humility. Thus blessed Job, who whilst supported by so many great practices was not ashamed to confess his sin, shewed in the midst of his virtues, how humble he was. But because from true humility there ever springs secure authority, so that the soul should dread nothing without, in proportion as by the longing of self-elation it does not pant after the topmost height of affairs, the confession of sin having been set forth, it is rightly subjoined;

Ver. 34. Did I fear a great multitude, or did the contempt of neighbours terrify me, and I did not rather keep silence, and went not out of the door?




35. It is great assuredness of heart to have nought of worldly concupiscence. For if the heart pants after attaining earthly things, it can never be secure and tranquil, because either things not possessed it desires, in order that it may possess them, or things obtained it is afraid for lest it should lose them, and whilst in adverse circumstances he dreads prosperous ones, so in prosperous circumstances he dreads such as are adverse, and he is tossed hither and thither as it were by a kind of waves, and is hurried about in various fashions by the changeableness of shifting affairs. But if once the mind is fixed with strong stedfastness in the longing after the Country Above, it is less distressed by the annoyance of earthly things. For from all outward commotions it seeks that its aim, like a kind of most secret retreat, and there attaching itself to the Unchangeable, [al. ‘Unchangeably attached,’ which however would be a hyperbolic expression.] and mounting above all changeable things, by the mere calmness of its repose, while in the world, it is henceforth without the world. It goes beyond all things below by its stressing after the highest, and all the objects which it does not go after it feels itself by a certain liberty to get above, nor within is it subject to the tempest of things temporal, which it views without, for all earthly things which being longed after might have borne down the mind, being looked down upon lie beneath it. Whence it is well said by the Prophet, Set a look out for thyself; [Jer. 31, 21] that whilst a man views things above, he may rise high above things beneath. Hence likewise Habakkuk says, I will stand upon my watch. [Hab. 2, 1] For he ‘stands upon his watch,’ who by wise policy of discipline, does not bow down beneath, but rises high above earthly desires, that while he aims at Eternity, which is ever stedfast, he should have beneath his feet every thing that passes by.


36. Yet because with whatever goodness the holy man has advanced, the infirmity of the flesh still outwardly bears him down whilst set in this life, as it is written, Though man walk in the image of God, yet he is disquieted in vain: [Ps. 39, 6] it very often takes place that he is at once disquieted without, and holds on not subject to disquietude within, and that he is liable to be ‘disquieted in vain’ comes from the infirmity of the flesh, though that he ‘walks in the image of God’ is from the excellency of the mind, in order that he should both be inwardly strengthened by the Divine aid, and yet be still pressed down without by the human burthen. Whence Habakkuk again has well delivered a single sentence serving for both particulars. For he says, And trembling entered into my bones, and my power [virtue] was disquieted underneath me. [Hab. 3, 16] As though he said; ‘It is not my power, wherein being transported above, I remain free from liability to disquietude, but it is my own power wherein I am disquieted below.’ And so the same is free from disquietude above himself, and the same exposed to disquietude below himself; because he had mounted above himself, in so far as he was caught away to things on high; and he was beneath himself, in so far as he still dragged a remains into that which is below. The same above himself is free from liability to disquietude, because he had now passed away into the contemplation of God: the same under himself is liable to be disquieted, because beneath himself he still remained a frail human being. The Prophet David according with this sentence saith; I said in the excess of my mind, All men are liars. [Ps. 116, 11] To whom the answer may be made; ‘If every man, then thou too; and the sentence will henceforth be false, which thou being a liar hast uttered, because whilst thou art true-spoken, every man is not found out a liar.’ But observe that it is prefaced, I said in the excess of my mind. And so by ‘excess of the mind’ he transcended himself even, when he determined about the character of man. As though he said in plain speech; ‘I delivered a true sentence respecting the falseness of all men from the same cause, whereby I was myself above man;’ being now so far himself a ‘liar’ as far as he was himself man, but so far altogether not a ‘liar,’ as ‘by excess of the mind’ he was above man.


37. Thus, therefore, thus all the perfect, though they are still subject to something disquieting from the infirmity of the flesh, ret already enjoy within the calmest privacy by the contemplation of the mind, so that whatsoever thing happens without, it should in nought disquiet them within. Whence blessed Job, exhibiting the security of a holy mind, after he had delivered so many announcements of the parts of virtue with reference to himself, following that which we have set before, added; If I feared at an exceeding great multitude, or the contempt of neighbours terrified me, and I did not rather keep silence, and went not out of the door. As though he said in a plainer manner; ‘While others were disquieted against me without, I myself remained in mine own self free from being disquieted within.’ For what else ought we in this place to take ‘the door’ to be, but the mouth? For by this we as it were go forth, when with what words we are able, we disclose the secrets of our hearts; and what we remain within in the conscience, such we go forth without by the tongue.


