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Morals On The Book Of Job: Volumes 1 To 3 -Saint Gregory The Great

The thirty-second chapter, and the thirty-third, as far as the twenty-second verse, are expounded; in which, while Job keeps silence, Eliu, a younger person, enters on many right and sound topics, though not rightly, or with sound intention.

1. IT is necessary for me to repeat the preface of this work, as often as I divide it into separate volumes, by making a pause in my observations, it order that when it is again begun to be read, the subject of the Treatise may be at once brought afresh to the memory; and that the edifice of teaching may rise the more firmly, the more carefully the foundation is laid in the mind, from considering the first beginning of the subject. Blessed Job, known to God and himself alone in his state of tranquillity, when he was to be brought before our notice, was smitten with a rod, in order that he might scatter more widely the odour of his strength, the more sweetly he gave forth his scent, as spices, from the burning. He had learned in his prosperity to rule over his subjects with gentleness, and to guard himself strictly from evil. He had learned how to use the things he had got: but we could not tell whether he would remain patient under their loss. He had learned to offer daily sacrifices to God for the safety of his children, but it was doubtful, whether he would also offer Him the sacrifice of thanksgiving when he was bereft of them. For fear then that sound health should conceal any defect, it was proper that pain should bring it to light. Permission then to practise temptation against the holy man is given to the crafty foe. But he, in seeking to destroy his goods which were known to many, brings to light the virtue of patience also which was lying hid, and whom he believed he was pressing hard by his persecutions, he magnified him by his scourges, and far extended him in example. And he exercised with great skill the permission he had received. For he burnt his herds, destroyed his family, overwhelmed his heirs, and, in order to launch against him a weapon of severer temptation, he kept in store the tongue of his wife: that thus he might both lay low the bold and firm heart of the holy man with grief, by the loss of his goods, and pierce it through with a curse, by the words of his wife. But by the many wounds he inflicted in his cruelty, he unintentionally furnished as many triumphs to the holy man. For the faithful servant of God, involved in wounds and reproaches at one and the same time, both endued with patience the sufferings of the flesh, and reproved with wisdom the folly of his wife. The ancient enemy, therefore, because he was grieved at being foiled by him in his domestic trials, proceeded to seek for help from abroad. He summoned, therefore, his friends, each from his own place, as if for the purpose of displaying their affection, and opened their lips, under the pretence of giving consolation. But, by these very means, he launched against him shafts of reproach, which would wound more severely the heart of him who securely listened to them, inasmuch as they were inflicting an unexpected wound beneath the cover of a friendship which was professed and not observed. After these, also, Eliu a younger person is urged on even to use insult, in order that the scornful levity of his youth might at all events disturb the tranquillity of such great gentleness. But against these many machinations of the ancient enemy his constancy stood unconquered, his equanimity unbroken. For at one and the same time he opposed his prudence to their hostile words, his conduct to their doings. Let no one then suppose that this holy man (although it was expressly written of him after his scourging, In all these things Job sinned not with his lips Job 1:2) sinned afterwards, at least, in his words in his dispute with his friends. For Satan aimed at his temptation, but God, Who had praised him, took on Himself the purport of that contest. If any one, therefore, complains that blessed Job sinned in his words, what else does he do, but confess that God, Who pledged Himself for him, had been the loser.

2. But since the ancient fathers, like fruitful trees, are not merely beauteous in appearance, but also profitable through their fertility, their life must be so considered by us, that when we admire the freshness of their history, we may learn also how fruitful they are in allegory, in order that, since the smell of their leaves is pleasant, we may learn also how sweet is the taste of their fruits. For no one ever possessed the grace of heavenly adoption but he who has received it through the knowledge of the Only-begotten. It is right then that He should shine forth in their life and words, Who so enlightens them that they may be able to shine. For when the light of a candle is kindled in the dark, the candle, which causes other objects to be seen, is first seen itself. And so, if we are truly endeavouring to behold the objects which are enlightened, it is necessary for us to open the eyes of our mind to that Lightening which gives them light. But it is this which shines forth in these very discourses of blessed Job, when the shades of allegory too have been driven away, as though the gloom of midnight had been dispelled, a bright light as it were flaming across them. As when it is said, I know that my Redeemer liveth, and in my flesh I shall see God. Job 19:25. Paul had doubtless discovered this light in the night of history, when he said, All were baptized in Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual meat, and all drank the same spiritual drink. But they drank of the spiritual Rock that followed them, but the Rock was Christ. 1 Cor. 10:2–4. If then the Rock represented the Redeemer, why should not blessed Job suggest the type of Him, since he signified in his suffering Him Whom he spake of in his voice? And hence he is not improperly called Job, that is to say, “grieving,” because he sets forth in his own person the image of Him, of Whom it is announced long before by Isaiah, that He Himself bore our griefs. Is. 53:4. It should be further known, that our Redeemer has represented Himself as one Person with Holy Church, whom He has assumed to Himself. For it is said of Him, Which is the Head, even Christ. Eph. 4:15. And again it is written of His Church; And the body of Christ, which is the Church. Col. 1:24. Blessed Job therefore, who was more truly a type of Christ, since he prophesied of His passion, not by words only, but also by his sufferings, when he dwells on setting forth the Redeemer in his words and deeds, is sometimes suddenly turning to signify His body; in order that, as we believe Christ and His Church to be one Person, we may behold this signified also by the actions of a single man.

