Home       Moralia Index        Book XXIX        Book XXXI



















Contains an exposition of the last eight verses of the thirty-eighth chapter,

and of the same number of the thirty-ninth: where the holy Doctor

discusses very many questions in a pious and learned manner,

especially concerning the preaching of the Gospel.




1. Blessed Job is asked by God, Who questions him, whether he has done such things as man is surely unable to do; in order that, when he discovers that he cannot do them, he may fly for refuge to Him, Whom he understands to be the only One Who is able to do them, and that he may appear more powerful before the eyes of his Judge, if he learns more truly his own infirmities. Of that then which is well known to be wonderfully wrought by God, Job is questioned by the Divine Voice; and it is said to him;

Ver. 34. Wilt thou lift up thy voice in the cloud, and shall the force of the waters cover thee?


2. For God in truth lifts up His voice in the cloud, when He frames His exhortation to the darkened hearts of unbelievers, by the tongues of His preachers. And the force of the waters covers Him, when the crowd of opposing people oppresses His members who are acting rightly. For hence is that which is written, The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, saying, Stand in the court of the Lord’s house, speaking to all the cities of Judah, from which men come to worship in the Lords house, all the words that I have commanded thee. [Jer. 26, 1. 2.] And a little after, And the priests, and the prophets, and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the Lord. And when Jeremiah had made an end of speaking, the priests, and the prophets, and all the people, took him, saying, Let him surely die, why hath he prophesied in the name of the Lord? [ib. 7-9] Behold, the Lord lifted up His voice in a cloud, because He reproved the darkened minds of the haughty by sending the Prophet against them. Behold, the face of the waters covered Him immediately; because He Himself, Who commanded the words of reproof, suffered all things in the person of Jeremiah from the people who rose against him, and were provoked by reason of their reproof. The Lord also raised up His voice in a cloud by Himself, when on exhibiting Himself before us in His assumed body, He preached many things to His persecutors, but veiled in enigmatical figures. He raised up His voice in a cloud, because He uttered His truth, as if in darkness, to unbelievers who would not follow Him. Whence also it is well written in the Books of Kings, The cloud filled the house of the Lord, and the priests were not able to minister because of the cloud. [1 Kings 8, 10. 11.] For while the proud high priests of the Jews hear the divine mysteries in parables, as their merits demand, the priests were unable, as it were, to minister in the house of the Lord on account of the cloud. For when they scorn to examine, amid the obscure darkness of allegories, the mystical meanings which are covered with the veil of the letter in the Old Testament, they lost on account of the cloud the ministry which they deserved by their faith. To whom the Lord even now uttered His voice in a cloud, when He spoke even plainly concerning Himself. For what is plainer than, I and My Father are One? [John 10, 30] What plainer to utter, than, Before Abraham was, 1 am? [John 8, 58] But because the darkness of unbelief had filled the minds of His hearers, an intervening cloud was concealing, as it were, the ray of the sun which had been shot forth.


3. For the face of the waters immediately covered Him, at this elevation of voice, because the raging crowd of the people at once rose up against Him. For it is written, Therefore the Jews sought to kill Him, because He not only brake the Sabbath, but said also that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God. [John 5, 18] Of this force of waters He exclaims by the Prophet, They came round about Me all the day like water, they compassed Me about together. [Ps. 88, 17] And again, Saw Me, O God, for the waters have come in even unto My soul. [Ps. 69, 1] Which waters He surely endured in Himself before His death, but in His own people, even after His Ascension. For hence is that which He exclaims from above, Said, Saul, why persecutest thou Me? [Acts 9, 4] Behold, He had already ascended into heaven, and yet Saul, still pursuing Him with the force of unbelieving waters, was touching Him, even as a wave swelling above the rest. For it is He in truth Who speaks right things by the good, He Who is wounded in the sufferings of the godly. In order then to shew, by the wondrous unity of charity, that it is He Who preaches by the mouths of His Saints to unworthy hearers, the Lord says, Wilt thou lift up thy voice in the cloud? But to shew that it was He Who was enduring all kinds of adversity in His Saints, He subjoined, And shall the face of the waters cover thee? Thou understandest, As Myself, Whom all the wicked neither understand to be speaking by holy men when preaching, nor see to be suffering by them when dying. The Lord relates therefore what He suffers from men, that the pain of the afflicted man may be mitigated, as if He openly said to him, Weigh carefully My sufferings, and temper thine own with patience. For it is much less for thee to bear wounds, than for Me to bear the sufferings of men. [‘humans’]


4. But we can consider these words still more minutely, if we anxiously examine our hearts, in the midst of heavenly gifts. We are at this time indeed faithful, we now believe the heavenly truths which we hear, we now love the things which we believe. But when we are oppressed by some unnecessary cares, we are darkened by a confusion spread over us; and when God suggests to us, even when such, some wonderful notions respecting Himself, He lifts up, as it were, His voice in a cloud. While He speaks of Himself to our benighted minds, He, Who is not seen, is heard, as it were, in a cloud. For most exalted are the truths which we know of Him, but we do not yet behold Him by that secret inspiration, with which we are instructed. He therefore Who speaks indeed to our hearts, but conceals His shape, forms His voice, as it were, in a cloud. But, lo! we now hear the words of God speaking of Himself within, and we now know with what perseverance and with what zeal we ought to cling to His love; and yet we fall back from the height of inward consideration to our usual ways, from the very changeableness of this mortal condition, and are assaulted by the perverse importunity of impending sins. When, therefore, He insinuates subtle thoughts of Himself in our darkened minds, He raises up His voice in a cloud.


5. But when our very notion of God is overpowered by the temptation of sins, God is covered, as it were, in His voice, by the force of waters. For we cast as many waters over Him, as many forbidden thoughts as we dwell on in our heart, after the inspiration of His grace. But yet He 1 ‘op- forsakes us not even when overwhelmed [‘oppressos,’ al. ‘oppressus.’]; for He returns immediately to our mind, He disperses the mists of temptations, He pours on us the shower of compunction, and brings back the sun of subtle understanding. And He thus shews how much He loves us, Who forsakes us not, even when He is rejected; in order that the human mind may, at least when thus instructed, blush to admit temptation within, since its Redeemer ceases not to love it even when wandering. This He endures in us by Himself, this does He daily hear from unbelievers through His preachers. For His gift is cast out by the rising of temptation within us, and yet He is not kept back by our infirmity from pouring into us His gifts. His words are publicly rejected, and yet He is not restrained, by any wickedness of unbelievers, from bestowing the abundance of His grace. For when wicked men despise preaching, He adds miracles also, for them to reverence. Whence after the voice has been uttered, and the force of the overwhelming waters, it is fitly subjoined;

Ver. 35. Wilt thou send lightnings, and will they go, and will they return and say to thee, Here we are?




6. For lightnings come forth from the clouds, just as wonderful works are displayed by holy preachers. Who, as we have often said, are therefore wont to be called ‘clouds,’ because they flash forth with miracles, and rain with words. And that the hearts of men, after being unmoved by preaching, are confounded by these flashes of miracles, we have learned by the witness of the Prophet, who says, Thou with multiply Thy lightnings, and with discomfit them. [Ps. 18, 14] As if he were saying, Whilst they hear not the words of Thy preaching, they are confounded by the miracles of the preachers. Whence it is written elsewhere, Thine arrows will go in the light, in the splendour of the glittering of Thine arms. [Hab. 3, 11] For the arrows of God to go forth in light, is for His words to resound with manifest truth. But because men frequently despise the words of life, even when understood, miracles are likewise added. Whence he there subjoined, For the splendour of the glittering of Thine arms. For the glittering of arms is the brightness of miracles. For we protect ourselves with arms, we destroy our opponents with arrows. Arms then, with arrows, are miracles together with preaching. For holy preachers strike their adversaries with their words, as if with darts, but they protect themselves with arms, that is, with miracles; in order that as far as they are to be heard, they may sound forth by the force of their darts, and as far as they are to be reverenced, glitter with the arms of miracles. It is said therefore to blessed Job, Wilt thou send lightnings, and will they go, and will they return and say to thee, Here we are? Thou understandest, ‘As to Me.’ For the lightnings go forth when preachers glitter with miracles, and transfix the hearts of their hearers with heavenly awe. But they return and say, Here we are, when they attribute not to themselves, but to the strength of God, whatever they know they have done powerfully. What is then their saying to God, ‘Here we are?’ For a kind of obedience is declared in this word. For holy preachers then to return and say, ‘Here we are,’ is for them to ascribe the glory of grace to Him, from Whom they feel that they have received victory in the contest; lest they attribute to themselves that which they do. And lightnings can go forth in doing their work, but they cannot return in pride.


7. Let us see then the lightning going forth. Peter says to a certain lame man; Silver and gold have I none, but what I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand, and raised him up: and immediately his feet and soles received strength, and he leaping up stood, and walked. [Acts 3, 6-8] But when the multitude of the Jews had been disturbed by this which had been done, let us now see the returning lightning, which says; Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this, or why look ye on us, as though by our own strength or power we have made this man to walk? The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers hath glorified His Son Jesus. [ibid. 12] And a little after; Whereof we are witnesses; and His name, through faith in His name, hath made this man strong, Whom ye have seen and known; and the faith which is by Him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all. [Acts 3, 15. 16.] The lightning therefore went forth, when Peter worked a miracle, it returned when he attributed what he had done, not to himself but to its Author. The lightnings go forth when holy preachers display wonderful deeds, but they say on their return, ‘Here we are,’ when, in that which they do, they refer to the power of its Author.


8. But this can he understood in another sense also. For holy men, as was said before, are sent and go forth as lightnings, when they come forth from the retirement of contemplation, to the public life of employment. They are sent and they go, when, from the secresy of inward meditation, they spread forth into the wide space of active life. But they return and say to God; ‘Here we are,’ because after the outward works which they perform, they always return to the bosom of contemplation, there to revive the flame of their zeal, and to glow as it were from the touch of heavenly brightness. For they would freeze too speedily amid their outward works, good though they be, did they not constantly return with anxious earnestness to the fire of contemplation. Whence it is well said by Solomon, Unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return, to flow again. [Eccles. 1, 7] For they are there called rivers, who are here called lightnings. For because they water the hearts of the hearers, they are called rivers, but because they kindle them, they are called lightnings. Of whom it is written elsewhere, The floods have lifted up, O Lord, the floods have lifted up their voice. [Ps. 93, 3] And again, His lightnings enlightened the world. [Ps. 97, 4] The rivers therefore return to the place from which they go forth; because holy men, (though they come forth, for our sakes, from the sight of their Creator, Whose brightness they endeavour to behold with their mind, to the ministry of active life,) yet unceasingly recur to the holy study of contemplation, and if in their preaching they pour themselves into our ears by bodily words from without, yet do they ever return in their silent thoughts to consider the Fount of life Itself. Of whom it is also well said, to flow again. For did they not constantly return with anxious mind to the contemplation of God, their inward drought would doubtless dry up even their outward words of preaching. But while they thirst unceasingly to behold God, rivers are ever springing up, as it were, within, to flow forth without, in order that they may there derive by love the means of flowing down to us in preaching. Let it be said therefore rightly; Wilt thou send forth the lightnings, and will they go, and will they return and say to thee, Here we are? Thou understandest, as Myself, Who adapt My preachers, when I will, after the grace of contemplation, to the ministry of active life. And yet I ever call them back from outward good deeds, to the inward height of contemplation, in order that they may one while go forth, when commanded, to perform their tasks, and that at another they may dwell with Me more familiarly when recalled to the pursuit of meditation. They return therefore and say, ‘Here we are,’ because, though they may seem through their outward acts to be deficient for a little in contemplation, yet by the ardent desires which they ever kindle in their minds, they make known their presence to God, by obeying Him. For to say, ‘Here we are,’ is to shew that they are present by their love. It follows;

Ver. 36. Who hath placed wisdom in the inward parts of a man? or who hath given the cock understanding?




9. Who else are designated in this place by the name of the cock, but these same holy preachers, mentioned again in another way, who strive amid the darkness of this present life to announce by their preaching, as if by their notes, the approaching light? For they say; the night is far spent, but the day is at hand. [Rom. 13, 12] Who by their voices arouse the sleep of our sluggishness, exclaiming; It is now the hour for us to arise from sleep. [ib. 11] And again; Awake, ye righteous, and sin not. [1 Cor. 15, 34] Of this cock it is written again; There be three things that go well, and a fourth which goeth prosperously: a lion, the strongest of beasts, will not be afraid at the onset of any; a cock girt in the loins; and a ram, whom there is no king who can resist. [Prov. 30, 29-31] For He is in this place mentioned as a lion, of Whom it is written; The lion of the tribe of Judah hath prevailed, [Rev, 5, 5] Who is called the strongest of beasts, because in Him the weakness of God is stronger than men. Who is not afraid at the onset of any one; for He says; The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me. [John 14, 30] The cock girt in the loins, that is, holy preachers announcing the true morn amid the darkness of this night. Who are girt in the loins, because they keep away from their members the looseness of lust. For it is in the loins in truth that there is lust. Whence it is said to the same persons by the Lord: Let your loins he girt about. [Luke 12, 35] And a ram, whom there is no king who can resist. Whom else in this place do we understand by a ram, but the first rank of priests in the Church? Of whom it is written: Bring to the Lord the offspring of rams; [Ps. 29, 1] who lead the people which is walking after their examples like a flock of sheep following them. And whom, if they live spiritually and rightly, no king is at all able to resist; because whatever persecutor may stand in their way, he is not able to hinder their intention. For they know both how to run anxiously to Him, Whom they long for, and to come to Him by dying. The lion is therefore placed first, the cock second, the ram last. For Christ appeared, next the holy preachers, the Apostles, and then at length the spiritual fathers, the rulers of the Churches, the leaders, namely, of the flocks, because they are the teachers of the peoples who follow them.