38. But there are some persons who are altogether afraid to be despised, and lest they should chance to be judged as contemptible, aim to appear wise. These are driven to ‘go forth out of the door,’ because when assailed with insults, how great in themselves they lie buried from sight, they give out telling it. And when being overcome by impatience they put forth things about themselves, which were unknown, they as it were ‘go forth by the door’ of the mouth. And so blessed Job being about to say, that he had never ‘gone forth out of the door of the lips,’ justly set before; I kept silence; i.e. because agitated by impatience he would have gone forth out of the house of the conscience, if he had not known how to keep silence. For holy men, when they are under the trial of being perturbed, shun wholly and entirely to exhibit themselves to view, and when they cannot benefit those that hear them, they are willing by keeping silence to be even despised, lest they pride themselves upon the exhibition of their own wisdom. And when they say any thing with good understanding, they seek not their own glory, but the life of their hearers. But when they see that they cannot by speaking gain the life of their hearers, by keeping silence they hide their own knowledge. For we hide to the imitating the life of the Lord, as to a kind of mark set before us. For He Himself, because he saw that Herod sought not advancement, but that he desired to wonder at His signs or His knowledge, on being asked by him held His tongue, and because He kept silence with constancy, He went forth derided by him. For it is written; And when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad; for he was desirous to see Him of a long season, because he had heard many things of Him; and he hoped to have seen some miracles done by Him: [Luke 23, 8] where it is also added; Then he questioned with Him in many words, but He answered him nothing. [v. 9] But how greatly the Lord in holding His peace was despised, is shewn when the words are brought in there directly; And Herod with his men of war set Him at nought, and mocked Him. [v. 11] Which same transaction we ought to hear and learn, in order that as often as our hearers desire to be made acquainted with things of ours, as things to be praised, and not to alter what is wrong of their own, we should altogether hold our peace; lest, if we speak the Word of God with the design of display, both the fault of those persons, which then was, should not cease to be, and our own fault, which was not, should be brought to pass.


39. A person will perhaps say,’ How do we know with what feelings of the heart a man will hear?’ But there are a number of things that bring to light the mind of him who hears; first and foremost, if our hearers both always praise what they hear, and never follow the thing that they praise. This vain glory of speaking the great Preacher had shunned, when he said, For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as from God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ. [2 Cor. 2, 17] For to ‘corrupt the Word of God’ is to think of Him otherwise than He is, or to seek from it not spiritual fruits, but the corrupt offspring of human praise. But ‘to speak as of sincerity,’ is not to seek for aught in Revelation beyond what behoves. Now he ‘speaks as from God,’ who knows that he himself hath not from himself, but that he hath received from God what he says. And he speaks ‘before God,’ who in all that he speaks seeks not human regards, but minds the presence of Almighty God, and who looks for, not his own glory, but the glory of his Creator. But he who indeed knows well that he has himself received from God the thing that he speaks, and yet in speaking seeks his own glory, speaks ‘as from God,’ but not ‘before God,’ because Him he considers as absent, Whom he docs not set before his heart, when he preaches Him. But holy men at once ‘speak as from God’ and ‘before God,’ in that they both know that they have from Him the thing that they say, and they see that He is Himself present at their discoursings, their Judge and their Hearer. Hence it comes to pass, that whereas they know themselves to be set at nought by their neighbours, and that their words do not advantage the life of the persons hearing them, they hide from sight what great goodness they are of, lest if the speech delivered disclose the secret of the heart to no purpose, it should break forth into vain glory.


40. Therefore blessed Job in the midst of stubborn hearts not aiming to shine forth by the disclosure of his virtue, says, And if the contempt of neighbours terrified me and I did not rather keep silence, and went not out of the door. For he who being stedfast through humility never feared to be despised, him never did impatience master, that the tongue should cast him forth out of doors. When it is rightly put first, If I feared at an exceeding great multitude; that it might be seen and known what great constancy he was of, in this respect, because no number of men ever terrifies without, whom no rout of bad habits lays waste within. For in this life he who seeks nothing that has to do with prosperity, doubtless dreads nothing that has to do with adversity.




41. Which same words if we carry on to a mystical meaning, we directly find therein the Redeemer’s mode of practice. For He was not ‘afraid at an exceeding great multitude,’ Who smote with a single answer only His persecutors coming with swords and staves, saying, I am He. [John 18, 6] ‘Him the contempt of His neighbours did not terrify,’ Who, in freeing us from eternal punishments, received strokes on the face with a composed mind. ‘He kept silence, and did not go forth out of the door,’ Who in the very hour now of His Passion, when He was undergoing the weak conditions of humanity, refused to call into action the power of Divinity. For to the Mediator between God and man it would have been ‘to go forth out of the door,’ if when He was held as Man He had been minded to display the power of His Majesty, and by the mightiness of His Divinity to surmount the weak conditions of the flesh taken upon Him. For that He might die manifest to man, He remained hidden God. For had they known it, they would never have crucified the Lord of Glory. [1 Cor 2, 8] And so He did not ‘go forth out of the door,’ Who even when questioned by Pilate kept silence; and in the midst of the hands of the persecutors He both offered His Body to suffering, which He had taken upon Him in behalf of the Elect, and would not display to those that were against Him What He was. Whence also it is said by the Psalmist, They have made Me an abomination unto them, I was given up, and I went not forth. [Ps. 88, 8] For when He was despised because He appeared man, He would have ‘gone forth,’ if He had been minded to display His hidden Majesty. But because he brought infirmity to view, and hid power from sight, herein, that He remained unknown to His persecutors, to those persecutors He did not ‘go forth.’ Who, however, does ‘go forth’ to the Elect, because to those that seek for it, He discloses the sweetness of His Divine Nature. Whence it is said to Him by the Prophet, Thou wentest forth for the salvation of Thy people, that Thou mightest save Thine Anointed. [Hab. 3, 13] It goes on:

Ver. 35. Who would give me a helper that the Almighty might hear my desire.