3. But what else is signified by his wife, who provokes him to words of blasphemy, but the depravity of carnal men? For placed, with yet unreformed manners, within the pale of the Holy Church, they press harder on those of faithful lives, the nearer they are to them; because when they cannot as being faithful be avoided by the faithful, they are endured as a greater evil, the more inward it is. But his friends, who while pretending to advise, inveigh against him, represent to us heretics, who under the pretence of advising, carry on the business of leading astray. And thus while speaking to Job on behalf of the Lord, they hear His reproof; because all heretics in truth while endeavouring to maintain God’s cause, do in fact offend Him. Whence also it is properly said to them by the same holy man, I desire to reason with God, first shewing that ye are forgers of lies, and followers of corrupt doctrines. Job 13:3, 4. It is plain then that they typify heretics, since the holy man accuses them of being devoted to the profession of false doctrines. And since Job is by interpretation grieving, (for by his grief is set forth either the passion of the Mediator, or the travails of Holy Church, which is harassed by the manifold labours of this present life,) so do his friends also by the very word which is used for their names set forth the nature of their conduct. For Eliphaz signifies in Latin “contempt of God;” and what else is the conduct of heretics than a proud contempt of God by the false notions they entertain of Him? Bildad is interpreted “oldness alone.” And well are all heretics termed oldness alone, in the things they speak of God, since they are anxious to appear preachers, not with any honest intention, but with an earnest desire after worldly honour. For they are urged to speak not by the zeal of the new man, but by the evil principles of their old life. Sophar too is called in Latin ‘dissipation of the prospect,’ or a ‘dissipating of the prospect.’ For the minds of the faithful raise themselves to the contemplation of things above: but when the words of the heretics endeavour to draw them aside from the right objects of contemplation, they do their best to dissipate the prospect. In the three names then of Job’s friends, there are set forth three cases of the ruin of heretics. For did they not despise God, they would never entertain false notions respecting Him; and did they not contract oldness, they would not err in their estimate of the new life; and unless they marred the contemplation of the good, the divine judgments would not have reproved them with so strict a scrutiny, for the faults which they committed in their words. By despising God then, they keep themselves in their oldness: but by remaining in their oldness, they obstruct the view of them that are right by their crooked discoursing.

4. After these also, Eliu, a younger person, is joined to them in their reproaches of blessed Job. In his person is represented a class of teachers, who are faithful, but yet arrogant. Nor do we easily understand his words, unless we consider them by the help of the subsequent reproof of the Lord. Who is he that involves sentences in unskilful words? Job 38:2. for when He uses the word ‘sentences,’ but does not immediately subjoin of what nature they are, He intends the word without doubt to be understood favourably. For when ‘sentences’ are spoken of, unless they are said to be bad, they cannot be understood in a bad sense. For we always take the word in a good sense, if no unfavourable addition is made; as it is written, A slothful man seems wiser in his own opinion than seven men uttering sentences. Prov. 26:16. But by its being said that his sentences are involved in unskilful language, it is plainly shewn that they were uttered by him with the folly of pride. For it is a great unskilfulness in him, to be unable to express himself with humility in what he says, and to blend with sentiments of truth the words of pride.

5. For the nature of every thing that is said can be distinguished by four different qualities. If, for instance, either bad things are said badly, good things well, bad things well, or good things badly. A bad thing is badly said, when wrong advice is given; as it is written, Curse God, and die. Job 2:9. A good thing is well said, when right matters are rightly preached; as John says, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Matt. 3:2. A bad thing is well spoken, when a fault is adduced by the speaker, simply to be reproved; as Paul says, The women changed their natural use into that which is against nature. Rom. 1:26. In which place he subjoined too the execrable doings of men. But he related these unseemly things in a seemly way, that by telling of things unbecoming, he might recal many to the practice of what is becoming. But a good thing is ill spoken, when what is proper is brought forward with an improper object; as the Pharisees are reported to have said to the blind man who had received his sight, Be thou His disciple; John 9:28. for they said this for the express purpose of reproaching him, not as wishing what they said; or as Caiaphas says, It is expedient that one man should die for the people, that the whole nation perish not. John 11:50. It was a good thing which he said, but not with good view; for while he longed for His cruel death, he prophesied the grace of redemption. And in like manner Eliu also is reproved for saying right things in a wrong way: because in the very truths which he utters he is puffed up with arrogance. And he represents thereby the character of the arrogant, because through a sense of what is right he rises up into words of pride.

6. But what is meant by the Divine Voice directing that the three friends should be reconciled by seven sacrifices, while it leaves Eliu only beneath the reproof of a single sentence; except it be that heretics, when bedewed with the superabundance of Divine grace, sometimes return to the unity of Holy Church? This is excellently set forth by the very reconciliation of the friends, for whom nevertheless blessed Job is directed to pray. Because in truth the sacrifices of heretics cannot be acceptable to God, unless they be offered for them by the hands of the Church Catholic, that they may gain a healing remedy by her merits, whom they used to smite by attacking her with the shafts of their reproaches. And thence is it that seven sacrifices are said to have been offered for them, because whilst they receive on confession the Spirit of sevenfold grace, they are atoned for, as it were, by seven oblations. Wherefore in the Apocalypse of John, the whole Church is represented by the sevenfold number of the Churches: and hence is it that Solomon speaks thus of Wisdom, Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars. Rev. 1:11. Prov. 9:1. The heretics then on their reconciliation express, by the very number of the sacrifices, their own former character, since it is only by their returning that they are united to the perfection of sevenfold grace. But they are properly represented as having offered for themselves bulls and rams. For in a bull is designated the neck of pride, in a ram the leading of the flocks that follow. What then is the offering of bulls and rams on their behalf, but the destruction of their proud leadership, that they may think humbly of themselves, and not seduce any longer the hearts of the innocent to follow them? For they had started aside with swelling neck from the general body of the Church, and were drawing after them the weakminded, as flocks following their guidance. Let them come then to blessed Job, that is, let them return to the Church, and offer bulls and rams to be slaughtered for a sevenfold sacrifice, who in order to be united to the Church Catholic, by the coming in of a spirit of humility, have to put an end to whatever swelling thoughts they before used to entertain from their haughty leadership.