10. But we enforce these points still better, if we subjoin an exposition of the remainder of the same passage. For since after these things Antichrist will also appear, he added there a fourth point, saying; And he who appeared a fool, after he had been lifted up on high. For if he had understood, he would have laid his hand on his mouth. [Prov. 30, 32] For he in truth will he lifted up on high when he will feign that he is God. But he will appear a fool when lifted up on high, because he will fail in his very loftiness through the coming of the true Judge. But if he had understood this, he would have laid his hand on his mouth: that is, if he had foreseen his punishment, when he began to be proud, having been once fashioned aright, he would not have been raised up to the boastfulness of such great pride. And let not that move us which has been said of him above; A fourth, which goeth prosperously. For he said that three went well, and a fourth prosperously. For not every thing which goeth ‘prosperously’ goeth ‘well,’ nor in this life does every thing which goeth ‘well,’ go ‘prosperously.’ For a lion, a cock, and a ram, go indeed well: but not prosperously here, for they suffer the assaults of persecutions. But the fourth goeth prosperously, and not well: because Antichrist will go on in his craft, but his craft will be prosperous for a short space of this present life, as was said of him under the person of Antiochus by Daniel; Strength was given him against the continual sacrifice by reason of transgression, and truth shall be cast down in the earth, and he shall do and shall prosper. [Dan. 8, 12] That which Solomon says, goeth prosperously: this Daniel says, shall prosper. According to this testimony therefore which is stated by Solomon, A cock girt in its loins, we fitly understood in this place also holy preachers by the cock. The Lord therefore referring all things to Himself, says; Who hath placed wisdom in the inward parts of a man? or who hath given the cock understanding? As if He were saying, Who hath infused into the heart of a man, who savours of human things, the grace of heavenly wisdom? Or who, but Myself, hath given understanding even to holy preachers themselves, to know when, or to whom, they ought to announce the coming morn? For they understand both what to do, and when, for the very reason that they know it, through My revealing it, within. But it must he observed, that divinely inspired wisdom is placed in the inward parts of a man; because, doubtless, as far as concerns the number of the Elect, it is given not in voices only, but also in the thoughts, in order that the conscience may live according to what the tongue speaks, and that its light may shine forth the more brightly on the surface, the more truly it glows in the heart.


11. But it is a matter of great labour to examine with still more minute exposition, that which is added; Or who hath given the cock understanding? For the understanding of teachers ought to be the more subtle, the more it exercises itself in penetrating things invisible, the more it discusses nothing material, the more, even when speaking by the voice of the body, it transcends every thing which is of the body. For it would not, in truth, be at all suited to the loftiest subjects, did not the Creator Himself of things above, bestow it on the cock which crows, that is, on the teacher who preaches. The cock also received understanding, first to distinguish the hours of the night season, and then at last to utter the awakening voice. Because, in truth, every holy preacher first considers in his hearers the quality of their life, and afterwards frames the voice of preaching, fitted to instruct them. For to decide on the qualities of sins is, as it were, to distinguish the hours of night, to reprove the darknesses of actions with fit voices of reproof is, as it were, to distinguish the hours of night. Understanding is therefore given to the cock from above, because to the teacher of truth there is given from above the virtue of discretion, for him to know to whom, what, when, or how to introduce his instruction.


12. For one and the same exhortation is not suited to all; because the same kind of habits does not bind all. For those things that benefit some, often hurt others. For frequently even herbs, which refresh some animals, kill others, and a gentle hiss pacifies horses, urges on dogs; and medicine which lessens one disease, gives strength to another: and bread which strengthens the life of the strong, destroys that of the young. The speech therefore of teachers ought to he fashioned according to the quality of the hearers, in order to suit each class according to their own case, and yet never to fail in the art of general edification. For what are the attentive minds of hearers, but certain strings which are strained tight in a harp? which the skilful performer touches in different ways, that they may not produce a discordant sound. And the strings give back an harmonious sound, because they are struck with one plectrum, but with different force. Whence also every teacher, in order to build up all in one virtue of charity, ought not to touch the hearts of his hearers with one and the same exhortation.


13. For men must he admonished in one way, and women in another; the young in one way, the old in another; in one way the poor, and in another the rich; in one way the cheerful, and in another the gloomy; in one way subjects, in another rulers; in one way servants, in another masters; in one way the wise of this world, in another the dull; in one way the shameless, in another the modest; in one way the insolent, in another the retiring; in one way the impatient, in another the patient; in one way the well-wishing, in another the envious; in one way the pure, in another the unclean; in one way the healthy, in another the sick; in one way those who fear the rod, and therefore live innocently, in another way those who have become so hardened in iniquity, as not to be corrected by the rod; in one way those who are over silent, in another those who give themselves to much talking; in one way the timid, in another the bold; in one way the sluggish, in another the hasty; in one way the gentle, in another the angry; in one way the humble, in another the haughty; in one way the obstinate, in another the inconstant; in one way the gluttonous, in another the abstinent; in one way those who mercifully give away their own, in another those who strive to seize others’ goods; in one way those who neither seize the goods of others, nor yet give away their own; and in another those who both give away their own goods which they have, and desist not from seizing those of others; in one way those who are at variance, in another those who are reconciled; in one way those who sow strifes, in another the peaceful. Those who do not rightly understand the words of the sacred Law must be admonished in one way, in another those who understand them rightly, but speak not of them humbly; in one way those who though they are able to preach in a worthy manner, are afraid from excessive humility, in another those whom imperfection or age excludes from preaching, and whom yet precipitation urges on; in one way those who prosper in their temporal desires, in another way those who desire indeed the things of the world, but who yet are wearied with the toil of adversity: in one way those who are bound in wedlock, in another way those who are free from the bonds of wedlock; in one way those who have had experience of carnal commixtion, in another way those who are ignorant of it; in one way those who deplore the sins of their deeds, in another those who deplore the sins of their thoughts; in one way those who lament their sins and yet do not abandon them, in another those who abandon but yet do not lament them: in one way those who even praise the unlawful deeds which they commit, in another those who blame their misdeeds, and yet do not avoid them; in one way those who are overcome with sudden concupiscence, in another those who are deliberately fettered with sin; in one way those who commit frequently unlawful deeds though most trifling, and in another those who guard themselves against trifling faults but are sometimes overwhelmed in grievous ones; in one way those who do not even begin good courses, in another those who do not complete what they have begun; in one way those who sin secretly and do right publicly, in another those who conceal the good deeds which they do, and who yet by some things they do publicly allow people to think evil of them. We ought indeed to mention minutely what course of advice should be observed in each particular case, but are hindered by fear of prolixity in our remarks. [S. Greg. Naz. Or. 2. §. 28.] But we are anxious to carry that out in another work [The ‘Pastorale.’], by God’s help, if some small portion of this painful life still remains to us.


14. But we have another point which we ought to consider concerning this understanding of the cock, namely, that it is accustomed to utter its louder and longer-drawn strains in the deeper hours of the night, and that when the hour of morn is now approaching, it utters altogether more gentle and feeble notes. And a consideration of the discretion of preachers shews us what the understanding of this cock in these respects suggests to us. For when they are preaching to minds which are still wicked, they declare the terrors of eternal judgment with loud and great voices, because, namely, they cry out, as it were, in the darkness of the profound night. But when they know that the light of truth is already present to the hearts of their hearers, they turn the loudness of their cry into the gentleness of sweetness; and bring forth, not so much the terrors of punishment, as the allurements of rewards. And they sing at that time even with diminished tones, because as the morn approaches, they preach all the subtlest mysteries, that their followers may hear more minutely of heavenly things, the nearer they approach to the light of truth, and that the shorter note of the cock may charm those when awake, whom its long drawn note had aroused from sleep; in order that every one who has been corrected, may delight in knowing minutely the sweets of heaven, who used before to dread adversities from the judgment. Which is well expressed by Moses, when the trumpets are ordered to sound a shorter note, for the summoning forth the host. For it is written, Make thee two trumpets of beaten silver. [Numb. 10, 2] And a little after, When a short blast hath sounded, the camp shall be moved. [ib. 5] For the army is led by two trumpets, because the people is called by two precepts of charity to the girding of faith. But they are commanded to be made of silver, in order that the words of preachers may be clear with the brightness of light, and may not confuse the mind of their hearers, by any obscurity of their own. But to be hammered out, for this reason; because it is necessary that they who preach the life to come, should grow up by the blows of present tribulations. But it is well said, When the short blast hath sounded, the camp shall be moved: doubtless, because when the word of preaching is more subtilly and minutely enforced, the hearts of the hearers are more warmly excited to meet the contests of temptations.


15. But there is something else to be carefully observed in the cock, namely, that when it is preparing to utter its note, it first flaps its wings, and striking itself, makes itself more wakeful. And this we behold plainly, if we look carefully at the life of holy preachers. For they, when they utter the words of preaching, first exercise themselves in holy actions, that they may not, while themselves slothful in act, arouse others with their voice. But they first rouse themselves by lofty deeds, and then they render others anxious for well-doing. They first strike themselves with the wings of their thoughts, because whatever is slumbering uselessly within them, they discover by anxious examination, they correct with severe punishment. They first take care to punish their own faults by tears, and then denounce those doings of others which demand punishment. They flap with their wings, therefore, before they utter their song, because, before they put forth the words of exhortation, they proclaim by their deeds all that they intend to say: and when they are perfectly awake in themselves, they then summon others who are slumbering to awake.


16. But whence is this great wisdom of the teacher, that he is both perfectly awake in himself, and that he also summons the slumberers to awake with a certain elevation of voice; that he first carefully dispels the darkness of sins, and afterwards manifests discreetly the light of preaching, that he suits each one singly, in manner and in time, and that he shews to all at the same time the result of their doings? Whence is it directed to such great subjects, and with such subtlety, unless it be taught inwardly by Him, by Whom it was created? Because then the credit of such great understanding is not the merit of the preacher, but of his Creator, it is rightly said by the same Creator, Or who hath given the cock understanding? As if He were saying, Except Myself, Who have instructed the minds of teachers, which I marvellously fashioned out of nothing, more marvellously, to understand those things which are secret. Whence also, to shew that He is not only the Inspirer of wisdom in the sayings of teachers, but also the Author of their words, he well adds;

Ver. 37. Who will declare the system of the heavens?


But because He withdraws their words, when He presents Himself to us in outward form, He immediately subjoined;

And who will make the harmony of heaven to sleep?




17. For in this life the Lord has spoken to our weakness, not by the outward manifestation of His majesty, but by the voice of His preachers; in order that the carnal tongue might strike those hearts which are still carnal, and that they might the more readily receive unusual things, the more they heard them by the sound of an accustomed voice. But after that the flesh is resolved into dust by death, and the dust is animated by the resurrection, then we seek not to hear words from God, because we now behold in outward appearance that One Word of God, Which fills all things. Which sounds to us still louder, the more it penetrates our minds by the power of inward illumination. For when those words are taken away, which begin, and end, the very image of the inward vision becomes to us a kind of sound of eternal preaching. Whence the Lord now also says rightly to blessed Job; Who will declare the system of the heavens, and who will make the harmony of heaven to sleep? For what is meant by the system of the heavens, but the inward power of secrets? What is signified by the harmony of heaven, but the accordant language of preachers? When our Creator therefore has begun to relate the system of the heavens, He makes the harmony of heaven to sleep; doubtless, because when He is manifested to us in visible appearance, the words of preachers are withdrawn. For hence the Lord says by Jeremiah; A man shall no longer teach his neighbour and his brother, saying, Know the Lord; for all shall know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest, saith the Lord. [Jer. 31, 14] Hence Paul says, Whether prophecies, they shall be made void; whether tongues, they shall cease; whether knowledge, it shall be destroyed. [1 Cor. 13, 8] Or certainly the system of the heavens is that very vivifying power which forms the spirits of angels. For as God is the Cause of causes, and as He is the Life of the living, so is He the Reason [‘Ratio.’] of reasonable creatures. The Lord therefore then declares the system [‘Rationem’] of the heavens, when He brings Himself before us, as to the way in which He rules over Elect spirits. He then relates the system of the heavens, when the mist of our mind is wiped away, and He manifests Himself to us in bright vision. Whence the Lord also says in the Gospel; The hour cometh when I shall no longer speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father. [John 16, 25] For He asserts that He shews plainly of the Father, because by the appearance of His Majesty, which was then manifested, He shews both how He springs from the Father not unequal to Himself, and how the Spirit of Both proceeds coeternal with Both. For we shall then openly behold, how That Which Is by an origin, is not subsequent to Him from Whom It springs; how He Who is produced by procession, is not preceded by Those [Plural. see note at end of Book XXIX] from Whom He proceeded. We shall then behold openly how both The One is divisibly Three, and the Three indivisibly One. The tongue of God then Who then speaks, is the visible brightness of God exalting us. And the harmony of heaven will then sleep, because when the Rewarder of our works appears in judgment, the words of exhortations will at once cease. Whence also the very period of the resurrection is openly subjoined, when it is stated immediately;

Ver. 38. When the dust was hardened into earth, and the clods were bound together.




18. For the sacred language describes, after its custom, things still future, as though already passed: observing, namely, in itself, that which is said by it; Who made the things that are to come. [Is. 45, 11] The dust is therefore hardened at that time into earth, because it is brought back to solid limbs. And the clods are bound together, doubtless, because solid bodies arise together gathered from the dust. But after we have stated how these words of the Lord are to be understood of the future, let us now point out what they mean concerning the present.


19. Who will declare the system of the heavens, and who will make the harmony of the heaven to sleep? The Lord declares the system of the heavens, whilst He now illuminates the minds of His Elect by teaching heavenly secrets. But He makes the harmony of heaven to sleep, whilst by a righteous judgment He conceals from the hearts of the reprobate the harmonious hymns of angels, and those joys of heavenly virtues. For this harmony of heaven, though inwardly wakeful in itself, yet slumbers outwardly through the very ignorance of the reprobate. The system of the heavenly mystery is therefore proclaimed, and yet the harmony of heaven is permitted to sleep; because to some the knowledge of the heavenly retribution is disclosed by inspiration, and what is the sweetness of inward praise is concealed from others.