42. The holy man after he related so many high achievements of the virtues in him, knowing well that he cannot attain to the things on high by his own deserts, seeks for a helper. And whom verily does he fix his eye on but the Only-begotten Son of God, Who whereas He took upon Him human nature travailing in this mortal state, did give help? For He helped man, being made Man; that because to mere man there was no way open of returning to God, there should be made a Way of returning by means of The God-Man [Homo-Deus.]. For we were far removed from the Righteous and Immortal One, being mortal and unrighteous. But between the Immortal and Righteous One and ourselves the mortal and unrighteous, appeared the Mediator of God and man, mortal and righteous, Who might at once own death with mortals, and righteousness with God; that whereas by our things below we were far removed from things above, He might in Himself singly unite the things below with the things above, and that herein there might be a Way made for us of returning to God, in the degree that He joined ours beneath with His own on high. This One then blessed Job, in his personating of the whole Church, asks for as Mediator, who when he had said, Who would give me a helper, suitably added, that the Almighty might hear my desire. For he knew that for the rest of Eternal deliverance, the prayers of man can never be heard excepting through his Advocate. Concerning Whom it is said by the Apostle John; If any one sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, even Jesus Christ the righteous; and He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world. [1 John 2, 1. 2.] Concerning Whom Paul likewise saith; It is Christ Jesus that died for us, yea, rather, that is risen again, Who is even at the right hand of God, Who also maketh intercession for us. [Rom. 8, 34] For, for the Only-begotten Son to ‘intercede’ for man, is to shew Himself Man in the presence of the Coeternal Father, and for Him to have besought for human nature, is to have taken upon Him that same nature in the loftiness of the Divine Nature. And so the Lord intercedes for us not with the voice but by the act of compassionating; because that which He would not should be condemned in the Elect, he set free by taking upon Himself. And so a helper is sought for, that ‘the desire may be heard;’ because except that the intercession of the Mediator were employed in our behalf, surely the accents of our prayers would remain silent to the ear of God.


43. Moreover it requires to be noted that it is not said, ‘my prayers, but, my desire, that the Almighty might hear. For true beseeching does not lie in the accents of the lips, but in the thoughts of the heart. For the stronger accents in the deepest ears of God it is not our words that make, but our desires. For if we seek eternal life with the mouth, but yet do not desire it with the heart, in crying out we keep silence. But if we desire in the heart, even when we are silent with the mouth, in being silent we cry out. It is hence that in the wilderness the people clamour with their voices, and Moses is still to the clamouring of words, and yet whilst keeping still he is heard by the ear of divine Pity, whereas it is said, Wherefore criest thou unto Me? [Exod. 14, 15] Thus within in the desire is the secret cry, which does not reach to the ears of men, and yet fills the hearing of the Creator. It is hence that Anna going to the temple was silent indeed with the lips, and yet uttered so many accents of her desire. Hence the Lord says in the Gospel, Enter into thy chamber, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father Which is in secret, and thy Father Which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. [Matt. 6, 6] For ‘the door being shut he prays in his chamber,’ who while his mouth is silent, pours forth the affection of the heart in the sight of the Pitifulness Above. And the voice is ‘heard in secret,’ when there is a crying out in silence by holy desires. Whence also it is rightly said by the Psalmist, The Lord hath heard the desire of the poor; Thine ear hath heard the preparing of their heart. [Ps. 10, 17] Now blessed Job in the subjoined words discloses whom he seeks for himself as a helper, in the ‘hearing of his desire,’ saying,

And that he himself who judgeth would write a book !