7. But Eliu (by whom are designated those lovers of vain-glory who, living within the pale of the Church, scorn to state in a humble way the sound views which they hold) is not directed to be reconciled by sacrifice. For those who are proud, and yet faithful, because they are already within the pale, cannot be brought back by seven sacrifices. Yet the divine wisdom reproves these people in the person of Eliu, and blames in them not their sentences of truth, but their temper and language of pride. But what is the meaning of the reproof, except that the chiding of the divine severity chastens them with scourges as placed within the Church, or by a righteous judgment leaves them to themselves? For such as these preach the truth within the Church, but, in the judgment of God, deserve to hear an unfavourable sentence, because by the sound truths which they state, which are not their own, they seek not the glory of their author, but their own credit. We must therefore carefully weigh this passage, in which it is said by the Divine Voice respecting Eliu, Who is he? Job 38:2. An interrogation of this kind is but the beginning of a reproof. For we say not, Who is he, except of a person of whom we are ignorant. But God’s ignorance is the same as His rejection: whence He will at the end say to some whom He rejects, I know you not whence yon are; depart from Me, all ye workers of iniquity. Mat. 7:23. To ask then of this haughty man, Who is he? what is it but plainly to say, I know not the haughty? that is, In the excellence of My wisdom I approve not of their doings, because, by being puffed up by human praise, they are bereft of the true glory of eternal reward. By not rejecting then his sentiments, but blaming the person who uttered them, He plainly teaches, as it were saying, I know what he says, but I know not the speaker: I approve of whatever is stated in accordance with truth, but I acknowledge not him who is elated by the truths he utters.

8. But to shew more plainly how disgracefully Eliu falls away in boastfulness of pride, we ought in the first place to set forth the character of a sound teacher; that from the straightness of this standard the deformity of his distortion may be clearly manifested. Every spiritual preacher then of the Church Catholic carefully examines himself in every thing he says, lest he should be elated with the sin of pride on account of his sound preaching; lest his conduct should be at variance with his words; lest that very peace which he preaches in the Church he should lose in his own person, by sound speaking and evil living. But it is his chief endeavour against the calumnious rumours of the adversaries to defend his conduct by his preaching, and to adorn his preaching by his life. And in all this he seeks not his own glory, but that of His Maker; and considers that every gift of wisdom he has received for the purpose of preaching, as bestowed not for his own deserts, but through the intercessions of those for whom he speaks. And thus while he casts himself down, he rises higher and higher; because he doubtless makes greater progress in gaining his own reward, by ascribing to the merits of others the good gifts he is able to exercise. He counts himself unworthy of all men, even when he lives more worthily than all together. For he is aware that the good qualities which are known to the world at large, can hardly exist in him without great peril. And though he feels himself to be wise, he would wish to be really wise without appearing so: and is especially afraid of that which is spoken of and gets abroad. And he seeks, if possible, to be silent, from perceiving that silence is safer for many, and considers that they are happier, whom a lower part in Holy Church conceals in silence; and though, in defence of the Church, he takes on himself of necessity the duty of speaking, because he is urged by the force of charity, yet he seeks with earnest longing the rest of silence. The one he maintains as a matter of wish, the other he exercises as a matter of duty. But of such ways of speaking the proud are ignorant. For they speak not because causes arise, but seek for them to arise in order that they may speak. Of such Eliu is now a type, who in what he says sets himself up beyond measure, through the sin of pride. When the words then of blessed Job were ended it is added, These three men ceased to answer Job, because he seemed just in his own eyes. Job 32:1.

In the expression, because he seemed to be just in his own eyes, the author of this sacred history intended to refer to the opinion of Job’s friends, and did not himself accuse him of being puffed up with pride. It follows:

Ver. 2. And Eliu, the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the kindred of Ram, was wroth and indignant.

ii. 9. The names either of himself, or of his parent, of his home, or kindred, furnish a mark of his own conduct. For Eliu being interpreted means, “That my God,” or, “God the Lord.” By whom, as we said to you, is designated the sound faith of proud men placed within the Church. Whence this very name of his is suited to them also. For though they live not according to the commandments of the Lord, they yet recognise God as their Lord, because in the truth of His flesh they realize also the form of the Godhead, as is said by the Prophet, Know ye that the Lord He is God. Ps. 100:3. But Barachel, signifies when interpreted, “The blessing of God,” but Buzite, “contemptible.” And either of these expressions is well suited to proud preachers: because in the eloquence of their speech they enjoy the blessing of Divine Grace, but in their proud manners they shew that it is to be despised. For the gifts which they have received they render contemptible, by not knowing how to use them rightly. But he is fitly said to be also of the kindred of Ram. For Ram signifies “lofty.” For lofty is the assembly of the faithful, which despises the low and abject things of this life. Lofty are they who can say with Paul, Our conversation is in heaven. Phil. 3:20. Eliu therefore is said to be ‘of the kindred of Ram,’ because every haughty preacher within the bosom of the Church Catholic, is united to the holy People in the verity of the faith, however he may be separated from them in conduct by the sinfulness of his pride. It follows,