20. The system of the heavens is set forth, because to the minds of the Elect there is unceasingly laid open what is the recompense of heavenly rewards; in order doubtless that they may unceasingly advance, and, passing over visible things, may stretch themselves forward to invisible. For every visible object which arrests the reprobate in this life, urges the Elect onward to other things. For whilst they behold the good deeds which have been done, they burn with love towards Him by Whom they have been done; and they love Him the more surpassingly, the more they consider that He was prior to that which He Himself created good. For the silently sounding invisible tongue of compunction speaks this to them within. And they hear it the louder within, the more entirely they turn away from the din of outward desires. To these then the harmony of heaven sleeps not, because their mind learns, by applying the ear of love, how great is the sweetness of heavenly praise. For they hear within that which they desire, and are, by their very longing for the Godhead, instructed in the rewards of heavenly blessings. Whence also they bear this present life, not only when opposing, but even when favouring them, as a heavy burden; because every thing which they behold is burdensome to them, whilst they are kept from enjoying that which they hear within. Every thing which is near them they deem heavy, because it is not that for which they pant. But their mind which is unceasingly wearied by the very labours of this temporal condition, hangs on the hope of being taken up to that heavenly joy, while, as the harmony of heaven bursts forth within on the ear of the heart, they daily expect for themselves the society of the heavenly citizens. That harmony of heavenly praise had burst forth in the ear of him, who was saying, I will enter into the place of the wonderful tabernacle, even to the house of God, in the voice of exultation and confession, the sound of a feasting city. [Ps. 42, 4] What else therefore but the harmony of heaven was awakening him, who had heard within the voice of exultation and confession, and the sound of a feasting city?


21. But this harmony sleeps for the reprobate, because it does not at all make itself known to their hearts by the voice of compunction. For they do not strive to think of that much longed for multitude of heavenly citizens, they behold with no ray of warmth those banquets of inward revelry, they are not borne up within by any wing of contemplation. For they are enslaved to visible objects alone, and therefore they hear within nought of inward sweetness; because, as we said before, the deafening tumults of worldly care oppress them in the ear of their hearts. Because then in the dispensation of the secret judgment that, which is laid open to some, is closed to others; and that which is disclosed to some is concealed from others, let it he rightly said; Who will declare the system of the heavens, and who will make the harmony of heaven to sleep? But this was then more fully disclosed to us, when our Redeemer, appearing in the mystery of the dispensation, both conferred mercy on the unworthy, and excluded those from Him, who seemed to be worthy. Whence it is here also fitly subjoined;

Ver. 38. When the dust was hardened into earth, and the clods were bound together.




22. Whom do we understand by dust but sinners, who, steadied by no weight of reason, are hurried away by the blast of any temptation? Of whom it is written; Not so the ungodly, not so, but as the dust which the wind sweepeth away from the face of the earth. [Ps. 1, 4] The dust therefore was hardened into earth, when sinners, having been called in the Church, were confirmed by the system of transmitted faith: in order that they, who before, being fickle through inconstancy, were raised up by the breath of temptation, might afterwards remain unmoved against temptations, and, constantly adhering to God, might hold a firm weight of good living. But clods are composed of moisture and of earth. The clods therefore are bound together in this earth, because sinners, when called and watered by the grace of the Holy Spirit, are joined together in the union of charity. These clods are therefore bound together in the earth, when people, who were before of different sentiments, as it were, in the dispersion of the dust, having received afterwards the grace of the Spirit, so agreed in that most peaceful concord of unanimity, that, when there were three thousand, or again five thousand, it was said, as Scripture witnesses, That there was in them one heart and one soul. [Acts 4, 32] The Lord therefore daily binds together these clods in the earth, of one dust indeed, but distinguished, as it were, by different size; because, having preserved the unity of the sacrament, He collects together faithful people in the Church according to the difference of their customs and languages. The Lord already designated these clods at that time, when He ordered them to sit down fifty or a hundred together, to eat the bread and fishes. [Mark 6, 4]


23. But if we observe these clods in the Church according to the diversity of their merits, we are perhaps able to distinguish them still more minutely. For while there is one order of preachers, another of hearers; another of rulers, and another of subjects; one of the married, another of those who abstain from marriage; one of penitents, another of virgins; there is, as it were, a diversely distinguished form of clods from the same earth, when in the one faith, and in the one charity, the merits of good workers are shewn to be unequal. That people, who with the same zeal offered different gifts for the construction of the tabernacle, signified these clods; of which it is written; Whatever was necessary for the worship of the tabernacle, and for the holy garments, men with women furnished, bracelets and earrings, rings and armlets. Every golden vessel was set apart for the offerings of the Lord. If any man had blue, purple, and twice dyed scarlet, fine linen, and goats’ hair, &c. [Ex. 35, 21, 23]


24. For the adorning, therefore, of the tabernacle men offer gifts together with women, because in fulfilling the service of Holy Church, both the lofty deeds of the strong and the lowliest works of the weak are reckoned. But what is designated by bracelets which bind the arms, except the works of sturdily labouring rulers? And what is expressed by earrings, but the obedience of subjects? What by rings, but the seal of secrets? For teachers commonly put a seal on that which they consider cannot be understood by their hearers. And what is spoken of by armlets, but the ornaments of the first works? What is understood by a golden vessel set apart for the offerings of the Lord, except the understanding of the Godhead? which is the more detached from the love of inferior objects, the more it is raised to love those things only which are eternal. What by blue, but the hope of heavenly things? What by purple, but blood, and endurance of sufferings, displayed from love of the eternal kingdom? And what is pointed out by the twice dyed scarlet, but charity, which is twice dipped in order to its perfection, because it is adorned with the love of God, and one’s neighbour? What by fine linen, but the immaculate purity of the flesh? And what is designated by the goats’ hair, of which the roughness of the hair cloths is woven, except the hard affliction of penitents? Whilst some therefore exercise their resolute authority by bracelets and rings, and others by earrings and armlets display devoted obedience, and upright conduct; some by the golden vessel which has been set apart possess a surpassing and more accurate knowledge of God; others by the blue, purple, and scarlet, cease not to hope for, believe, and love the heavenly things they have heard of, even those which they do not yet understand with more accurate knowledge; some by the fine linen offer the purity of the flesh; others by the goats’ hairs bewail with severity that which they have committed with pleasure; innumerable clods are produced, as it were, from one earth, because unlike actions of the faithful proceed from one and the like obedience. But these clods would doubtless not be bound together and rise from the dust, did not the dust first receive water, and become solid from the moisture it has imbibed: because if the grace of the Holy Spirit did not bedew sinners, the unity of charity would not keep them firmly bound to deeds of faith. Let the Lord then make known when He will declare the system of the heavens, or make the harmony of heaven to sleep. For He says; When the dust was being hardened into earth, and the clods were being bound together. As if He were saying, My calling and My choice being then first manifested, I both disclosed, not without compassion, spiritual secrets to some, and hid them, not without justice, from others, when I was rejecting some, and was uniting others within the Church in the concord of unity. But because this Holy Church, when rejected by the unbelief of the Jews, betook herself to spoil the Gentiles, and to convert them in her own body, (which she did indeed not in her own strength, but that of the Lord,) it is fitly subjoined;

Ver. 39. Wilt thou seize the prey for the lioness, and fill the soul of her whelps?




25. She is doubtless that lioness, of which Job was saying, when he saw proud Judaea passed over by the preaching of the Church; The children of the dealers have not trodden it, nor hath the lioness passed through it. [Job 28, 8] The Lord therefore seizes the prey for this lioness, to fill the soul of her whelps, because for the increase of this Church, He has carried off many from the Gentile world, and has, by the gain of souls, satisfied the ravenous wishes of the Apostles. For they are in truth called whelps from the tenderness of their mind, and the weakness of their fear, because, after the Lord had suffered, they used to sit with closed doors, as is written of them; When it was late on that day, the first of the week, and the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst of them. [John 20, 19] Whence it is here also fitly subjoined of these same whelps;

Ver. 40. When they couch in their dens, and lie in wait in their caves.




26. For when the holy Apostles did not at all rise up against the limbs of the devil in the voice of bold preaching, and, not being yet strengthened after the Lord’s Passion with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, did not preach their Redeemer with firm authority, they were still lying in wait, as it were, in dens against their adversaries. For when the doors were closed, the whelps who were about to ravage the world were couching, as it were, in certain secret caves: in order that they might afterwards boldly seize the prey of souls, of whom it was then certain, from their very concealment, that they were afraid of the assault of the world on themselves. These whelps in ambush with those closed doors sought for the death of our death, that so they might destroy our guilt, and kill all the life of sin within us. To the chief of these, that famished, but still vigorous whelp, it is said, when the Gentiles had been set before him by the linen sheet, as though the prey had been pointed out to him, Kill and eat. [Acts 10, 13] These whelps, as though they were still weak, are ordered to couch in their dens, when it is said to them by the voice of the Lord, Tarry ye here in the city until ye be endowed with power from on high. [Luke 24, 49] Are not they rightly called the whelps of the lioness, who, having been born in the Church, seized with their mouth the opposing world?


27. And these things we know were done by the holy Apostles, these also we now see done by perfect teachers. For though they are the fathers of the people that follow them, yet are they the sons of those who go before; whence they are not improperly called whelps. Or certainly because though they are the teachers of certain of the faithful, yet they boast that they are the disciples of the Church universal. The Lord, therefore, seizes the prey for the lioness, because by the virtue of His inspiration He seizes the life of offenders from error; and He fills the soul of her whelps, because by the conversion of many He satisfies the holy longings of teachers. Of which whelps it is well subjoined; When they couch in their dens, and lie in wait in their caves. For all seasons are not fitted for teaching. For the value of sayings is commonly lost, if they are brought forward out of season. And frequently even that which is said gently, is animated by the concurrence of a fitting season. He therefore knows how to speak well, who knows also how to be silent at proper times. For of what use is it to reprove an angry man, at the time when with estranged mind he is not only unable to listen to the words of others, but is hardly able to hear himself. For he who reproves an angry man by inveighing against him, inflicts, as it were, blows on a drunken man who feels them not. Teaching therefore, in order to be able to reach the hearts of the hearers, must consider what seasons are suitable to it. It is therefore well said of these whelps, When they couch in their dens, and lie in wait in their cares. For when holy teachers perceive things to be reproved, and yet confine themselves in their thoughts by silence, they lurk, as it were, in caves, and cover themselves, as if in dens; because they are concealed in their own thoughts. But when they have found a fit season, they suddenly leap forth, they suppress nothing which ought to be said, and seize with the grasp of severe reproof the neck of the haughty. The Lord is therefore daily seizing the prey for this lioness, whether by Apostles, or by teachers whom He has appointed in the place of the Apostles; and by those whom He has seized, He ceases not to seize others also. For the righteous seize the sinners of this world for this purpose, that others also may be snatched from the world by them when they are converted. Whence the Gentile world itself also, which was seized by the holy mouth of the Apostles, is now ravenous after others, with the same hunger, as it knows that it was itself desired by the Apostles. Wherefore it is also fitly subjoined;

Ver. 41. Who prepareth for the raven his food, when his young ones cry to God, wandering because they have not meat?




28. For what is designated by the name of the raven, and its young ones, but the Gentile world blackened with sin? Of which it is said by the Prophet; Who giveth to beasts their food, and to the young ravens which call on Him. [Ps. 147, 9] For the beasts receive food, when minds before brutal, are satiated with the food of Holy Scripture. But food is given to the young ravens, namely, to the sons of the Gentiles, when their longing is refreshed by our conversion [al. ‘conversation.’]. This raven was food, while Holy Church was seeking for it. But it now receives food, because it seeks out others for conversion.


29. And its young, that is, the holy preachers which are sprung from it, truly trust not in themselves, but in the strength of their Redeemer. Whence it is well said: When his young ones cry to God. For they know that they can do nothing by their own strength. And though in their pious wishes they hunger for the gain of souls, yet they desire these effects to be wrought by Him Who works all things within. For they understand by true faith, that neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth, but God Who giveth the increase. [1 Cor. 3, 7]


30. But in that which is said, Wandering because they have no meat, nothing else is designated by this wandering but the wishes of eager preachers. For while they desire to receive people into the bosom of the Church, being kindled with great warmth, they put forth their desire now to gather in these, and now those. For this very agitation of thought is, as it were, a kind of wandering; and they pass over as if to different places, with change of will, whilst they run here and there with ravenous mind, in numberless ways, and into different parts, for uniting souls together.


31. This wandering the young ones of the ravens, that is the sons of the Gentiles, learned from the teacher of the Gentiles himself. For in proportion to the strong love with which he burns, does he pass with rapid wandering from place to place; he wishes to pass from one place to another, because the love itself which fills him, urges him on. For when placed far away from the Romans, he writes, I make mention of you always in my prayers, making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come to you: for I long to see you. [Rom. l, 9-11] When kept at Ephesus, he writes to the Corinthians, Behold this third time I am ready to come to you. [2 Cor. 12, 14] Again, when tarrying at Ephesus, he speaks to the Galatians, saying, I desire to be with you now, and to change my voice. [Gal. 4, 20] When he was shut up also at Rome in the close keeping of the prison, because he is not permitted to go himself to the Philippians, he promises to send a disciple, saying, I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good heart, having known your state. [Phil. 2, 19] When bound also in chains, and detained at Ephesus, he writes to the Colossians, For though I be absent in body, yet am I with you in the Spirit. [Col. 2, 5] Behold how he wanders, as it were, in his holy longing; he is detained here in body, he is led thither in the Spirit; and exhibits the affection of fatherly love to those who are present, makes it known to those who are absent; bestows his labours on those who are before him, expresses his wishes for those who only hear him [so nearly all copies. Ben. prefers ‘the absent.’]; efficaciously present to those with whom he was, and yet not absent from those with whom he was not. But we gain a better notion of his wandering, if we consider still further his words to the Corinthians; for he says, I will come to you, when I shall have passed through Macedonia ; for I shall pass through Macedonia; but I shall perhaps remain with you, or even winter. [1 Cor. 16, 5. 6.] Let us consider, I pray you, what is this wandering. For behold in one place he remains for a while, in another he says that he will go, and in another he promises that he will turn aside. Why is it that he so anxiously distributes himself through so many places, except that he is bound around all with one love? For love, which is wont to unite things that are divided, compels the one heart of Paul to be divided amongst many things. And yet he gathers it together the more closely in God, the more widely he scatters it forth in holy longings. Paul therefore wishes to say all things at once in his preaching, to behold all men at once through his love; because he both wishes, by remaining in the flesh, to live for all, and, by passing out of the flesh, to profit all by the sacrifice of faith. Let therefore the young ones of the ravens wander, that is, let the sons of the Gentiles imitate their master, let them shake off the torpor of their mind, and when they find not the gain of souls, that is, their food, let them not rest; let them stretch themselves forth to advancement after advancement; and, toiling for the benefit of many, let them wander, as it were, and hunger for their own refreshment. But because, in running to and fro by the works of preaching, they cease not to feed the Gentile world with the refreshment of faith, let it be rightly said, Who prepareth for the raven his food, when his young ones cry to God, wandering because they have no meat.