44. For because to the People still fearing, the Law was committed by the hands of a Servant, but upon the loving Children, the grace of the Gospel was bestowed by the Lord, Who as coming for our Redemption, instituted the New Covenant for us, but in examining as touching the precept of that Covenant one day cometh as Judge also, it is not requisite that by explaining it should be made clear, that He Who Judges is the Same Who writes a book. For Truth Itself says by Itself, The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son. [John 5, 22] And so He will then be the Enacter of judgment Who is now the Composer of the ‘book;’ that He should then demand in strictness, what He now bids in mildness. For thus we see every day that masters set children the rudiments of their letters caressing them, but exact those of them dealing hardly with them; and what they give with gentleness, they require back with the rod. For now the precepts of Divine Revelation sound gentle, but they shall be to be thought harsh in the exacting of them. Now, there is a gentle warning of One calling, but then there shall come the strict justice of the Judge, because it is certain that no whit even of the very least commandment will pass without scrutinizing. By which same it is apparent that He that ‘judgeth is the Same That wrote the Book,’ Which same ‘Book’ of the New Testament, that the Redeemer of man should Himself frame in His own Person at the last, the Prophet Ezekiel rightly tells forth, saying, And behold six men came from the way of the higher gate, which lieth toward the north, and every man a slaughter weapon in his hand; and one man among them was clothed with linen, with a writer’s inkhorn at his reins. [Ez. 9, 2] For what else is there denoted in the ‘six men coming’ but the six ages of mankind? [St. Gregory’s division of ages, Him. in Ev. xix. §. 1. from Adam to Noah, Noah to Abraham, Abraham to Moses, Moses to Our Lord, and then to the end, will not suit this place. What is meant is probably that in St. Isidore of Seville, Etym. lib. v. c. 39. De Discretione temporum, where two more divisions are made, at David, and the Captivity. He compares these ages to the days of Creation. The same division is given in the beginning of his Chronicon.] Who ‘come from the way of the higher gate,’ because from the state of Paradise as from the beginning of the world, they are unwound from the upper generations. Which ‘gate looks to the North’ in this way, because the mind of man lying open to evil, except that, abandoning the warmth of charity, it had courted the numbness of the interior, would never have gone out to this breadth of mortality. And every man a slaughter weapon in his hand; because each particular generation being evolved by the several respective ages, before the Coming of the Redeemer, had in its practice that wherefrom it took the punishment of condemnation. And one man among them was clothed with linen. Because our Redeemer deigned to have parents even of the priestly Tribe [‘Tribu,’ perhaps ‘nation,’ but Elizabeth, ‘of the daughters of Aaron,’ was a kinswoman of the Blessed Virgin. Luke 1, 5. and 36.] after the flesh, he is described as coining ‘clothed with linen.’ Or, surely, because linen is from the earth, and is not like wool produced from the corruptible flesh, seeing that He derived the covering of His Body from a Virgin mother, and not by the corruptness of copulation, therefore He came to us ‘clothed with linen.’ And a writer’s inkhorn at his reins. In the ‘reins’ is the hind part of the body. And because the Lord Himself after that He died for our sakes, and rose again, and ascended up into heaven, then wrote the New Testament through the Apostles, this man had an ‘inkhorn at his reins.’ For He Who after He departed framed the writing of the New Testament, as it were, carried an ‘inkhorn’ behind him. Thus this ‘inkhorn’ he sees to hold fast to the man ‘clothed with linen,’ who says, And that the same who judges would write a book. But wherefore, blessed Job, desirest thou that a book should be written by Him, Who is Judge? It goes on;

Ver. 36. That I might bear it upon my shoulder, and put it round me like a crown.




45. To ‘bear the book upon the shoulder,’ is by practising to carry out Holy Scripture. And observe how orderly it is described both first as being ‘carried on the shoulder,’ and afterwards ‘put round’ him ‘as a crown;’ because, that is to say, the precepts of Sacred Revelation, if they be now borne in practice, afterwards set forth for us the crown of victory in the recompensing. But why does blessed Job beg for ‘the book to be written by the Judge,’ who was not able to attain to the times of the New Testament? But, as has been often said already, he uses the accents of the Elect, and in the personifying of them begs that, which he foresaw would benefit them in all respects. For he himself by the Spirit had for long had that book with him, which by the grace of Inspiration he had obtained, that both by living he should be made acquainted with, and by foreseeing he should announce.


But herein it requires to be known that when we take thought of the precepts of Sacred Revelation, and when we draw off the mind from love of the life of corruption, we as it were hasten on by a kind of footsteps of the heart, to the interior scene of things. Now no man, in abandoning things below, is directly made at the top; because for earning the title to perfection, whilst the soul is day by day being led forward on high, doubtless there is an attaining thereto as it were by a kind of steps of ascending. Whence in this place also it is fitly added;

By my several steps I will declare it.