But he was angry against Job, because he said he was just before God. Moreover against his friends was he wroth, because they had not found reasonable answers, but had merely condemned Job.

iii. 10. It must be carefully observed, that he blames blessed Job for professing himself just before God, but his friends because in condemning him they gave no reasonable reply. For it is plainly inferred, from these marks, that in him are characterized the lovers of vain glory. For he convicts Job of presuming on his righteousness, his friends of making a foolish answer. For all lovers of vain glory, while they prefer themselves to all other, accuse some of folly, others of obtaining what they do not deserve: that is, they consider some to be ignorant, others to be evil livers. And though they may justly accuse of heresy all who are external to the Church, yet they despise those who are within for the meanness of their life, and pride themselves against the one from high notions of their sound faith, against the others as if from the merits of their good living. But Eliu is well said to reprove at one time blessed Job, and at another time his friends: because the lovers of vain glory, living at times within the pale of Holy Church, both crush her opponents by preaching the truth, and oppose the customs of the same Holy Church in boasting of their preaching. They overwhelm the opponents of the Church by the power of their words, they oppress Holy Church by the way in which they utter them. They assail the one by preaching the truth, the other by their sin of pride. It follows,

Ver. 4, 5. Elihu therefore waited while Job was speaking, because they who were speaking were his elders. But when he had seen that the three were not able to answer, he was very wroth.

iv. 11. Though Holy Church is unquestionably older than her adversaries, (for they went forth from her, not she from them, as is said of them by John, They went out from us, but they were not of us, 1 John 2:19) yet Eliu is properly described as having been younger than these same adversaries. Because in truth after the contests which arose with heretics, haughty men began to have place in the Church, puffed up with the pride of learning. For when more grievous contests commenced with the enemy, there were certainly required some subtle dart-points of thought, oppositions of arguments, and a more involved research of words. And while men of glowing genius invent these weapons to suit the circumstances, they are frequently puffed up with pride, and (as is generally the case in the sin of pride) they are themselves made to fall by the same subtle meanings with which they assail the foe, while in what they think aright concerning God, they seek not God’s glory, but their own. And hence is it that though Eliu says many things aright, he is yet reproved by the Divine voice, as though he had stated errors. But when it is said that Eliu waited while Job was speaking, because they who were speaking were his elders, it is plain that he observed this respect to blessed Job not out of reverence for him, but for his friends; because, namely, haughty men though dwelling within Holy Church, despise that very body which they defend; and it is commonly the case that they pay greater respect to the abilities of those who are wise to an evil purpose, than to the simple life of the innocent; and that they shew greater regard to the eloquence of those without, than to the deserts of those within. And this, though they are opposed to both in opposite ways, as differing from the one in the soundness of their opinion, and from Holy Church in the perverseness of their character. It proceeds,

Ver. 6, 7. And Eliu the son of Barachel, the Buzite, answered and said, I am younger in age, but ye are more ancient. I therefore held down my head, and feared to shew you my opinion. For I was hoping that greater age would speak, and that a multitude of years would teach wisdom.

v. 12. All these words, which are uttered by him through swelling pride, must be rather glanced at by the way than expounded more attentively. For whatsoever is deficient in solid gravity, needs not any elaborate exposition. But I think I need only suggest in a few words, that Eliu was more wise, as long as he remained silent on account of his age, but that in despising a multitude of years in others, and setting himself above them, he shewed plainly his childish folly. For both greater age speaks, against his opinion, and wisdom is taught by multitude of years. Because, though length of life does not confer intelligence, yet it gives it much exercise by constant practice. It follows,

Ver. 8. But, as I see, there is a spirit in man, and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth understanding.