32. But by the name of ‘raven,’ the people of the Jews, black with the demerit of unbelief, can also he designated. For its young ones are said to cry to God, that food might be prepared for this very raven by the Lord; doubtless, because the holy Apostles, begotten of the flesh of the people of Israel, while they were pouring forth prayers to the Lord for their nation, fed with spiritual wisdom their parent people, as the young ravens feed him from whom they are sprung in the flesh. While therefore his young ones cry out, food is provided for the raven; because, while the Apostles entreat, the people, which was before unbelieving, is led to the knowledge of the faith: and from the preaching of its sons is fed, as it were, by the voice of its young ones. But we ought in this verse carefully to notice that point, that food is said to be prepared for this raven, first when his young ones are crying, and afterwards when they are wandering. For food is prepared for the raven, at the cry of his young ones, while at the preaching of the Apostles, Judaea, on hearing the word of God, was filled with spiritual wisdom, at one time in three, and at another in five thousand persons. But when, through the multitude of the reprobate, it was exercising its cruelty against the preachers, and was destroying, as it were, the life of the young ravens, they were dispersed also into every quarter of the world. Whence also they say to these their fathers in the flesh, who were opposing their spiritual preaching, We ought to speak the word of God to you first, but since ye reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, lo! we turn to the Gentiles; [Acts 13, 46] knowing full surely that after the Gentiles believed, Judaea also would come to the faith. Whence also it is written, Until the fulness of the Gentiles should come in, and so all Israel should be saved. [Rom. 11, 25. 26.] Because therefore the holy Apostles especially endeavoured, first to preach to those who heard them, and afterwards to set before those that resisted the example of the converted Gentiles; the hungry young ones sought its food for this raven, first by crying, and afterwards by wandering. For the raven finds food from the quarter where the young ones wander; for whilst the Jewish people beholds the Gentiles converted to God by the labour of preachers, it blushes sometime at the last, at the folly of its own unbelief, and then understands the sentences of Holy Scripture, when it perceives that they were known to the Gentiles before they were known to itself. And the wandering of its young ones having been fulfilled, it opens the mouth of its heart to take in the holy word; because when the courses of the Apostles through the world have been completed, it at last spiritually understands those things, from which it had long abstained through the bondage of unbelief. But because the virtue of Divine Power alone effects all these things, it is rightly said, Who prepareth for the raven his food, when his young ones cry to God, wandering because they have no meat. Thou understandest, Except Myself, Who both bear with the unbelieving people, when its sons entreat, and feed it by their preaching, and support it, to be converted at length in the end, when they wander to other places.




33. There is something further, which can be understood of this raven in a moral sense. For when its young are hatched, it declines, as is said, to give them food to the full, before they become dark in their plumage, and allows them to suffer from want of food, until its own resemblance appears in them, through the blackness of their wings. But they wander hither and thither in the nest, and seek for the support of food with open mouth. But when they have begun to get black, it seeks the more eagerly for food to be given them, the longer it has deferred feeding them. Every learned preacher, who cries with a loud voice, whilst he carries the memory of his own sins and the knowledge of his own infirmity, as a kind of black shade of colour, is doubtless a raven. To whom disciples indeed are born in the faith, but perhaps they still do not know how to consider their own infirmity: perchance they turn away their memory from their past sins, and thus display not that blackness of humility which ought to be assumed against the pride of this world. But they open their mouth, as it were, to receive food, when they seek to be instructed in sublime secrets. But their own teacher supplies them the more scantily with the food of sublime instruction, the more he perceives that they bewail inadequately their past sins. He wails for them in truth, and warns them, first to become black, from the brightness of this life, by the lamentations of penitence, and then to receive afterwards the suitable nourishment of most subtle preaching. The raven beholds in the young ones their gaping mouths, but he first looks for their bodies to be covered with the blackness of wings. So too a discreet teacher imparts not inward mysteries to the understanding of those, whom he considers to have not yet in any way cast themselves off from this world. The less black then his disciples are, as it were, outwardly, through devotion to the present life, the less are they filled with the food of the word within: and the less they strip themselves of bodily glory, the more are they bereft of spiritual refreshment.


34. But if in the confession of their past life, they put forth the groans of their lamentation, as darkening plumage, the teacher immediately flies in contemplation, to bring down food from on high, as a raven thinking of the refreshment of its young ones; and brings back to them in his mouth the food they are gaping for: whilst with that wisdom which he has begun [al. ‘gotten’], he supplies by his teaching the food of life to his hungry disciples. And he refreshes them the more eagerly from above, the more truly he perceives that, by the lamentation of penitence, they are turning black from the brightness of the world.


35. But whilst the young are clothing themselves in the dark hue of their wings, they also give promise of flying; because the more disciples think meanly of themselves, the more they despise and afflict themselves, the more do they hold out the hope of advancing to higher things. Whence also the teacher takes care to feed those more speedily, whom by certain marks he now foresees to be capable of assisting others. For hence Paul admonishes Timothy to nurture, as it were, with greater anxiety the newly fledged young, while he says; And the things that thou hast heard of me by many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. [2 Tim. 2, 2] And while this discretion in teaching is carefully preserved by a preacher, a more abundant power of preaching is given him from above. For whilst he knows through love how to sympathize with his afflicted disciples, whilst through discretion he understands the fit season for teaching, he enjoys the greater gifts of his understanding, not only for himself, but for those also, to whom he devotes the efforts of his labour. Whence it is here also fitly said; Who prepareth for the raven his food, when his young ones cry to God, wandering because they have no meat. For when the young ones cry to be filled, food is prepared for the raven; because while good hearers hunger after the word of God, greater gifts of understanding are given to their teachers for their refreshment. It follows ;

Chap, xxxix. ver. 1. Knowest thou the time when the wild goats (ibices) bring forth in the rocks, or hast thou observed the hinds when they calve?




36. The southern part of the world calls birds, which inhabit the streams of the Nile, ‘ibices.’ But the eastern and western quarters term small quadrupeds, ‘ibices,’ whose custom also it is to bring forth in the rocks, because they know not how to dwell except in the rocks. And if they ever fall down, even from the lofty tops of the mountains, they catch themselves without hurt on their own horns. For in falling they strike their head, and while they present the tips of its horns, the whole body is exempt from the injury of the fall. But it is the custom with hinds to destroy the serpents which they have found, and to mangle their limbs with their bites. But it is said that, if ever they cross rivers, they rest the weight of their heads on the backs of those in front, and that, succeeding in turn to each other, they do not feel at all the labour of the weight. Why is it then that blessed Job is questioned concerning the bringing forth of the wild goats, and the hinds, except that by wild goats, and hinds, is signified the character of spiritual masters? For they in truth bring forth as wild goats in the rocks; because by the teaching of the fathers, who are called rocks for their solidity, they bring forth souls to conversion. They, like wild goats, feel not the losses of any fall, when they are caught on their own horns; because whatever temporal ruin befals them, they support themselves on the testaments of Holy Scripture, and are saved, as it were, by being caught on their horns. For of these testaments it is said, Horns are in His hands. [Hab. 3, 4] They fly therefore to the consolation of Scripture, when they are struck with the loss of any temporal fall. Did not Paul, when sinking through the adversities of this world, catch himself, like the wild goats, on his horns; when he was saying, Whatsoever things were written were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. [Rom. 15, 4] They are also called hinds, as is said by Jeremiah of teachers carelessly deserting the children who were born to them; The hind calved in the field, and forsook it. [Jer. 14, 5] They, like hinds, live on destroyed sins, as on dead serpents; and from this very destruction of their sins are they more eagerly ardent for the fountain of life. Whence the Psalmist says, As the hart longeth for the fountains of water, so longeth my soul after Thee, O God. [Ps. 42, 1] They also, while they pass over the gliding moments of this temporal state, as if they were streams, place their burdens each on the other, being compassionate from love; because they keep with careful observation that which is written; Bear ye one anothers burdens, and so ye will fulfil the law of Christ. [Gal. 6, 2] But because after the coming of the Lord, spiritual teachers were scattered through the world, who were able by their preaching to travail with souls in conversion; and because this very season of the Lord’s Incarnation was not known, before the voices of the Prophets, though His coming Incarnation was foreknown to all the Elect, blessed Job is well questioned concerning the time when the wild goats and hinds bring forth, and it is said to him; Knowest thou the time when the wild goats bring forth in the rocks, or hast thou observed the hinds when they calve? As if it were said to him; Thou believest thyself to have acted in some sublime manner, because thou foreseest not, as yet, that time, when spiritual masters, sent into the world, beget children by the doctrine of the ancient fathers, and by their labours gather together for Me the gain of souls. For wert thou to behold their fruit, like the offspring of wild goats and hinds, thou wouldest think very humbly of thine own virtue. For the great things which we do, we regard as the very least, when we balance them with nobler examples. But they then increase in their merits with God, when through our humility they become less to ourselves.


37. But teachers can he understood by the designation of ‘hinds,’ but hearers by the term ‘wild goats,’ which are very small animals. But the wild goats bring forth in the rocks, because they are made fruitful in order to the performance of good works, by the examples of preceding fathers, in order that, if they hear perchance sublime precepts, and, conscious of their own infirmity, doubt their ability to fulfil them, they may look to the doings of their elders, and from considering their boldness, bring forth the offspring of good works. For to speak of a few instances among many, that the studious reader may learn much in few words, when such an one is hard pressed with insulting words, and is unable to maintain the virtue of patience, let him recal to his memory the conduct of David, who, when Semei was assailing him with so many insults, and the armed chieftains were striving to avenge him, says, What have I to do with you, ye sons of Saruia? Let him curse; for the Lord hath ordered him to curse David; and who is there who dareth to say, wherefore hath he done so. [2 Sam. 16] And a little after, Let him alone, that he may curse according to the command of the Lord, if perchance the Lord may look on my affliction, and requite me good for this cursing to-day. [ibid. 11, 12] In which words he plainly shews, that, when flying from his son rebelling against him, in consequence of the sins committed with Bethsabee, he recalled to his mind the evil which he had committed, and patiently submitted to what he heard, and that he believed insulting words to be not so much reproaches, as means of assistance, by which he considered that he could be purified, and have pity shewn to him. For we then bear patiently reproaches heaped on us, when we recur in the secrecy of our mind to what we have done wrong. For it will seem a light thing that we are assailed undeservedly, when we perceive in our conduct that what we deserve is much worse. And thus it comes to pass that the insults deserve our thanks rather than our anger, by whose occurrence we trust that a greater punishment can he avoided in God’s judgment.


38. Behold, while another person is advancing in worldly prosperity, he feels himself assaulted with the provocations of lust, as the joy of his heart panders to his wishes; but he recals to his memory the conduct of Joseph, and maintains himself in the stronghold of chastity. For he, when he saw that he was persuaded by his mistress to forfeit his chastity, says; Behold my master, having given all things to me, knoweth not what he hath in his house, nor is there any thing which is not in my power, or which he hath not delivered to me, except thee, who art his wife; how then can I do this wickedness, and sin against my lord? [Gen. 39, 8. 9.] By which words there is shewn one who suddenly brought to mind the good things he had obtained, and overcame the evil which was assailing him; and who, by bringing to mind the favour he had received, crushed the power of imminent sin. For when slippery pleasure assails us in prosperity, this very prosperity must be opposed to the sting of temptation; in order that we may be the more ashamed at committing sin, the more we call to mind that we have as a free gift received good things from God, and that we may convert the gift of outward blessings which has been conferred, into arms of virtues; that the goods we have received may be before our eyes, and that we may overcome those things that allure us. For because pleasure itself arises from prosperity, it must he struck down by a consideration of the same prosperity, in order that our enemy may perish by that same from which he takes his rise. For we must use consideration, lest we should turn into sin the gift we have received, and so, lest the whirlpool of wickedness should swallow us up, through the favour of life. For we kindle inextinguishably against us the wrath of the Heavenly Judge, if, even from His very bounty we fight against His goodness.