46. Since concerning these ‘steps’ of merits it is said by the Psalmist, They go from virtue to virtue. [Ps. 84, 7] Concerning these, again, regarding Holy Church he says; God is distinguished in her steps, what time He shall receive her. [Ps. 48, 3. not as V.] For neither is there any attaining suddenly to things above, as has been said, but to the topmost pitch of virtuous attainments the soul is led on by accessions. For hence it is that the same Prophet saith again; I was exercised, and my spirit failed little by little. [Ps. 77, 3] What does he mean, then, that he says, my spirit, but the spirit of man, i.e. the spirit of exaltation? And because by secret grace we advance to the love of God by a measure regulated from above, in proportion as virtue is daily increased in us by the Spirit of God, our own spirit proportionally goes off. Which spirit of error, because it is not at once cut clean away from us, is justly recorded to have ‘failed little by little.’ But we then make complete advance in God, when we have wholly and entirely fallen away from ourselves. Thus these measures of growing virtues by the words of the holy man are styled ‘steps.’ For every elect person sets out from the tenderness of his embryo in the first instance, and afterwards comes to firmness for strong and vigorous achievements. Which thing Truth plainly shews in the Gospel, saying, So is the kingdom of heaven, as if a man should cast seed into the ground, and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up he knoweth not how. Which same seed describing the growths of he adds; For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. The end of whose progress too he also makes to succeed, saying, But when it has brought forth the fruits from itself, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come. [Mark 4, 26-29] Observe, by the voice of Truth the accessions of merits are marked out by the characters of fruits. For He says, first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. Was not Peter still a ‘blade’ then, when by the mouth of a maid he was in a moment bent down by the blast of a single speech, already green indeed through devotedness, but still tender through infirmity. But he was found ‘full corn in the ear’ when he withstood the rulers persecuting him, saying, We ought to obey God rather than men. [Acts 5, 29] For he was found ‘full corn in the ear’ when, in the winnowing of persecution, he underwent such numberless wounds, but yet he was never made small after the manner of chaff, but continued whole grain. For little by little in each several soul, so to say, the moisture of interior grace abounds, that the blade may grow into fruit. So let no one when he sees any neighbour still a ‘blade’ despair of the ‘full corn.’ Since from the leaves of the blades, which hang softly, flowing hither and thither, the rising grains of fruitage come to firmness.


47. Now the Prophet Daniel, whereas, when the Lord was speaking to him, he made it his business to tell us the posture of his body, did rightly represent those stages of merits. Thus he says; Yet heard I the voice of his words, and when I heard the voice of his words, then was I dismayed upon my face, and my face clave to the ground. And, behold, a hand touched me, which set me upon my knees, and upon the joints of my hands. And he said, O Daniel, a man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak unto thee, and stand upright; for unto thee am I now sent: and when he had spoken this word unto me, I stood trembling; and he said unto me, Fear not. [Dan. 10, 9-12] Which same posture of his body, whilst he was listening to the words of one speaking inwardly, he would never set forth to us with so much pains, if he had known it to be void of mysteries. For in Sacred Writ not only what holy men say is prophecy, but also very often what they do. Thus the holy man, being pregnant with interior mysteries, by the posture of his body, likewise represents the power of the voice; and by this that he first lay prostrate on the earth, by this that he afterwards set himself up on the joints of his hands and on his knees, by this that at last he stood fast erect indeed, yet trembling, he makes known to us in his own person all the order of our progress. For the words of God we hear ‘lying on the ground,’ when being settled in our sins, allied to earthly pollution, we are made acquainted with spiritual precepts from the voice of the Saints. At which precepts, we are as it were set up upon our knees and the joints of our hands, because withdrawing ourselves from earthly defilements, we as it were henceforth lift up our mind from things below. For as he wholly cleaves to the ground, who lies dismayed, so he who is bent down upon his knees and the joints of his fingers, his advancement commencing, is already in a great measure hung aloft from earth. But at the last by the voice of the Lord we stand there erect indeed, yet trembling, in that being perfectly lifted up from earthly objects of desire, the more fully we know the words of God, the more we are afraid. For he as it were still lies prostrate on the ground, who by desires after the earthly cares nothing to be lifted up to the heavenly. But it is as if he being lifted up still ‘rested upon his hands and knees,’ who already forsakes some defilements, but does not yet withstand some earthly practices. But he now stands there present erect at the words of God, who perfectly lifts up the mind to things aloft, and scorns to be bent down by impure desires.


48. Now he rightly shews that he ‘stood trembling;’ because the scrutiny of interior exactness is the more fearfully dreaded, the more advanced the progress in respect thereto. Where it is fitly subjoined by the voice of God, fear not; because the more that we ourselves learn what we should have occasion to fear, the more we have infused in us from God by interior grace what may call for love, so that both our contempt little by little may pass away into fear, and fear pass away into charity; that wherein God when He seeks us, by contempt we withstand, and by fear flee from, both contempt and fear being one day set aside, we should be joined to Him by love only. For little by little we learn even the very fear of Him [The readings vary. The Ben. Editor seems not to have seen that noticed in the Italian reprint, which is also in the Merton and Trin. Coll. MSS. and others at Oxford, ‘Eum timere didiscimus, eique vi solius &c.’ ‘we unlearn fearing Him, and are attached to Him by the force of love alone.’], to the love of Whom only we are attached. And thus as it were there being placed a kind of steps of our advance, the foot of the mind first by fear we set below, and afterwards by charity lift it to the heights of love, that from that wherewith a man is puffed up he may be checked, so that he fear, and from that, which he now dreads he may be lifted up, that he may have boldness. Now these steps of virtuous attainments it is no great labour to lay hold of, since there is the passing from one to another.