vi. 13. He would be right in saying this, did he not arrogate to himself this same wisdom above all others. For it is no slight condemnation for a man to boast within himself of that advantage which is given to him in common with others, to know whence he has received a good gift, and to know not how to use the good he has received. For there are four marks by which every kind of pride of the arrogant is pointed out, either when they think that they possess any good quality from themselves, or if they believe that it is given them from above, yet that they have received it in consequence of their own merits, or unquestionably when they boast of possessing that which they have not, or when they despise others, and wish to appear the sole possessors of what they have. For he boasted that he possessed his good qualities from himself, to whom it is said by the Apostle, But what hast thou which thou didst not receive? why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it? 1 Cor. 4:7. Again, the same Apostle warns us not to believe that any gift of grace is given us for our precedent deserts, when he says, By grace ye are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, but it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any one should boast. Eph. 2:8, 9. Who says also of himself, Who before was a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and contumelious: but I obtained mercy. 1 Tim. 1:13. For in these words he plainly declares, that grace is not given according to desert, when he taught us both what he deserved of himself for his evil deeds, and what he obtained by God’s benevolence. But again, some persons boast that they have that which they really have not, as the Divine Voice speaks of Moab by the Prophet; I know his pride and his arrogance, and that his virtue is not according to it. Jer. 48:30. And as is said to the Angel of the Church of Laodicea, Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing, and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. Rev. 3:17. Some again wish, in contempt of others, to appear to be the sole possessors of the good qualities which they have. Whence also the Pharisee went down from the temple without being justified, because by ascribing to himself as if in a singular manner the merit of good works, he preferred himself to the suppliant publican. The holy Apostles also are warned against this sin of pride; for on returning from their preaching, and saying with pride, Lord, even the devils are subject to us through Thy name, Luke 10:17. to keep them from rejoicing in this singular gift of miracles, the Lord at once replied to them, saying, I beheld Satan as lightning falling from heaven. For he had himself said with special pride, I will exalt my throne above the stars of heaven, I will sit in the mount of the corenant, in the sides of the north; I will be like the Most High. Is. 14:13, 14. And the Lord, in order to bring down pride in the hearts of His disciples, related with wondrous wisdom the judgment of downfal, which the prince of pride himself underwent, that they might learn, from the author of pride, what they had to apprehend from the sin of haughtiness. In the fourth kind of pride then, namely, the boasting of the sole possession of any thing it possesses, the mind of man equally suffers a fall. But it is in this that it approaches more closely to a resemblance of Satan, because whoever rejoices at the singular possession of any good thing, whoever wishes to appear more exalted than others, plainly imitates him who in despising the blessing of the society of Angels, and placing his seat at the north, and proudly desiring to be like the Most High, endeavoured by his evil longing to shoot up to some singular preeminence. Eliu then, though confessing that wisdom is given by God, yet falls in this species of pride, so as to rejoice that he is wiser than others, and foolishly to pride himself on possessing, as it were, a singular advantage. Which he points out in the words which follow, when he says,

Ver. 9, 10, 11. Old men are not wise, neither do the aged understand judgment. Therefore I will say, Hearken to me, I will shew yon my wisdom. For I waited for your words, I heard your wisdom, whilst ye were disputing in words: and as long as I thought that ye said something, I considered.

vii. 14. As far as regards the literal meaning, Eliu proves to us, when he speaks, how proudly he remained silent. For when he says, For I waited for your words, and I was thinking that ye would say something, he plainly shews that he remained silent, while the aged were speaking, rather with the desire of judging, than with the wish of learning from them. Though these expressions are even a better description of the conduct of proud men, who, when at length brought within Holy Church, are accustomed on looking at her opponents, to consider not so much the years of their age, as the intention of their words. For however older the heretics may be than these same haughty men, they boldly overbear those persons in whose words they reprove false doctrine. It follows,

Ver. 12, 13. But, as I see, there is no one of you who can convince Job, and reply to his words. Lest ye should perchance say, We have found out wisdom; God hath cast him down, not man.

viii. 15. Heretics, from the fact that they are wont to appear contemptible even to men, when they behold Holy Church reverenced by well-nigh all nations, endeavour to impugn the opinion entertained of her by every possible objection; and say that she enjoys all abundance of temporal goods, because the gifts of eternal rewards are taken from her. Eliu meets the objections of such people, by saying, Lest ye should perchance say, We have found out wisdom; God hath cast him down, not man. As if they who are found within the Church, but are yet faithful, should say against the heretics, Because ye see that the Church stands high in this world, through the high opinion of men, ye must believe that God hath not cast her aside. For her Redeemer well knows how to administer comfort to her as she is travelling on in this her journey, and to keep in store for her the rewards of heaven, when she arrives at her eternal home. In vain then do ye assert that God hath cast her down, and not man, when ye behold her venerated by almost all men; because the aid of worldly distinction is conferred on her in order that she may be assisted thereby in manifold ways to gain also the rewards of heaven. It follows,

Ver. 14. He spake nothing to me, and I will not reply to him according to your words.

ix. 16. What is meant by his saying, He spake nothing to me? For does holy Church, when she detects haughty men within her, ever omit to instruct and reprove them by preachers of righteousness? She exercises these duties, and ceases not to exercise them daily. But let Eliu, who had heard blessed Job speaking openly, say, He spake nothing to me; because doubtless, all haughty men, though they hear indeed the words of Holy Church, yet pretend that they are not addressed to them, when they make light of correcting the sin of pride. Nor do they think that they are reproved for their pride, for they look on themselves as humble; and they also make light of reproof, when they count themselves much wiser even than their reprovers. But in saying, I will not answer him according to your words, he well says that he does not answer blessed Job with their speeches. For proud men within the pale of Holy Church reply against her, but yet not as heretics who are without. For they oppose her not by false teaching, but by evil living, because they do not think unworthily of God, as do heretics, but more highly than is necessary of their own selves. It follows,

Ver. 15. They were afraid, they answered no more, they removed speech from themselves.

The friends of Job are well said to have been afraid of the words of Eliu, since frequently proud defenders of the Church, though they do not observe due order in what they say, yet confound the adversaries by the very virtue of their words. It follows,

Ver. 16. Because therefore I have waited, and they have not spoken, they have stood, and have answered no more.

x. 17. Wise men are accustomed to make it the limit of their speaking, to speak so far as to silence their adversaries. For they wish not to display their own powers, but to put down the teachers of heresy. But after it is said of the friends of Job, They were afraid, they answered no more, they removed speech from themselves, Eliu subjoins and says, I have waited, and they have not spoken; they have stood, and have answered no more. Even when they are already silent, he yet multiplies his words, because, being an arrogant man, and representing the character of the arrogant, he is in haste not merely to refute the arguments of his opponents, but to display his own wisdom. Whence it also follows,

Ver. 17. I will also answer my part, and I will display my knowledge.