39. Another, seeking after the sweetness of inward knowledge, and unable to attain its secrets, looks at the life of Daniel as a pattern, and attains the desired eminence of wisdom. For he in truth who is afterwards called, by the voice of the angel, in consequence of his eagerness after inward knowledge, a man of desires, [Dan 10, 11] is said to have first tamed within him the desires of the flesh in the king’s court, so that he touched none of the delectable meats, but preferred a harder and rougher fare to that which was sumptuous and more delicate, [ib. 1, 8] in order that he might attain to the delight of inward nourishment, while taking from himself the pleasures of outward food, and that he might ‘enjoy more eagerly the taste of wisdom within, the more firmly he had outwardly restrained his fleshly taste, for the sake of this same wisdom. For if we cut off a pleasure from the flesh, we presently find a spiritual delight. For if outward wandering is shut out, an inward retreat is laid open to the earnestness of the mind. For the more the mind is unable, on account of its discipline, to spread itself beyond itself, the more is it able to extend and advance above itself: because even a tree is compelled to grow in height, which is prevented from spreading out into branches: and when we obstruct the streams of a fountain, we provoke the streams to rise to a higher level. Whilst then thoughtful persons look at the life of Saints as a model, the wild goats drop their young on the rocks. Hence it is that Paul was exhorting his hearers to bring forth as wild goats in the rocks, when, after having enumerated the virtues of their ancestors, he was saying; Having so great a cloud of witnesses placed over laying aside every weight, and the sin which surrounds us, let us run with patience to the contest set before. [Heb.12, 1] And again; Whose faith imitate, considering the end of their conversation. [ib. 13, 7]


40. But when we conceive in our heart the Divine precepts, we do not bring them forth at once, as if already compacted solidly by thought. Whence also blessed Job is questioned not as to the bringing forth of the wild goats, but as to the time of their bringing forth. For if in truth we hardly comprehend this time in ourselves, we are much more ignorant of it in the mind of another. For the seeds of heavenly fear having been first conceived in the womb of the heart, are consolidated by studious meditation in order to remain; after that, when, having been kept firm by strict attention of thought, they proceed to reasonable discretion, they are formed, as it were, into distinct limbs; next, having been conformed by a habit of perseverance, they come, as it were, to the solidity of bones, but lastly, when strengthened by perfect authority, they proceed, as it were, to the birth. But no one observes these growths of the Divine seeds in another’s heart, save Him Who creates it. For though we know, from the evidence of certain facts, that a person has conceived the might of heavenly desire, yet, when it comes forth to the birth, we cannot tell.


41. But the seeds which have been conceived in the mind frequently cannot arrive at perfection; because they precede, in their coming forth, the proper time of their birth. And because they come before the eyes of men not yet fully fashioned in thought, they die as if born out of due time. For the tongue of man frequently extinguishes virtues which are still tender, when it praises them as though already strong. For they perish the more rapidly, the more unseasonably they come forth to the knowledge of applause. But sometimes, when our imperfect and feeble thought is brought too soon before men, it is dissipated by the assault of opponents, and when it endeavours to appear to exist before the time, it causes itself not to be. But because holy men take care that all their good thoughts gain strength in secret, and first form within the womb of their mind the offspring which is about to be produced, blessed Job is rightly questioned concerning the season for bringing forth; because, namely, it is not known to any one, excepting to the Creator, what is the fitting season in each case. But He, when He looks to the secret recesses of the heart, discovers at what time our good deeds are properly brought forth to the knowledge of men. It is therefore well said; Knowest thou the time when the wild goats bring forth in the rocks? As if He openly said, As I, Who therefore cause the progeny of the Elect to live, because I bring them forth at the time foreknown. But when the birth of the hearers has been completed, it is well subjoined; Or hast thou observed the hinds when they calve? For to observe the hinds when they calve, is to examine with careful consideration those labours of fathers, who beget spiritual children.


42. For it should be carefully noticed, that this language is so strictly attended to, that it is said, Hast thou observed? Because it is in truth the habit of very few to consider what labour there is in the preachings of the fathers, with what great pains, and efforts, as it were, they bring forth souls in faith and conversation; with what careful circumspection they watch themselves, that they may be resolute in their commands, sympathizing in infirmities, fearful in threats, gentle in exhortations, humble in displaying their authority, overbearing in their contempt for temporal goods, unbending in the endurance of adversity, and yet weak, when they ascribe not to themselves their own strength; how great is their pain for those that fall, how great their fear for those who stand, with what ardour they seek to gain some things, with what anxiety they preserve others which they have gained. Because, therefore, it is the habit of very few to consider these things, it is well said to him,

Or hast thou observed the kinds when they calve?


43. But it is no objection, that God, when speaking of teachers, describes them under the type, not of stags, but of hinds. Because, doubtless, they are true teachers, who, while they are fathers through the vigour of their discipline, know how to be mothers through their bowels of compassion. Who endure the labours of holy conception, and bear within the womb of love children to be brought forth to God. For in the production of offspring mothers endure the greater labour, who bear for a long period of months the growing conception within their womb, and who deposit it, not without great pain, when it comes forth from the womb. Whence it is here also subjoined with fit consideration;

Ver. 2. Hast thou numbered the months of their conception?




44. For when holy men think of the improvement of their hearers, they bear already a conception, as it were, in their womb. But when they put off some things which ought to be said, and seek a season fit for their exhortations, they are detained, as it were, by a weary length of months, from that birth which they wish to take place. And frequently when they are unwilling to express some of their sentiments to their hearers unseasonably; by this very slowness in declaring their opinion they are strengthened with greater wisdom, whether for giving this advice, or for reproving these faults. And while the life of their children is considered, but the tongue utters not the thoughts of the mind before the time, the offspring which has been already conceived grows, as it were, within the womb; in order that the sentiment of their heart may then come forth to the knowledge of the hearers, when being usefully uttered it can live, as if at the fit season for its birth. But since men are ignorant when, or how, these things take place in the mind of teachers, but God, in order to the glory of retribution, considers not only the effects, but also the seasons of thoughts, it is rightly said to blessed Job, Hast thou numbered the months of their conception? Thou understandest, As I, Who count in holy preachers not only the fruits of their outward doings, but their long-continued meditations themselves; Who reserve them also for retribution.


45. By months, because they are an aggregate of days, multiplied virtues can be likewise understood. In months also the moon is new born; and there is no hindrance, if the new creating of regeneration is understood by months. Of which the Apostle Paul says, In Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. [Gal. 6, 15] When holy men, therefore, prepare themselves for preaching, they first renew themselves within with virtues, in order to accord in their living with that which they teach in words. They first consider their own internal state, and cleanse themselves from all the filth of sin; taking special care to shine forth against anger with the light of patience, against the lust of the flesh to glitter with cleanness even of the heart, against torpor, to be bright with zeal, against the confused motions of precipitation to glow with serene gravity, against pride to shine with true humility, against fear to be brilliant with the rays of authority. Because therefore they first accumulate such attention on themselves, months of virtues pass, as it were, in the conception of holy preaching. And the Lord alone numbers these months, because no one but He Who has given these virtues, values them in their hearts. And because the produce of fruit follows according to the measure of their virtues, it is rightly subjoined;

And hast thou known the time when they bring forth?




46. Thou understandest, As I, Who, when I number months in the thought of virtues, know when they are able to bring forth that which they wish to perform; because, doubtless, whilst I behold the secrets of the heart, I judge from the weight of thought within, the future result of the work without. It follows;

Ver. 3. They bow themselves for the birth, and bring forth, and utter roarings.




47. For they roar in truth, whilst by bending themselves down, they bring forth the souls of their hearers in the conversation of light; because they cannot release us from eternal punishments, except by tears and pain. For holy preachers sow in tears now, that they may afterwards reap a crop of joys. They are now like hinds in the pangs of bringing forth, that they may afterwards be fruitful in spiritual offspring. For, to speak of one out of many, I see Paul, like a hind, uttering roarings of great pain in his pangs of birth. For he says, My little children, of whom I travail in birth again, till Christ be formed in you, I desire to be with you now, and to change my voice, since I am perplexed for you. [Gal. 4, 19. 20.] Lo, he wishes to change his voice in his child-birth, that the voice of preaching may he turned into the roaring of pain. He wishes to change his voice, because those whom he had already brought forth by preaching, he was again bringing forth with groans in forming them anew. What a roaring did this travailing hind utter, when he was compelled to exclaim to these same persons, returning after him, saying, O senseless Galatians! who hath bewitched you? and are ye so foolish, that when ye have begun in the Spirit, ye are now made perfect by the flesh? [Gal. 3, 1. ib. 3] Or certainly; Ye did run well; who hindered you that ye should not obey the truth? [Gal. 5, 7] What a roaring was there in the birth-pains of this hind, which brought forth with so many difficulties her young so long conceived, and which knew they had returned, when at length brought forth, to the womb of wickedness? Let us consider what pain, what labour she suffered, who after she had had strength to bring forth what she had conceived, was, again, obliged to resuscitate them when dead.


48. But it must be particularly observed, that these hinds bow down to bring forth; doubtless, because they would not have strength to bring forth, if they were standing erect. For unless holy preachers were to come down from that boundlessness of inward contemplation which they embrace, by bending, as it were, to our infirmity, in the humblest preaching, they would surely never beget sons in the faith. For they could not benefit us, if they continued in the uprightness of their own height. But let us see the hind bending herself to bring forth. It says, I could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal; as unto babes in Christ, I have given you milk and not meat. [1 Cor. 3, 1. 2.] And presently it mentions the causes of this bending, For hitherto ye were not able, neither yet now are ye able. [ibid.] But this hind, which has been bent on our account, let us, I pray you, behold erect says; We speak wisdom among them that are perfect. [1 Cor. 2, 6] And again, Whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God. [2 Cor 5, 13] But when it is beside itself to God, we do not at all understand its transport. It therefore bows down to us, in order to gain us. Whence it fitly subjoins in that place, Whether we be sober, it is for your cause. [ibid.] For if holy men were to choose to preach to us those things which they hear, when they are intoxicated with heavenly contemplation, and did not rather temper their knowledge with some moderation and sobriety, who could receive those streams of the heavenly fount, in the still contracted channel of his understanding? But these bended hinds are called elsewhere ‘heavens,’ of which it is said, Bow thy heavens, O Lord, and come down. [Ps. 144, 5] For when the heavens are bowed down, the Lord descends, because, when holy preachers bend themselves in their preaching, they pour the knowledge of the Godhead into our hearts. For the Lord would not at all descend to us, if His preachers were to remain inflexible in the rigour of contemplation. The heavens are therefore bowed down, for the Lord to descend, the hinds are bent, for us to be born in the new light of faith. These bended hinds are in the Song of Songs called the breasts of the Bride, as it is written, Thy breasts are better than wine. [Cant. 1, 2] For they are the breasts, which, fixed on the casket of the bosom, feed us with milk; because they themselves clinging to the secrets of loftiest contemplation nourish us with subtle preaching. In order therefore to bring us back from eternal groaning and pain, the hinds are now bent down, and utter roarings as they bring forth. But because those very persons who are born by the holy preaching of fathers, sometimes precede their teachers in suffering, so that while these are still remaining in this life, they themselves are already consummated by martyrdom, it fitly follows;

Ver. 4. Their young ones are weaned, and go to their pasture; they go forth, and return not unto them.




49. Holy Scripture terms ‘pasture’ that food of eternal verdure, where our refreshment will no longer waste away with any dryness of failing. Of which pasture it is said by the Psalmist, The Lord ruleth me, and I shall want nothing; He hath placed me there in a place of pasture. [Ps. 23, 1] And again, But we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture. [Ps. 96, 7] And of these pastures, doubtless, the Truth says, by Itself; By Me, if any one hath entered in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and shall find pasture. [John 10, 9] They go therefore to the pasture; because, on going forth from their bodies, they find those refreshments of eternal verdure. They go forth, and return not unto them; because, when they have been caught up in that contemplation of joys, they no longer need to hear the words of teachers. Having gone forth, therefore, they do not return to them; because, escaping the difficulties of this life, they require no longer to receive from teachers the preaching of life. For then that is fulfilled which is written, Each man shall no longer teach his neighbour, and each his brother, saying, Know the Lord; for all shall know Me, from the least of them even unto the greatest, saith the Lord. [Jer. 31, 34] Then is fulfilled that which the Truth says in the Gospel, I shall declare to you plainly of My Father. [John 16, 25] For the Son in truth plainly declares of the Father; because, as we have said before, in that He is the Word, He enlightens us by the nature of the Godhead. For men seek not then for the words of teachers, which are streamlets, as it were, from the tongue of man, when they are themselves already derived from the fount of Truth Itself.


After much then had been said, under the figurative bending down of hinds, concerning the virtue of teachers, His words are now directed to the conduct of those, who seek for the secresy of retired conversation; to whom, since they obtain their very rest of cessation by the Divine aid, and not by their own strength, it is said by the Lord;

Ver. 5. Who hath sent out the wild ass free, and who hath loosed his bands?




50. Understand, Except Myself. For the wild ass, who dwells in solitude, signifies, not inaptly, the life of those who dwell far removed from the crowds of people. And it is fitly also called free, because great is the drudgery of secular pursuits, with which the mind is grievously wearied, though it toil therein of its own accord. And to be freed from the condition of this slavery is no longer to desire any thing in this world. For prosperity while sought for, and adversities also while dreaded, oppress, as it were, with a kind of servile yoke. But if any one has but once freed the neck of his mind from the dominion of temporal desires, he enjoys already a kind of liberty even in this life, whilst he is affected by no longing for happiness, and is constrained by no dread of adversity. The Lord beheld this heavy yoke of slavery set hard on the necks of worldly men, when He was saying, Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls: for My yoke is sweet, and My burden light. [Matt. 11, 28-30] For it is, as we have said, a rough yoke, and weight of heavy bondage, to be subject to temporal concerns, to court the things of earth, to retain things which are gliding away, to wish to stand in things which stand not, to seek after passing objects, but yet to be unwilling to pass away with what are passing. For while all things, contrary to our wish, fly away, those things which had previously distressed the mind from its longing to acquire them, oppress it afterwards with the fear of loss. He therefore is set free, who, having trampled down earthly desires, is exonerated, in security of mind, from seeking after temporal things. And who hath loosed his bands? Thou understandest, Except Myself.