49. But the subject requires the nicest handling, when the mind strives to estimate in the case of one and the same virtue with what steps of advancement it is lifted up. For to mention the first elements of virtue, i.e. faith and wisdom, they cannot be severally gained, except we ascend thereto by marked and ordered methods as by a kind of steps. For faith itself which imbues us for taking in hand in a perfect manner what else there is good, very often in its beginnings both totters and is firmly based, and it is now held most surely, and yet touching the assurance thereof there is still trembling under the effects of misgiving. For a part of it is received first, that it may be afterwards perfectly completed in us. For if there were not an advancing by a sure step in the mind of one who believes, the father of the child to be healed would not have said on being questioned, in the Gospel, Lord, I believe, help Thou mine unbelief. [Mark 9, 24] And so he was still ascending upwards as to the faith which he had already received, who at one and the same time both cried out that he already believed and still doubled from unbelieving. Hence it is also that it said to our Redeemer by His disciples, Increase our faith, that that which had been already received in beginning, might by the accessions of steps arrive at perfection.


50. Moreover Wisdom herself, who is required to be the mistress of good works, is vouchsafed to the panting soul by degrees of increase, that surely the ascending thereto should be by the steps of wonderful regulation. Which some the Prophet Ezekiel well describes in a figurative relation, who concerning that man whom he had seen on a high mountain tells, saying, He measured a thousand cubits, and he brought me through the water up to the ancles; again he measured a thousand, and brought me through the water up to the knees; again he measured a thousand, and brought me through the water up to the reins. Afterward he measured a thousand, and it was a torrent that I could not pass over, for there swelled deep waters of a torrent, which could not be passed over. [Ez. 47, 3-5] For what is denoted by the number of a ‘thousand,’ but the fulness of the benefit vouchsafed? Thus the man who appeared ‘measures a thousand cubits,’ and the Prophet is led through the waters ‘up to the ancles,’ because our Redeemer, when to us on our being converted to Him He bestowed the fulness of a good beginning, bathed the first treadings of our practice by the gift of spiritual wisdom. For the water’s reaching up to the ancle is our henceforth maintaining the treadings of longed-for righteousness by wisdom being vouchsafed to us. Again, he ‘measures a thousand cubits,’ and the Prophet is led through the water ‘up to the knees,’ because when the fulness of good practice is bestowed, our wisdom is increased even to this degree, that there is not henceforth any bending in bad deeds. Thus it is hence said by Paul, Wherefore lift up the hands that hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight steps with your feet. [Heb. 12, 12] Thus ‘the water reaches to the knees,’ when the wisdom that is is obtained perfectly braces us to uprightness of good practice. And again, he ‘measures a thousand,’ and the Prophet is ‘led through the water up to the reins’ in this way, because the fulness of good practice then grows to a height in us, when the wisdom vouchsafed has killed in us as far as it is possible all the gratification of the flesh as well. For except the gratification of the flesh was seated in the reins, the Psalmist would never have said, Burn my reins and my heart. [Ps. 2, 26] Therefore the water comes up ‘to the reins,’ when the sweetness of wisdom destroys the very incitements of the flesh too, so that the burnings of the flesh that might have scorched up the soul are cooled down. And he still further ‘measured a thousand,’ ‘and it was a torrent which the Prophet could not pass,’ of which he also says, Because there swelled deep waters of a torrent, which could not be passed over. For perfectness of practice having been received, we come to contemplation; in which same contemplation while the mind is carried up on high, being uplifted it sees in God that the thing that it sees it cannot fathom, and as it were it touches the water of the torrent, which it cannot pass through, because at once it beholds in gazing what it may be pleased to behold, and yet is not able perfectly to behold that very thing that it pleases. And so the Prophet sooner or later comes to the water ‘which he cannot pass through,’ because when we are at last brought to the contemplation of wisdom, the mere immensity thereof, which by itself lifts man to itself, denies the human mind a full acquaintance, so that it should at once by touching love this wisdom, and yet never by passing through penetrate it.


51. Thus blessed Job called these, increasings of virtues by the title of ‘steps,’ because he saw them to be in distinct divisions, bestowed on men by gift from above; seeing that by them only do we ascend so as to come to the attaining of heavenly things. And so in making mention of the Sacred Book, i.e. of Divine Revelation, he says; By my several steps I will declare it, in this way surely, because he really ascends to the teaching of God, who has broken forth to the attaining thereof by the steps of holy practice. And he as it were ‘by his several steps declares the book’ who proves that he has been vouchsafed the knowledge of it not in respect of words only, but also of deeds. Whence it is yet further added;

And as to a prince I will offer it.


For every thing that we offer, we hold in our hands. And so ‘unto the Prince’ coming to Judgment ‘to offer the book’ is to have held the words of His precepts in our behaviour. It proceeds;

Ver. 38—40. If my land cry against me, or that the furrows likewise thereof complain: if I have eaten the fruits thereof without money, or have afflicted the soul of the tillers thereof; let the thistle grow for me instead of wheat, and the thorn instead of barley.