For every proud man considers this to be his part, if he does not so much possess, as make a show of, knowledge. For all proud men are anxious not to possess knowledge, but to make a display of it: against whom Moses well says, Every vessel which hath not a cover nor binding over it shall be unclean. Numb. 19:15. For the covering or the binding is the reproof of discipline, and every one who is not kept under by it is rejected as an unclean and polluted vessel. And was not Eliu a vessel without a cover, who had considered it to be his part to make a show of the wisdom which he possessed? For he who lays himself open by his desire of display, and is not covered by the veil of silence, is polluted as a vessel without cover or binding. But holy preachers consider that they are performing their part, if they rejoice in themselves at their own wisdom within, and if they outwardly keep back others from error. Nor do they so far go out of themselves in speaking, as to place the delight of their mind in an outward display of eloquent language. But they meditate on the benefits of wisdom in the secret of their heart, and there rejoice when they perceive it; and not when they are obliged to make it known amidst the snares of so many temptations. Although when they make known the good which they receive, yet charity steps in, and they rejoice at the progress of their hearers, and not at their own display. But the arrogant on gaining any knowledge think that they have gained nothing, if it so happens that they keep it concealed. For they place their happiness no where but in the praise of men. It is hence that the foolish virgins are said to have taken no oil in their vessels; because such as be arrogant, if perchance they keep themselves from any vices, cannot confine to their own consciences the credit of the glory. But Paul had taken oil in his own vessel, who said, Our glory is this, the testimony of our conscience. Mat. 25:3. To carry then an empty vessel, is with a heart empty within to seek for the judgment of men’s lips from without. Because Eliu, then, when seeking for glory from without, has not oil within his vessel, he well says, I will answer my part, and I will display my learning. 2 Cor. 1:12. And in the words which follow he shews what are his sufferings, from vain-glory raging within, saying,

Ver. 18–20. I am full of words, the spirit of my womb constraineth me. Behold, my belly is as new wine without a vent, which bursts in sunder new vessels. I will speak, and will take breath awhile; I will open my lips and answer.

xi. 18. When boastful men observe that holy preachers speak eloquently, and are reverenced for their eloquence, they frequently imitate the loftiness of their language, and not their useful intention. They are far from loving what the others desire, but are especially anxious to gain great renown amongst men. For it is frequently the case that wise men, when they find that they are not listened to, impose silence on their lips. But frequently when they see that the sins of the ungodly gain strength when they are silent, and cease to reprove, they endure a kind of violence in their spirit, so that they burst forth in language of open reproof. And hence when the Prophet Jeremiah had imposed on himself silence in preaching, saying, I will not make mention of Him, nor speak any more in His Name; Jer. 20:9. he immediately added, And there was made as it were a burning fire in my bosom, and shut up in my bones: and I was wearied, not being able to bear it; for I have heard the insults of many. For, seeing that he was not listened to, he wished to hold his peace; but when he beheld evil increasing, he no longer persisted in the same silence. For when he ceased to speak without, from being wearied of speaking, he felt a flame kindled within him by the zeal of charity. For the hearts of the just burn within them, when they behold the deeds of the ungodly gain strength from not being reproved, and they believe that they are themselves partakers in the guilt of those, whom they allow, by their own silence, to go on in iniquity. The prophet David, after he had imposed silence on himself, saying, I have set a guard upon my mouth, while the sinner stood against me. I was dumb, and was humbled, and kept silence even from good things: Ps. 39:1. in the midst of his silence blazed forth with this zeal of charity, when he immediately subjoined; My sorrow was renewed, my heart grew hot within me, and in my meditation a fire shall flame out. Ps. 39:3. His heart grew hot within him, because the flame of charity refused to burst forth in words of admonition. The fire burned in the meditation of his heart, because his reproof of the ungodly had ceased to flow on with the chiding of his lips. For the zeal of charity tempers itself with wonderful consolation, as it gains strength, when it bursts forth in words of reproof against the deeds of the ungodly, in order that it may not cease to reprove the faults which it cannot amend, lest it should convict itself of partaking in their sins, by consent of keeping silence.

19. But because certain vices frequently assume the guise of virtues, as, for instance, lavishness wishes to appear like pity, stinginess like frugality, cruelty like justice; in like manner, a desire for empty glory, being unable to keep itself within the bounds of silence, inflames like the zeal of charity, and the powerful desire of ostentation impels a person to speak without restraint, and the desire of display breaks out, as if with the wish of offering advice. For it cares not what good it can effect by its speaking, but what show it can make: nor is it anxious to correct the evil which it beholds, but to display the good which it feels. Hence Eliu also, swollen by the spirit of pride, and unable to keep himself within the barriers of silence, says, I am full of words, the spirit of my womb constraineth me; behold, my belly is as new wine without a vent which bursts in sunder new vessels. ver. 18, 19.