51. But the bands of each one are loosed, when by Divine help the inward bonds of carnal desires are burst asunder. For when a holy intention calls to conversion, but the infirmity of the flesh still calls back from this intention, the soul is fettered and impeded, as it were, by certain bonds. For we often see many desiring indeed a life of holy conversation, but fearing at one time the onset of present mishaps, and at another future adversities, so as to be unable to attain it. And while they look forward, as if with caution, to evils which are uncertain [read ‘incerta.’], they are incautiously retained in the bands of their own sins. For they place many things before their eyes, on the occurrence of which in their course of life, they are afraid that they can not stand firm. Of whom Solomon well says; The way of the slothful is as an hedge of thorns. [Prov. 15, 19] For when they seek the way of God, the suspicions of their fears stand in their way, and wound them, as the thorns of hedges which oppose them. But since this obstacle is not wont to oppose the Elect, he there proceeds to add, The way of the righteous is without an obstacle. [ibid.] For whatever adversity may have fallen in their way of life, the righteous stumble not against it. Because with the bound of eternal hope, and of eternal contemplation, they leap over the obstacles of temporal adversity. The Lord therefore looses the bands of the wild ass, when He tears off from the mind of each of His Elect the bonds of weak thoughts, and kindly rends asunder every thing which was binding his enchanted mind. It follows ;

Ver. 6. To whom I have given a house in the solitude, and his tabernacles in the land of saltness.




52. Ought we in this place to understand the solitude of the body, or the solitude of the heart? But what avails the solitude of the body, if the solitude of the heart be wanting? For he who lives bodily removed from the world, but yet plunges into the tumults of human conversation with the thoughts of worldly desires, is not in solitude. But if any one be bodily oppressed with crowds of people, and yet suffers from no tumults of worldly cares in his heart, he is not in a city. To those therefore of good conversation solitude of mind is first granted, in order that they may keep down within the rising din of worldly desires, that they may restrain by the grace of heavenly love the cares of the heart which bubble up from its lowest depths, and drive away from the eyes of the mind with the hand of gravity, all the motions of trifling thoughts which importunately present themselves, as flies which are flitting around them: and may seek for themselves some secret spot with the Lord within, there to speak with Him silently by their inward longings, when the noise is still from without.


53. Of this secret place of the heart it is said elsewhere; There became silence in heaven for about half an hour. [Rev. 8, 1] For the Church of the Elect is called ‘heaven,’ which, as it rises to eternal and sublime truths by the elevation of contemplation, abates the tumults of thoughts which are springing up from below, and makes a kind of silence within itself for God. And since this silence of contemplation cannot be perfect in this life, it is said to have been made for half an hour. For whilst the tumultuous noises of thoughts force themselves into the mind against its will, they violently draw the eye of the mind, even when steadily fixed on things above, to view again those of earth. Whence it is written; The corruptible body presseth down the soul, and the earthly habitation weigheth down the sense that museth on many things. [Wisd. 9, 15] This silence is therefore well described as having been made not for a whole, but for ‘a half hour:’ because contemplation is never perfected here, however ardently it be begun. Which is also suitably described by the Prophet Ezekiel, who witnesses that he saw in the hand of a man, for the measure of the city built on the mountain, a reed of six cubits and a span. [Ez. 40, 5] For the Church is in truth situated on the mountain of the Elect, because it is not founded on the lowest desires. But what is pointed out by the cubit, except work, and what by the number six but the perfection of the work, because the Lord also is said on the sixth day to have completed all His works? What therefore does the span beyond the six cubits suggest, but the power of contemplation, which shews to us already the beginning of the eternal and seventh rest? For because the contemplation of eternal things is not here perfected, the measure of the seventh cubit is not completed. Because therefore the Church of the Elect completes all things which require to be done, the city presents itself as placed in six cubits on the mountain. But because it here beholds as yet only the beginnings of contemplation, of the seventh cubit it reaches only the span.


54. But it ought to be known that we do not at all reach the height of contemplation, if we cease not from the oppression of outward care. We do not at all look into ourselves, so as to know that there is within us one rational part that rules, another animal part which is ruled, unless we are made dead to all outward disturbance by returning to the secresy of this silence. Which silence of ours Adam also when sleeping rightly typified, out of whose side the woman presently came. [Gen. 2, 21. 22.] Because, whoever is hurried forward to the understanding of things within, closes his eyes to visible objects: and he then distinguishes in himself those qualities which ought either to rule manfully, or those which, as being weak, can submit: that there is one part of him which has power to rule as a man, another to be ruled, as a woman. In this silence of the heart, then, while we are awake inwardly by contemplation, we are sleeping, as it were, outwardly. Because then men who are separated, that is who are freed from carnal desires, inhabit this silence of the heart, the Lord gave to this wild ass a house in the solitude, that he might not be oppressed with a crowd of temporal desires.


55. It follows, And his tabernacles in the land of saltness. Saltness is wont to kindle thirst. And because holy men, as long as they dwell in the tabernacles of this life, are inflamed by the daily warmth of their desire to seek their heavenly country, they are said to have their tabernacles in the land of saltness. For they are in truth incessantly inflamed, in order to thirst, they thirst to be satisfied, as it is written, Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled. [Matt. 5, 6] It follows;

Ver. 7. He scorneth the multitude of the city.




56. To scorn the multitude of the city, is to avoid the evil employments of human conversation, so as no longer to take pleasure in imitating the abandoned manners of earthly men, who, through the abundance of iniquity, are many. For they desire to enter, with the few, the narrow gate, and seek not, with the many, to enter the broad roads which lead to destruction. For they carefully behold by Whom, and for what, they are created; and from a right consideration of the image they have received, they disdain to follow the vulgar herd. Whence it is said by the voice of the Bridegroom to the Bride, in the Song of Songs, If thou knowest not thyself, O beautiful among women, go forth, and go thy way after the footsteps of the flocks, and feed thy kids. [Cant. 1, 8] For she who is beautiful among women knows herself, when every Elect soul, though placed amongst sinners, remembers that it was fashioned after the image and similitude of its Creator, and goes on, in accordance with the similitude it has perceived. But if it knows not itself, it goes forth; because, being expelled from the secret recess of its own heart, it is dissipated by outward objects of desire. But when it has gone forth, it goeth after the footsteps of the flocks, because namely, forsaking its own inward thoughts, it is led to the broad way, and follows the examples of the peoples. And it no longer feeds lambs, but kids, because it strives to nourish, not the harmless thoughts of the mind, but the evil motions of the flesh. Because then every Elect and continent person scorns to go after the footsteps of the herds, let it be rightly said, He scorneth the multitude of the city. Where it is also fitly subjoined; He heareth not the cry of the exactor.




57. What other exactor can be understood, but the devil, who once offered to man in paradise the coin of evil persuasion, and seeks to exact from him daily the guilt of this debt? The word of this exactor is the beginning of evil persuasion. The cry of this exactor is temptation, no longer gentle, but violent. This exactor cries out, when he tempts mightily. Not to hear then the voice of the exactor, is not at all to consent to the violent emotions of temptations. For a man would hear, if he were to do the things which he suggests. But when he scorns to do perversely, it is rightly said, He heareth not. the cry of the exactor.


58. But some persons in this place wish the belly to be understood by the exactor. For it exacts from us a kind of debt; because it requires even by nature the daily fruit of human labour to be spent on it. Whilst abstinent men, then, who in this place are typified by the word ‘wild ass,’ repress by force the desires of the appetite, they contemn, as it were, the words of the clamouring exactor. But since many contests of virtues against innumerable vices befal the continent man, why, in speaking of the cry of the exactor being despised, is it said of the belly alone, that he restrains its impulse and assault, except that no one gains the palm of the spiritual contest, unless he has first conquered the incentives of the flesh, by afflicting the concupiscence of the belly? For we cannot stand up to the conflict of the spiritual contest, unless the enemy who is posted within, that is to say, the appetite of gluttony, is first conquered; because if we overthrow not those evils which are nearer to us, we doubtless proceed in vain to attack those which are further off. For war is in vain waged in the plain against outward foes, if a treacherous citizen is retained within the very walls of the city. The mind also of the combatant is itself kept back, by the grievous disgrace of confusion, from engaging in the spiritual contest, when, feeble in its battle with the flesh, it is wounded and overcome by the swords of gluttony. For when it sees itself defeated by trifles, it is ashamed to engage in greater dangers.


59. But some, ignorant of the order of the contest, neglect to tame their appetite, and proceed at once to spiritual battles And though they sometimes display many acts of great bravery, yet from the sin of gluttony ruling over them, they lose, by the allurement of the flesh, all that they have done boldly; and, while the belly is not restrained, all their virtues are overwhelmed at once by the lust of the flesh. Whence it is written also of the victory of Nahuchodonosor, The chief of the cooks destroyed the walls of Jerusalem. [2 Kings 25, 8] For what does Scripture signify and express by the walls of Jerusalem, but the virtues of a soul which is tending to the vision of peace? [Jer. 52, 12. Oxf. Mss. om. ‘de.’] Or who is understood by the chief of the cooks, but the belly, which is served with most diligent care by cooks? The chief of the cooks then destroys the walls of Jerusalem, because the belly, when it is not restrained, destroys the virtues of the soul. Hence is it that Paul was withdrawing the strength of the chief of the cooks, who was contending against the walls of Jerusalem, when he was saying, I chastise my body, and bring it into subjection, lest perchance having preached to others, I myself become a cast-away. [l Cor. 9, 27] Hence he also premised, saying, I so run, not as uncertainly, so fight I, not as if beating the air. [ib. 26] Because when we restrain the flesh, we beat with these blows of our abstinence not the air, but unclean spirits; and when we subject that which is within us, we inflict blows [‘pugnos’] on adversaries set without. Hence is it that when the king of Babylon orders the furnace to be kindled, he commands a heap of bitumen, tow, pitch, and firebrands to be furnished. But yet he consumes not in this fire the abstinent youths; [Dan. 4, 27] because, though the ancient enemy presents to our view innumerable desires of dainties, to increase the fire of lust, yet the grace of the Holy Spirit breathes into holy minds, in order that they may remain uninjured by the heats of carnal concupiscence: so that though the flame may burn so far as to tempt the heart, yet the temptation may not blaze forth as far as to consent.


60. It should also be known, that the vice of gluttony tempts us in five ways. For it sometimes anticipates the seasons of want: but sometimes does not anticipate them, but seeks for daintier food. Sometimes it looks for those things, which must be taken, to be prepared more carefully; but sometimes it agrees with both the quality of, and the season for, its food, but exceeds, in the quantity of what is to be taken, the measure of moderate refreshment. But sometimes that which it longs for is even of a baser kind, and yet it sins more fatally through the heat of unbounded desire. For Jonathan deserved in truth the sentence of death from the mouth of his father, because in staking honey he anticipated the time which had been fixed for eating. [l Sam. 14, 44] And the people which had been brought out of Egypt, died in the desert, because it despised the manna, and sought for fleshly food, which it counted more delicate. And the first fault of the sons of Eli arose from this, that the servant, at their desire, would not receive cooked meat for the priest, after the ancient custom, but sought for raw flesh, for him to serve up with greater daintiness. [1 Sam. 2, 15] And when it is said to Jerusalem, This was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance, [Ez. 16, 49] it is plainly shewn that she forfeited her salvation, because, with the sin of pride, she exceeded the measure of moderate refreshment. And Esau lost the glory of the birth-right, because he desired mean food, namely, lentils, with great eagerness of longing; and when he preferred this, even to selling his birth-right, he shewed with what eagerness he was panting after it. [Gen. 25, 34] For it is not the food, but the desire that is in fault. Whence also we frequently take some delicate fare without blame, and take a taste of meaner food, not without guilt of conscience. For this Esau, whom we have spoken of, lost in truth his birth-right, through lentils, and Elias preserved the virtue of his body by eating flesh in the desert. Whence also the ancient enemy, because he knows that it is not food, but the desire of food, that is the cause of damnation, both subjected the first man to himself, not with flesh, but an apple; and tempted the second Man not with flesh, but with bread. Hence it is that the fault of Adam is commonly committed, even when mean and worthless food is taken. For it is not Adam alone who has received the prohibiting command to abstain from the forbidden fruit. For when God points out certain aliments as injurious to our health, He, by a kind of sentence, forbids us to use them. And while we desire and taste noxious food, what else do we do in truth but eat of what is forbidden?


61. Those things must therefore be taken, which the necessity of nature requires, and not those which gluttony suggests. But it is a great effort of discretion to give this exactor something, and yet to refuse him something: both to restrain gluttony by not giving, and by giving to support nature. And this discretion is perhaps suggested, when it is said; He heareth not the cry of the exactor. For the word of this exactor is the necessary demand of nature. But his cry is the appetite of gluttony going beyond the measure of necessity. This wild ass then hears the word of this exactor, and hears not his cry; because a discreet and abstinent man both supplies his belly so far as to temper his need, and restrains it from pleasure.


62. But it should be known that pleasure so veils itself under necessity, that a perfect man can scarce discern it. For whilst necessity asks for a debt to he paid, pleasure secretly demands a longing to be fulfilled; it hurries the appetite onward the more fearlessly, the more it conceals itself under the creditable profession of relieving a necessity. But frequently pleasure secretly attached follows behind in the very course of eating; though sometimes impudently free it endeavours even to go first. But it is easy to discover when pleasure anticipates its necessity, though very difficult to discern when it secretly connects itself with that very eating which is necessary. For because it follows the natural appetite which goes first, it seems, as it were, to advance slowly behind. For at that time, when the demand of necessity is paid, because pleasure is, through eating, blended with necessity, it is not known what necessity demands itself, and what (as has been said) pleasure secretly demands. But we frequently both distinguish them, and yet, from knowing that they are mutually connected together, take pleasure, when hurried beyond proper bounds, in being wittingly deceived: and whilst the mind flatters itself on the necessity, it is deceived by pleasure. For it is written; Make not provision for the flesh in the desires thereof. [Rom. 13, 14] That therefore which is forbidden to be done in desire, is yielded in necessity.