52. For what is it for the ‘land to cry,’ for ‘the furrows to weep,’ and to have ‘eaten one’s own fruits buying them?’ To whom is it necessary to buy what is his own? who has heard ‘the land crying?’ Who has seen ‘the furrows weeping?’ And whereas the furrows of the land are always of the land, why is it that by a separate declaration it is both said that the land did not cry, and that the furrows thereof did not weep along with it? For whereas a furrow of the earth is nothing else but earth, it does not need the accounting of much difference, that he adds; And along with it the furrows thereof weep. In which same point because the order of the history falls to the ground, the mystical meaning displays itself to us, the doors as it were being now set open. As though it exclaimed in plain speech; ‘Whereas ye know that the reasonableness of the letter has dropped dead, doubtless it remains that ye should fall back to me without misgiving. For every one who either by private right rules a domestic household, or for the common advantage is set over faithful multitudes, herein that he possesses the rights of government over the faithful committed to him, what else does he but hold the land to cultivate it? Since it is for this end that each individual is advanced above the rest, by Divine distribution, that the mind of those under him, like land subdued, may be made fruitful by the seed of his preaching. But ‘the land crieth against’ its possessor, if it chance that against him, who is set at the head, either a private family, or Holy Church utters any just murmur. Since for ‘the land to cry,’ is for those under charge to grieve with reason against the injustice of him who rules them; where it is rightly subjoined, And along with it the furrows thereof weep. For the land even when not cultivated by any works generally produces something of sustenance for the service of man, but when ploughed it bears fruits to superabundance. And there are some persons, who ‘not being cleft by any ploughshare of reading, or any of exhortation, do yet of themselves produce some good things, though but the least, like land not yet ploughed up. But there are some who for always hearing and retaining, applying themselves to holy preachings and meditations, as it were cleft with a kind of ploughshare of the tongue, as to the former hardness of the heart, receive the seed of exhortation, and by the furrows of voluntary chastening render the fruits of good practice. But it is very often the case that those who are set at the head do things unjust, and it comes to pass that the very persons injure those under them, who were bound to do them good. Which when uninstructed persons see, being enraged they murmur against their ruler, and yet do not by sympathy grieve violently for their neighbours. But when these who are already broken in pieces by the plough of reading, and dressed for the fruitage of practice, see innocent persons borne down even in the least things, they are forthwith turned by sympathy to tears of sorrow, because they bewail as their own the things that their neighbours suffer unjustly. For the perfect, whereas they are ever affected with regard to what is spiritual, are taught to lament for the bodily hurts of others, so much the more in proportion as they are now instructed not to lament for their own. And so every one who is set in authority, if he executes what is bad in the case of those under him, ‘the earth crieth against him and the furrows weep,’ because against his injustice the uninstructed peoples indeed break out in accents of murmuring, while all the perfect severally chasten themselves in tears for his wicked practice, and for what the inexperienced cry out and do not grieve, those under authority of a more tried life bewail and hold their peace. And so for ‘the furrows to bewail along with the land crying out,’ is by that thing whereas the multitude of the faithful complains with justice against the ruler, for persons of a more fruitful life to be brought to tears of sorrow. Thus the furrows are both of the earth, and yet are distinguished from the term of ‘the earth,’ because those in Holy Church, who cultivate their mind with the labour of holy meditation, are as much better than the rest of the faithful, in proportion as by the seeds received they render more abundant fruits of deeds. And there are some who being set over holy peoples obtain the payments of livelihood by the bountifulness of the Church, but do not pay the ministrations of exhortation that are due. In opposition to whom the example of the holy man is yet further subjoined aright, when it is directly added by him;

If I have eaten the fruit thereof without money.




53. For to ‘eat the fruit of the land without money’ is to receive indeed our charges from the Church, but not to yield to that Church the price of preaching. Of which same preaching it is said by the voice of the Creator, Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. [Matt. 25, 27] And so he ‘eats the fruits of the earth without money,’ who receives the Church’s benefits for the service of the body, but does not pay to the people the ministry of exhortation. What do we pastors say to these things, who while we are the forerunners of the Advent of the Strict Judge, take upon us the function of a herald indeed, but devour the Church’s supplies with dumb mouths? We exact all that is owed to our own body, but we do not pay back what we owe to the soul of those committed to our charge. Mark how the holy man, tied down by so many pledges in this world, in the midst of numberless employments, was free for the pursuit of preaching. And he never ‘ate the fruits of the earth without money,’ because surely he paid back the word of good warning to those under his charge, from whom he received the fruit of bodily serving. For this every one who is set over the people owes to Almighty God, he who is set over many, and he who is set over a smaller number, that he should in such sort exact the due ministration from those subject to him, that he may himself mind with heedful regard what of warning he at all times owes. For all we who subject to the appointment of the Creator are joined amongst ourselves by a vicarious ministry in obedience to our true Lord, what else are we but servants to one another? Whereas, then, he who is subordinate serves in obeisance, assuredly it remains that he who is set over him should serve to the word. Whereas he who is subordinate yields obedience to orders, it is required that he who is at the head should bestow the care and concern of solicitude and of pity. And so it comes to pass, that whilst we studiously endeavour to serve one another now by charity, we may one day rule together with the true Lord in common rejoicing. But there are some, who herein, that they discharge the office of preaching, grudge others the good that they have, and so do not any longer have it in a true sense. To whom it is rightly said by James, But if ye have bitter envying among yourselves, and strife in your hearts, this wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. [James 3, 14. 15.] Hence here also when it is said, If I have eaten the fruits thereof without money, it is rightly subjoined;

Or have afflicted the soul of the tillers thereof.