20. If we must understand this passage spiritually, by ‘belly’ he means the secret recesses of the heart. But by new wine is understood the warmth of the Holy Spirit, of which the Lord says in the Gospel, They put new wine into new skins. Matt. 9:17. For when the Apostles were filled suddenly therewith, and were speaking in every tongue, it was said by the Jews, who knew not the truth and yet bare witness to it, These men are full of new wine. Acts 2:4. But by vessels we understand not inappropriately either consciences which are weak from their very estate of humanity, or certainly those earthly vessels of our bodies; of which the Apostle Paul says, We have this treasure in earthen vessels. 2 Cor. 4:7. But because Eliu, as we before observed, was so puffed up and swollen with pride, as though he were kindled within, to speak through the grace of charity, by the fire of the Holy Spirit, compares the spirit, which he felt within him when silent, to new wine without a vent. And he well says, Which bursts asunder new vessels, because the fire of the Holy Spirit is scarcely kept in by the new life, much less by the old. The new wine then bursts asunder new vessels, because by its violent heat it is too much even for spiritual hearts. I will speak, and I will take breath a little; I will open my lips and answer. ver. 20. He well says, I will take breath, for as it is a distress to the holy to behold wickedness, without amending it; so is it a heavy distress to the boastful, if they do not display the wisdom they possess. For they can scarcely endure the violence which boils within them, if they are rather behindhand in making known every thing which they think. And hence, when any good deed is taken in hand, all pride on account of it must first be overcome in the heart, lest, if it should proceed from the root of a bad motive, it should bring forth the bitter fruits of sin.

21. These then, who are as yet engaged in a contest with their sins, ought never to undertake to rule over others by exercising the office of preaching. And this is the reason, why, according to the command of the Divine dispensation, the Levites serve the tabernacle from their twenty-fifth year, but from their fiftieth become the guardians of the sacred vessels. For what is meant by the five and twentieth year, when youth is in its full vigour, but the contests against each separate sin? And what is expressed by the fiftieth, in which is signified also the rest of the Jubilee, but the repose of the mind within, when the contest has come to an end? But what is shadowed forth by the vessels of the tabernacle, except the souls of the faithful? The Levites, therefore, serve the tabernacle from their five and twentieth year, and take charge of the vessels from their fiftieth, to shew that they who endure, through pleasurable consent, the contest with sins which still assault them, should not presume to take the charge of others: but that when they have been successful in their contests with temptations, by which they are assured of inward tranquillity, they may then undertake the care of souls. But who can perfectly subdue these assaults of temptations, when Paul says, I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and leading me captive to the law of sin? Rom. 7:23. But it is one thing boldly to endure contests, another to be unnerved by them and overcome. In the first case virtue is kept in exercise, to secure it from being puffed up; in the other, it is quite quenched that it cease to be. He then who knows how to endure with boldness the temptation of the contest, even when he feels its shock, sits on high in the lofty citadel of peace. For he sees that the assaults of sin are, even when within him, subject to his power, since he does not yield his consent to them, from being overcome by any pleasure. It follows:

Ver. 21, 22. I will not accept the person of man, I will not equal God to man; for I know not how long I shall continue, or whether after a while my Maker may take me away.

xii. 22. Most judiciously he does not make God equal to man, since he knows not how long he may continue, or when in the judgment of God be taken away. And he well says, After a while my Maker may take me away; for however long is the period of the present life, it is short, from the very fact, that it is not enduring. For that which is confined within circumscribed limits has no claim to be considered lasting. But in the midst of these sentences which he utters, based on solid truth, he again bursts out into words of pride, saying,

Chap. 33. ver. 1, 2. Wherefore, Job, hear my speeches, and hearken to all my words. Behold, I have opened my mouth; let my tongue speak in my throat.

xiii. 23. Let us consider from what a height of pride he comes down in admonishing Job to listen to him, in saying that he had opened his mouth, in promising that his tongue would speak in his throat. For the teaching of the boastful has this peculiarity, that they cannot modestly suggest what they teach, and cannot communicate in a right manner the truths they hold rightly. For they make it plain by their words that they fancy themselves, when teaching, to be seated on some lofty eminence, and that they look upon their hearers as standing far beneath them, as on lower ground, as persons whom they hardly deign to address, not in the tone of advice, but of authority. Well does the Lord address them by the Prophet, But ye ruled them with austerity and power. Ez. 34:4. For they rule with austerity and power, who are eager to correct those under them, not by calmly reasoning, but to bend them by the severity of command.

24. But sound teaching, on the other hand, the more earnestly avoids this sin of pride in thought, the more eagerly it assails with the shafts of its words the teacher of pride himself. For it takes heed lest it be rather preaching him by a haughty demeanour, whom it assails with holy words in the hearts of its hearers. For it endeavours to state in its words, and to set forth in its doings, humility, which is the mistress and mother of all virtues, in order that it may enforce it on the disciples of truth more by its conduct than by its words. Whence Paul in speaking to the Thessalonians, as if he had forgotten the height of his own Apostleship, We became as children in the midst of you. 1 Thess. 2:7. Whence the Apostle Peter, when saying, Ever ready to satisfy every one that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, 1 Pet. 3:15. asserted that in the science of teaching the manner of one’s teaching is to be strictly attended to, by subjoining, But with modesty and fear, having a good conscience. ib. 16. But in that which the Apostle Paul says to his disciple, These things exhort and teach with all authority; 1 Tim. 4:11. Tit. 2:15. he does not recommend the tyranny of power, but the authority of his life. For that is enjoined with authority which is practised before it is advised. For when conscience makes the tongue falter, it detracts from the authority of one’s talking. He did not recommend him therefore the authority of haughty words, but the confidence of good conduct. Whence it is said of the Lord, He was teaching as having authority, not as the Scribes and Pharisees. Matt. 8:29. For He alone in a singular and peculiar manner spoke with sound authority, because He had committed no sins from infirmity. For He possessed that from the power of His Godhead, which He has bestowed in us through the sinlessness of His Manhood.