63. But often, whilst we incautiously condescend to necessity, we are enslaved to desires. And sometimes, while we endeavour to oppose our desires too immoderately, we increase the miseries of necessity. For it is necessary for a man so to maintain the citadel of continence, as to destroy, not the flesh, but the vices of the flesh. For frequently, when the flesh is restrained more than is just, it is weakened even for the exercise of good works, so as to be unequal to prayer also or preaching, whilst it hastens to put out entirely the incentives of vices within itself. For this very man, whom we hear outwardly, we have as the assistant of our inward intention, and both the motions of wantonness are within it, and there also abound in it the appliances of good works. But often, whilst we attack an enemy therein, we kill a citizen also whom we love; and often while we spare, as it were, a fellow-citizen, we nurture an enemy for battle. For our vices become proud upon the same food, on which our virtues are nourished and live. And when a virtue is nourished, the strength of our vices is frequently increased. But when unbounded abstinence weakens the power of vices, our virtue also faints and pants. Whence it is necessary for our inward man to preside, as a kind of impartial arbiter between itself, and him whom it hears without: in order that its outward man may both be always able to serve at its appointed ministry, and never proudly oppose it with unshackled neck; nor be moved if it whispers any suggestion, provided it always tramples it down with the heel of authority stamped upon it. And thus, whilst we allow our vices, when checked, to struggle against us, and yet prohibit their engaging with us on equal terms, it comes to pass that neither our vices prevail against our virtue, nor does our virtue again settle down to rest with entire extinction of our vices. In which way alone our pride [or ‘pride alone’] is utterly extinguished, because though it may serve for victory, yet a continual fight is reserved for us, to keep down the pride of our thoughts. And hence, because every abstinent person both complies with the demands of necessity, and yet opposes violent pleasure, it is well said in this place also by the voice of the Lord, He heareth not the cry of the exactor. But since a discreet person raises himself the more to the understanding of higher things, the more he chastises in himself the incentives of the flesh, after his scorning the cry of the exactor, it is rightly subjoined ;

Ver. 8. He looks round on the mountains of his pasture.




64. The mountains of his pasture are the lofty contemplations of inward refreshment. For the more holy men abase themselves outwardly with contempt, the more abundantly are they supported within with the contemplation of revelations. Whence it is written; He hath disposed the ascents in his heart in the valley of tears; [Ps. 84, 6] because those, whom the valley of humility outwardly imprisons in tears, the ascent of contemplation elevates within. The mountains of pasture are also the lofty powers of angels: which therefore refresh us here by ministering and assisting, because they are fattened there with the inward dew of contemplation. And because, by the bounty of God, they protect us in every contest, they are well said to be beheld around. For we behold them present on all sides around us, by whose defence we are protected against our adversaries on every side. The mountains of pasture can be taken, still further, for the lofty sentences of Holy Scripture, of which it is said by the Psalmist; The high hills for the stags, [Ps. 104, 18] because those who know already how to make the leaps of contemplation, ascend the lofty summits of the Divine sentences, as the tops of mountains. And because the feeble cannot reach in truth to these tops, it is there rightly subjoined, the rock is a refuge for the urchins, because, namely, their understanding does not sublimely exercise the feeble, but faith alone in Christ humbly keeps them in. It follows;

He searcheth after every green thing.




65. For parched in truth are all things, which, fashioned for a time, are dried up from the sweetness of the present life by the coming end, as if by the summer sun. But those are called green, which fade not away by any shortness of existence. For this wild ass then to seek every green thing, is for each holy man, despising transitory things, to long for those which are to endure for ever.


But all these things which have been said of the wild ass, can be understood in another way also. Which we explain, having repeated the former verse, in order to leave to the judgment of the reader what he believes is to be preferred. After, then, the dispensation of preachers has been described under the figure of hinds, to shew by Whom this same virtue of preaching is given, the mention of our Lord’s Incarnation is immediately subjoined, so that it is said,

Ver. 5. Who hath sent out the wild ass free?




66. Nor let any consider it unbecoming that the Incarnate Lord can be typified by such an animal; whilst it is admitted by all that He is spoken of, in Holy Scripture, as, in a certain sense, both a worm and a beetle. As it is written; But I am a worm, and no man. [Ps. 22, 6] And as it is said by the Prophet in the Septuagint, A beetle cried out from the wood. [Hab. 2, 11. LXX.] Since then He is typified by the mention of such vile and abject things, what is said offensively of Him, of Whom it is admitted that nothing is said appropriately? For He is called a lamb, but it is for His innocence. He is called a lion, but it is for His might. He is also sometimes compared to a serpent, but it is for His death, or for His wisdom. And He can therefore be spoken of figuratively by all these, because none of all these can be essentially believed of Him. For were He to be really one of these essentially, He could no longer be termed another. For were He properly called a lamb, He could no longer be called a lion. If He were properly called a lion, He would not be signified by a serpent. But we say all these things of Him in figure, with the greater latitude, the further removed they are from His essence. The wild ass can therefore designate the Incarnate Lord. For the wild ass is an animal of the fields. And because the Incarnate Lord profited the Gentiles more than the Jews, when, assuming a living body [‘corpus animale’], He went, as it were, not into the house, but rather into the field. Of which field of the Gentiles it is said by the Psalmist; The beauty of the field is with Me. [Ps. 50, 11] The Incarnate Lord therefore, Who in the form of God is equal to the Father, is in the form of a servant less than the Father, in which He is also less than Himself. Let it be said therefore by the Father of the Son in the form of a servant; Who hath sent out the wild ass free, and who hath loosed his bands? For every one who sins is the servant of sin. And because the Incarnate Lord was made partaker of our nature, not of our sin, He is said to have been sent forth free, because He is not held under the dominion of sin. Of Whom it is written elsewhere; Free among the dead. [Ps. 88, 5] He is said to have been sent forth free, because taking our nature, He is not at all held by the yoke of iniquity. And though the stain of our guilt touched Him not, yet the suffering of our mortality bound Him. Whence also after He is said to have been sent forth free, it is rightly added of Him; And who hath loosed His bands?




67. For His bands were then in truth loosened, when the infirmities of His Passion were changed into the glory of His Resurrection. For the Lord had those infirmities of our mortal state, which we endure as the desert of our iniquity, as a kind of bands with which He wished of His own accord to be bound, even to death, and which He loosed marvellously by His Resurrection. For to be hungry, to thirst, to be weary, to be bound, to be scourged, and to be crucified, was the bond of our mortality. But when on the completion of His death the veil of the temple was rent, the rocks were cleft, the tombs were opened, the barriers of hell were laid bare, what else is shewn by so many arguments of such mighty power, but that those bands of our infirmity were loosened, that He, Who had come to take on Him the form of a servant, might return in freedom to heaven even with His members? Of which bonds of His the Apostle Peter witnesses, saying, Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of hell, because it was not possible for Him to be holden of it. [Acts 2, 24] And because after His Death and Resurrection He deigned to call the Gentiles to the grace of faith, after His bands are said to have been loosened, it is fitly subjoined ;

Ver. 6. To Whom I have given a house in the solitude, and His tabernacle in the land of saltness.




68. For in the Gentile world, in which there was no Patriarch, no Prophet, there was hardly a man to exercise his reason to gain a knowledge of God. Of this solitude it is said by Isaiah; The desert and the pathless land shall rejoice, and the solitude shall exult and blossom as the lily. [Is. 35, 1] And again it is said of the Church; He will make her desert as delights, and her solitude as the garden of the Lord. [Is. 51, 3] But this same solitude, which, before it knew the true wisdom of God, had brought forth saltness, is mentioned again as a land of saltness; because it produced no verdure of good understanding, and savoured only of what was wrong. He receives therefore his house in the solitude, and His tabernacle in the land of saltness, because God when Incarnate for men, forsook Judaea, and possessed the hearts of the Gentiles. Whence it is said to Him by the voice of the Father, through the Prophet; Ask of Me, and I will give thee the heathen for Thine inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Thy possession. [Ps. 2, 8] Who, as He is God, gives all things with the Father, as He is Man, receives of the Father among all things, as it is written; He hath given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of man. [John 5, 27] And it is written again; Knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands. [John 13, 3] Or as He Himself says; All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me. [John 6, 37] But if it is now asked what is the difference between a house and a tabernacle; a house is for a dwelling place, a tabernacle for a journey. He possessed therefore on His coming the hearts of the Gentiles as if they were tabernacles, but, strengthening them by righteousness, He made them His house by inhabiting. And because He scorned to imitate the conduct of those to whom He had come, it is rightly subjoined;

Ver. 7. He scorneth the multitude of the city.




69. That is, He despises the customs of human conversation. For having been made a Man amongst men, He refused to observe the practice of men. For He was therefore made a Man amongst us, not only to redeem us by the shedding of His blood, but also to change us by setting an example. He found therefore one thing in our conversation at His coming, and taught us another by His life. For all the progeny of the haughty race of Adam were striving to seek after the prosperity of the present life, to avoid its adversities, to escape disgrace, to follow glory. The Incarnate Lord came amongst them courting adversity, scorning prosperity, embracing insults, flying from glory. For when the Jews had wished to make Him their king, He shrunk from being a king. But when they were endeavouring to kill Him, He came of His own accord to the scaffold of the cross. He therefore avoided that which all seek after, He sought after that which all avoid; He caused all to marvel that both He Himself rose again when dead, and by His death raised others from death. For there are in truth two lives of a man who exists in the body, one before death, the other after the resurrection; one of which all practically knew, but knew not the other; and mankind were directing their thoughts to that only which they knew. The Lord came in the flesh, and while He took on Himself the one, He pointed out the other. While He took on Himself that which was known to us, He pointed out to us that which was unknown to us. For by His dying He practised that life which we possess, by rising again He disclosed that life for which we are to seek, instructing us by His example, that this life which we pass before our death, is not to be loved on its own account, but to be tolerated on account of the other. Because then, by practising a new conversation amongst men, He followed not the customs of Babylon, it is well written of Him, He scorneth the multitude of the city.


70. Or certainly, because He forsook the many who were wandering along the broad way, and chose the few who were walking through narrow paths. For to ‘scorn the multitude of the city,’ is to reject from a share in His Kingdom that portion of mankind which enters the broad way, which also through the abundance of iniquity is many. It follows;

He heareth not the cry of the exactor.




71. As was said before, what exactor can be understood in this place, but the devil? who by his wicked persuasion 
held out the hope of immortality, but by deceiving exacted the tribute of death; who by his persuasion introduced sin, by his cruelty exacts punishment. The word of this exactor is his crafty persuasion of man before death, but his ‘cry’ is his violent seizure of him after death. For those whom he secretly intercepts before death, he violently hurries to share with him his punishment after death. But because the Lord when drawing near to death feared not the violent assaults of this exactor, (as He Himself says, For the prince of this world cometh and hath nothing in Me,) [John 14, 30] it is well said, He heareth not the cry of the exactor. For the exactor of 
mankind came to Him, because he saw Him to be a man. But Him Whom He believed to be a man despised for His weakness, he felt, by his power, to be above man.


72. Laban doubtless represented this exactor, when coming with wrath, he demanded his idols which were with Jacob. [Gen. 31, 30] For Laban is interpreted ‘whitening.’ But the devil is appropriately understood by whitening, who though dark through his deserts, transforms himself into an angel of light. [2 Cor. 11, 14] Him did Jacob serve, that is, the Jewish people, on the part of the reprobate, from whose flesh the Lord Incarnate came. But by Laban can this world also be represented, which follows Jacob with fury, because it endeavours to oppress by persecution all the Elect, who are members of our Redeemer. Jacob carried off the daughter of this person, that is, either of the world or of the devil, when Christ united to Himself the Church from the Gentile world. Whom he takes away also from the house of her father, because He says to her by the Prophet; Forget thine own people, and thy father’s house. [Ps. 45, 10] But what is designated by idols but avarice? Whence it is said by Paul; And covetousness, which is idolatry. [Col. 3, 5] Laban therefore on coming found not the idols upon Jacob, because when the devil displayed the treasures of the world, he found not in our Redeemer the traces of earthly concupiscence. [Gen. 31, 33] But those idols which Jacob had not, Rachel covered by sitting. [ib. 34] For by Rachel, which also means ‘a sheep,’ is typified the Church. But to sit, is to seek after the humility of penitence, as it is written; Arise, after ye have sat down. [Ps. 127, 2] Rachel therefore covered the idols by sitting, because Holy Church, by following Christ, covered, with penitence, the vices of earthly concupiscence. Of this covering of vices it is said by the Psalmist; Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. [Ps. 32, 1] That Rachel then signified us, who press down idols by sitting, if we condemn the sins of covetousness by penitence. But this covetousness is not wont to befal those, who run like men in the way of the Lord, to whom it is said; Do manfully, and let your heart he strengthened;[Ps. 31, 24] but those especially who walking, as it were, with effeminate step, are relaxed by the blandishments of the world. Whence also in that place these are the words of this same Rachel, According to the custom of women it now is happening to me. [Gen. 31, 35] Laban therefore finds not the idols upon Jacob, because the crafty exactor found nothing to blame in our Redeemer. Of which exactor it is said to our Redeemer by the Prophet, when He was delivering the Gentile world from his dominion; For thou hast overcome the yoke of his burden, and the rod of his shoulder, and the sceptre of his oppressor, as in the day of Madian. [Is. 9, 4] For the Lord in rescuing the Gentile world, overcame the yoke of its burden, when He delivered it, by His coming, from that bondage to the tyranny of the devil. He overcame the rod of its shoulder, when He kept his blow, which was oppressing it heavily in consequence of wickedness, from redeemed mankind. He overcame the sceptre of its oppressor, when He swept away from the heart of the faithful, that kingdom of the same devil, who had been wont to exact the due tribute of punishments for the fatal perpetration of sins.