54. For they are the ‘tillers’ of the land, who, being placed in a lower situation, with what earnestness they are able, with the best practice that they can, cooperate in the grace of preaching to the instructing of Holy Church. Which same ‘husbandmen of this land’ not to afflict, is this, viz. not to envy their labours; that the ruler of the Church, while he vindicates to himself alone the right of preaching, should not, by envy gnawing him, gainsay others also that preach in a right way. For the religious mind of the pastor, because it seeks not its own glory but the glory of the Creator, desires to have all that it does aided by all persons. For the faithful preacher wishes, if it might be brought to pass, that the truth which he is not able to give utterance to alone, the mouths of all should sound out. Whence when Joshua would have withstood the two who remained in the camp and prophesied, it is rightly said by Moses, Enviest thou for my sake? Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them! [Numb. 11, 29] For he was willing for all to prophesy, in that he envied not others the good that he had. Thus because blessed Job introduced all those things as under suspension, and if he had not done them, binds himself with the sentence of cursing, it goes on;

Ver. 40. Let the thistle grow for me instead of wheat, and the thorn instead of barley.




55. As though he said in plain words; ‘If I have done aught unjust towards those under me, if I have exacted the debts due to me, and have not myself paid what I owed, if I have envied others the executing of good practice, for the good things which refresh for ever and ever, may evil things that sting be repaid me in the Judgment.’ Since ‘instead of the wheat there springs up the thistle, and instead of barley the thorn,’ when in the final Retribution, wherefrom the recompensing of our labour is looked for, the piercing of pain is met with. And observe, that as barley is different from wheat, though both regale, so the thorn differs from the thistle, though either be a thing that pricks, because the thistle is softer, and the thorn always the harder as to pricking. Thus he says, Let the thistle grow instead of wheat, and the thorn instead of barley. As if he said plainly and openly; ‘I know indeed that I have both done great good acts and lesser ones; and if it is not so, may lesser evils match me for my great good acts, and the greater evils for the lesser good ones.’ Though this may also be understood in another sense. For in ‘wheat’ there is denoted in spiritual action which regales the mind, but in ‘barley’ the disposal of earthly things. Wherein while we are often forced to serve the weak and carnal, we as it were prepare their food for the beasts of burthen, and the very practice of our deeds after the manner of barley has somewhat of a mixture of chaff. And it very often happens, that the ruler who is set at the head, while he enforces what is unjust against those under his charge, while he cheers not the good with any soothing, whilst, that which is more grievous, all those acting rightly he distresses out of envy, still some good things he sometimes does, as if he sowed corn, and mixed in the disposing of earthly things at times not in the passion of avarice, but for the use of the carnal, and so looks for the fruit of that labour as a crop of barley. But the several persons under his charge, in consideration of this, that they are borne hard upon in the chief things, cannot feel joy in his lesser good things; because neither is this practice well pleasing in the sight of God, which is defiled by the injustice of other practice, nor yet is the very disposal of earthly things believed to be undertaken for the service of those under his charge, when he who is over them is seen to pant with avarice. Whence it happens that even in answer to the few good things themselves, which they see to be done in the midst of a multitude of evil ones, they give back not praises but groans, and that those that go weakly murmur, while they take thought that that which they see is not a thing of pure practice. And so he says, If my land cry against me, or that the furrows likewise thereof complain; if I have eaten the fruits thereof without money, or have afflicted the soul of the tillers thereof: let the thistle grow instead of wheat, and the thorn instead of barley. As if he said plainly, ‘If the great things which I owed I have not needfully performed, may I receive the prickings of murmuring from those under me, even with reference to the good that I have done. If I have omitted to set forth what might cheer, may their tongue springing forth into complaint with justice pierce me.’


56. Wherein it requires always to be minded with heedful consideration, that neither they that are set at the head offer examples of bad practice to those under them, and kill the life of those by the sword of their evil doing, nor they that are subject to the control of another presume to judge lightly the deeds of their rulers, and from this, that they utter murmurs touching those who are placed over them, set themselves not against a human appointment but against that Divine Appointment, which disposes all things. For to those it is said, And as for My flock they eat that which ye have trodden with your feet: they drink that which ye have fouled with your feet. [Ez. 34, 19] For ‘the sheep drink what is fouled with the feet,’ when those under charge for example of living seek after things, which the persons over them severally corrupt by bad practice. But on the other hand these persons hear from those in command; And what are we? Your murmurings are not against us, but against the Lord. [Ex. 16, 8] For he that murmurs against power established over him, it is plain reproves Him Who gave that power to man.


At length, God vouchsafing it, we have explored those sentences of blessed Job, full of mystical force, in which he made answer to the words of his friends. Now it remains that we come to the words of Elihu, which are to be weighed with so much the graver caution, in proportion as they are also put forward through the boldness of youth with a hotter spirit.