73. But let us hear how these things were done. It is immediately subjoined, As in the day of Madian. I think it will not be amiss if we consider at greater length this war of the Madianites, which was intentionally introduced by the Prophet in comparison with the coming of the Lord. For in the book of Judges Gedeon is described as having fought against the Madianites. [Judg. 7, 1-22] When he was bringing forth the multitude of the army to war, he was ordered by a Divine admonition, to remove from the conflict of battle all whom on coming to the water he beheld drinking the water with bended knees. And the result was, that only three hundred men remained, who had drunk the water in their hands, standing. With these he proceeds to the battle, and he equipped them not with arms, but with trumpets, lamps, and pitchers. For, as is there written, they placed the lighted lamps in the pitchers, and held their trumpets in their right hand, but their pitchers in their left, and on coming close to their enemies, they sounded with the trumpets, they brake the pitchers, the lamps appeared: and their enemies alarmed on one hand with the sound of the trumpets, and on the other by the glittering of the lamps, were turned to flight. Why then is it that such a battle is brought forward by the Prophet, and why is victory in that battle compared to the coming of our Redeemer? Did the Prophet intend to point out to us that that victorious battle under the command of Gedeon was a type of the coming of our Redeemer? Such deeds were doubtless there wrought, which, the more they exceed the usual mode of fighting, are the less removed from the mystery of prophecy. For who ever went forth to battle with pitchers and lamps? Who, when going against arms, ever abandoned his arms? These things would have been truly absurd to us, had they not been terrible to the enemies. But we have learned by the evidence of the victory itself, not to regard these things which were done as of little account. Gedeon, therefore, coming to the battle, signifies to us the coming of our Redeemer, of Whom it is written; Lift up, O princes, your gates, and be ye lift up,? ye everlasting doors, and the King of Glory shall come in. Who is this King of Glory? The Lord strong and mighty. The Lord mighty in battle. [Ps. 24, 7. 8.] He prophesied of our Redeemer, not only by his doings, but also by his name. For Gedeon is interpreted ‘going about in the womb.’ For our Lord embraces all things by the power of His majesty, and yet He came, through the grace of the dispensation assuming man’s nature in the womb of the Virgin. Who then is He Who goes about in the womb, except Almighty God, redeeming us by His own dispensation, embracing all things by His Godhead, and taking man’s nature in the womb? In which womb He was both Incarnate, and not confined; because He was both within the womb by the substance of His infirmity, and beyond the world by the power of His majesty. But Madian is interpreted from judgment.’ For that His enemies were to be repulsed and destroyed, was not from the imperfection of their conqueror, but from the judgment of Him, Who judgeth rightly. And for this reason they are called ‘from judgment:’ because, being aliens from the grace of the Redeemer, they bear, even in their designation, the desert of just condemnation.


74. Against these Gedeon proceeds to battle with three hundred men. The plenitude of perfection is usually understood by the number ‘hundred.’ What then is designated by the number hundred taken thrice, except the perfect knowledge of the Trinity? For with those our Lord destroys the adversaries of the faith, with those comes down to the contests of preaching, who can understand Divine truths, who know how to think accurately of the Trinity, Which is God. But we must observe, that this number three hundred is comprised in the letter Tau [“T” or in the Greek but not in the Hebrew character], which bears a resemblance of the cross. For if there were added over the transverse line, the projecting part of the cross, it would no longer be a resemblance of the cross, but the cross itself. Because then that number of three hundred is comprised in the letter Tau, and by the letter Tau, as we have said, a resemblance of the cross is set forth, by those three hundred followers of Gedeon, those persons are not inappropriately designated, to whom it is said, If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. [Luke 9, 23] And these take up the cross more truly, as they follow the Lord, the more severely they both tame themselves, and are tortured with the compassion of charity towards their neighbours. Whence it is said also by the prophet Ezekiel, Mark Tau upon the foreheads of the men that groan and lament. [Ez. 9, 4] Or certainly, by these three hundred who are comprised in the letter Tau, it is expressed that the sword of the enemy is overcome by the wood of the cross. And they are brought to the river, to drink the waters; and whoever drank the waters with bended knees, were removed from the struggle of war. For by the waters is designated the doctrine of wisdom, but by the unbended knee righteous conduct. They therefore who are reported to have bent their knees, while drinking the water, retired from the strife of battles, having been forbidden; because Christ proceeds to battle against the enemies of the faith, with those who when they drink the streams of doctrine, distort not the uprightness of their actions. For all are said at that time to have drunk the water, but not all to have stood with unbended knee. And they who bent their knees, while they were drinking the waters, were rejected, because, as the Apostle witnesses, For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law will be justified. [Rom. 2, 13] For since dissoluteness of conduct is, as we have said, signified by this very bending of the knees, it is rightly again said by Paul, Lift up the hands that hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight steps with your feet. [Heb.12, 12] They therefore proceed, under Christ as their leader, to battle, who exhibit in their conduct that which they profess with their mouths, who drink spiritually the streams of doctrine, and yet are not carnally distorted by wicked works; because, as it is written, Praise is not seemly in the mouth of a sinner. [Ecclus. 15, 9]


75. They go forth therefore to battle with trumpets, with lamps, and with pitchers. This, as we have said, was an unusual order of battle. They sounded with the trumpets, and the pitchers were held in their left hands. But lamps were placed within the pitchers; but, when the pitchers were broken, the lamps appeared, and by their flashing light the affrighted enemies are put to flight. By the trumpets is designated therefore the loud voice of preachers, by the lamps the brightness of their miracles, by the pitchers the frailness of their bodies. For our Leader led forth with Him, to the contest of preaching, such as by making light of their bodily safety, would overthrow their enemies by dying, and would overcome their swords, not by arms, not by words, but by patience. For our Martyrs came armed under their Leader to battle, but armed with trumpets, with pitchers, with lamps. And they sounded with their trumpets, when preaching; they broke their pitchers, when exposing their bodies to dissolution by the swords of the enemy in their suffering; they shone forth with lamps, when after the dissolution of their bodies they flashed forth with miracles. And their enemies were presently put to flight, because, when they beheld the bodies of dead Martyrs glittering with miracles, they were overpowered by the light of truth, and believed that which they had impugned. They sounded therefore with the trumpets, that the pitchers might he broken; the pitchers were broken, that the lamps might appear; the lamps appeared, that the enemies might be put to flight. That is, the Martyrs preached, till their bodies were dissolved in death; their bodies were dissolved in death, that they might shine forth with miracles; they shone forth with miracles, that they might overthrow their enemies with divine light; so that they might no longer stand up and resist God, but submit to, and be afraid of, Him.


76. And it must he observed, that the enemies stood firm before the pitchers, but fled before the lamps; doubtless because the persecutors of Holy Church resisted the preachers of the faith while yet in the body, but were put to flight by the miracles which were manifested after the dissolution of their bodies, because, terrified by fear, they ceased from persecuting the faithful. They were afraid, in truth, at the lamps of miracles which appeared, when the pitchers of their bodies had been broken, at the preaching of the trumpets.


77. We must also notice that which is there written; that they held the trumpets in their right hand, but the pitchers in their left. For we are said to have on the right hand, whatever we consider a great thing; but on the left, that which we regard as nothing. It is therefore well written in that place, that they held the trumpets in their right hand, but the pitchers in their left; because the Martyrs of Christ consider the grace of preaching as a great thing, but the benefit of their bodies as of the least moment. But whoever thinks more of the benefit of the body, than of the grace of preaching, holds the trumpet in his left hand, but the pitcher in his right. For if the grace of preaching is attended to in the first place, and in the next place the benefit of the body, it is certain that the trumpets are held in the right hand, and the pitchers in the left. Hence the Lord says in the Gospel, Neither do they light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick. [Matt. 5, 15] For by a bushel is understood temporal advantage, but by a candle the light of preaching. To place therefore a light under a bushel, is, for the sake of temporal advantage, to conceal the grace of preaching, which none of the Elect surely does. And it is well there added, But upon a candlestick. For by a candlestick is designated the position of the body, on which a candle is placed above, when the duty of preaching is preferred to the body. It is therefore well said by the Prophet, Thou hast overcome the sceptre of his oppressor, as in the day of Madian. [Is. 9, 4] But since we have made a long digression for the sake of expounding the testimony of the Prophet, let us return to the regular order of our work. After, therefore, it was said, He heareth not the cry of the exactor; because, namely, our Lord when manifested in the flesh despised the snares of the great enemy, He rightly subjoins what He did further in behalf of His Elect, saying;

Ver. 8. He looketh around on the mountains of His pasture.




78. Mountains we understand to be all the lofty ones of this world, who were swollen in their hearts with earthly loftiness. But since the Lord engrains [‘inviscerat’] even such, when converted, into the body of His Church, and, turning them from their former pride, transforms them into His own members, these are mountains of His pasture; doubtless, because He is satisfied with the conversion of the wandering, and the humility of the proud. As He Himself says, My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me. [John 4, 34] And as He commanded the Apostles, when sent forth to preach, saying, Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that which endureth unto eternal life. [John 6, 27] Of these mountains it is said by the Prophet, The Lord will not reject His people, for in His hand are all the ends of the earth, and the heights of the hills He beholdeth. [Ps. 95, 4. LXX.] For the heights of the mountains are surely the loftinesses of the proud. Which the Lord is said to behold, that is, to change from their iniquity for the better. For the Lord converts the person whom He looks on. Whence it is written, The Lord turned, and looked upon Peter; and Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said, Before the cock crow thou shalt deny Me thrice; and he went out, and wept bitterly. [Luke 22, 61. 62.] And as Solomon says, A King that sitteth on the throne of judgment, scattereth away all evil with His look. [Prov. 20, 8] Of this looking at the mountains it is said again by the Prophet, The mountains melted like wax from the face of the Lord; [Ps. 97, 5] because, after the hardness of their perversity, they were melted by the Divine fear, and subsided from their former rigid swelling.


79. But we must observe, that He does not say, ‘beholdeth,’ but looketh round on the mountains of His pasture. For the Lord was in truth Incarnate in Judaea, which was placed in the midst of the nations. And He therefore looked round on the mountains, because He gathered together, from the whole body of the Gentiles, the proud of this world situated every where around. He feeds therefore in these mountains; because He is satiated with the good works of the converted, as if with green herbs. Hence is it that it is said to Him by the voice of the Bride in the Song of Songs, Shew me where Thou feedest, where Thou liest at noon. [Cant. 1, 7] For the Lord is fed, when He is delighted with our good deeds. But He lies down at noon, when, after the heart of the reprobate burning with carnal desires, He finds the cool refreshment of holy thought in the breasts of His Elect. For Matthew had been a kind of mountain, when he was swelling with the profits of the custom house; of whom it is also written, that after he believed, he invited our Lord into his house, and made a great feast. [Luke 5, 29] This mountain therefore produced for this wild ass the herbs of green pasture, because he fed Him outwardly with a feast, and inwardly with banquets of virtues. And this is set forth still more fully, when it is subjoined;

He searcheth after every green thing.




80. For He deserts the parched places, and searches for every green thing. For parched are those hearts of men, which, planted in the perishing hope of this world, have no assurance of eternity. But those flourish, which cling to that inheritance of which the Apostle Peter says; To an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away. [1 Pet. 1, 4] For they are more truly green, the more they plant the root of thought in the portion of an inheritance that fadeth not away. Let every one therefore, who dreads being parched within, fly from the barren desires of this world without. Let every one who longs to be sought for by the Lord, seek for his eternal home, and become verdant in the inward plantation of his heart.


81. Let this twofold exposition of the wild ass he sufficient. But it must he left to the judgment of the reader, which he thinks best to select. But if he chance to scorn the meaning of either exposition, I will willingly myself follow my reader, as a pupil his master, if he thinks more accurately and truly. Because whatever I find he knows better than myself, I believe it to be vouchsafed as a special gift to myself. For all we, who endeavour, full of faith, to utter something concerning God, are organs of truth: and it is in the power of this same Truth, whether It utters Its voice through me to another, or through another to me. For dwelling in the midst of us it deals alike with all, even though they live not alike, and often touches one person to hear plainly what It has spoken by another, but often touches another, to utter something clearly to be heard by others.


82. Power of speech is often given to a teacher, for the sake of his hearer, and skill in speaking is often taken away from a teacher, on account of the guilt of his hearer. Let not the teacher then be puffed up with pride in these cases in which he preaches copiously, lest his tongue be perchance filled, not for his own, but for his hearers’ sake; and let not a hearer be angry, in cases in which a teacher speaks barrenly, lest the tongue of the teacher perchance be dumb, not for his own, but his hearers’ rejection. For power of speech is given even to bad teachers for the sake of a good hearer, just as words of preaching were able to abound to the Pharisees, though it was written of them, All therefore whatsoever they have said to you, observe and do: but do not after their works. [Matt. 23, 3] But skill in speaking is taken away even from good teachers, for the rejection of their hearers. As is said to Ezekiel against Israel; I will make thy tongue cleave to the roof of thy mouth, and thou shalt be dumb, and shalt not be as a man reproving, for it is a provoking house. [Ez. 3, 26]


82. But the word of preaching is sometimes granted on account of both, sometimes withdrawn on account of both. For it is given on account of both, as is said by the voice of God to Paul amongst the Corinthians; Be not afraid, but speak. [Acts 18, 9] And a little after, For I have much people in this city. [ibid. 10] But it is withdrawn on account of both, as Eli the priest both knew the wicked conduct of his children, and exercised not the fitting language of reproof, when these the guilt of their sin, and him the punishment of his silence, was plainly about to mulct with the suffering of death. When we know not therefore, amongst these cases, either for whom the fervour of speech is given, or on whose account it is withdrawn, the one safe remedy is, neither to pride ourselves on those gifts which we have received beyond others, nor yet to make jest of another for having received less: but to walk gravely and steadily, with the firm-fixed foot of humility. Because we are in this life the more truly learned, the more we know that our learning cannot be supplied to us from ourselves. Why should therefore any one be proud of his learning, who knows not either when it is given to any one by a secret sentence, or when it is withdrawn? For though fear seems to be always far removed from security; yet there is nothing safer for us than ever to feel fear, under the prevalence of hope, lest our mind should from want of caution plunge itself into sin through desperation, or fall headlong through boasting of its gifts. For the more humbly a man trembles for himself, together with hope, before the eyes of the strict and merciful Judge, the more firmly does he stand in Him.