25. For we, because we are feeble men, when we come to speak of God to our fellows, should first of all call to mind our own nature, and thus consider from our own infirmities in what order we should offer advice to our weakly brethren. Let us consider then that we are either now such as some of those whom we are correcting, or were heretofore such, though by the operation of Divine Grace we are so no longer: that in humility of heart we may correct them with greater forbearance, the more truly we recognise ourselves in the persons of those whom we correct. But if we are neither now such, nor have been such as those still are whom we are anxious to improve; for fear our heart should perchance be proud, and should fall the more fatally by reason of its very innocence, let us recal to our eyes the other good qualities of those whose faults we are correcting. If they have not any such, let us fall back on the secret judgments of God. Because as we have received this very good, which we possess, for no deserts of our own; so is He able to pour on them the grace of power from above, so that though roused to exertion after ourselves, they may be able to outstrip even those good qualities which we received so long before. For who could believe that Saul, who kept at his death the raiment of those that were stoning him, would surpass Stephen who had been stoned, by the honour of the Apostleship. Our heart ought then to be first humbled by these thoughts, and then the sin of offenders should be reproved. But as has been often said, Eliu is shewn to be unacquainted with this mode of speaking, who is puffed up in his words, by the haughtiness of pride, as if by the power of a kind of authority, saying, Wherefore Job hear my speeches, and hearken to all my words. Behold I have opened my mouth, let my tongue speak in my throat. Job 33:1.

26. To speak in the throat is to speak softly, and not to vociferate loudly. In which words he designates haughty men living within holy Church. For these are said to speak as if in the throat, when they do not clamour against the adversaries who are without, but reprove some within the bosom of holy Church, as if they were neighbours and placed near them. But haughty men often make a show of avoiding that very pride, which they entertain; and while they do all things so as not to escape the notice of any one, they privately mention them to particular persons, in order that they may boast not merely of their sense of wisdom, but also of their contempt of arrogance before men. Whence it is now said, Let my tongue speak in my throat. As if it were plainly said, Behold, I whisper that which I think wisely against thee. But they sometimes break out into such a height of impudence, as, when others are silent, to be accustomed to praise their own sayings. Whence he subjoins,

Ver. 3. My words are from my simple heart, and my lips shall speak a pure sentence.

xiv. 27. To say that speech is simple, is a praise of great weight. But because the haughty possess it not, they assert the more anxiously that they possess it, in order that they may be heard with less apprehension. And they declare that they are going to speak with pure intention, because they are afraid of their wicked duplicity being discovered. But they often also blend together truth and falsehood, that their falsehood may be the more speedily believed, from its being discerned that they speak the truth. Because then Eliu both said that he would speak with pure intention, and by calling his words ‘sentences’ ushered them in with applause, he subjoins the same ‘sentence’ which he promised, saying,

Ver. 4. The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.

xv. 28. Intending to subjoin truth, he first uttered boastful words, and being about to state the sound opinions he held, he first made known how huge was his swelling. The minds of the arrogant are doubtless so very mad, that even in what they think rightly, they are disfigured by the deformity of their pride. And hence even their sound opinions do not instruct their hearers, because in truth they lead them by their haughty sentiments not to reverence but to despise them. And when words of folly are blended with wise sayings, even their wisdom is not kept in mind, because their folly is despised by him who hears it. For hence it is said by Moses, A man who suffers a running of seed shall be unclean. Lev. 15:16. For what are our words but seed? And when this is poured forth in due measure, the mind of the hearer, as the womb of her who conceives, is made fruitful for an offspring of good works. But if it escapes at improper times, polluting him that emits it, it loses its generating power. For if words were not seed, the Athenians would never have said of Paul, as he was preaching to them, What would this word sower say? Acts 17:18. of whom Luke says, He was the chief speaker. Acts 14:12. Seed, then, which is intended for the purpose of procreation, when it escapes in an improper manner, pollutes the other members: and speech also, by which learning ought to be implanted in the hearts of the hearers, if uttered out of due order, brings disgrace even on the truths it utters. And hence Eliu also pollutes even the truths he is able to entertain, when he is ignorant of what he is saying, or to whom he is saying it, and suffers, as it were, discharge of seed, when he employs his tongue, which is fitted to answer useful purpose, in words of empty sound. But he speaks in proper order of his being made, and receiving life. For he says, that he was made by the Spirit, and that he received life by the breath of God. For it is written of Adam when created, He breathed into his face the breath of life, and man was made into a living soul. Gen. 2:7. But let us listen whether he proceeds properly with what he has well laid down. It follows,

Ver. 5. If thou canst, answer me, and stand before my face.

xvi. 29. Behold how in relating the true order of his creation, he suddenly bursts forth into the pride of haughty arrogance, and, in other words, repeats the same statement, by saying,

Ver. 6, 7. Behold, God made me as well as thee, and I am also formed of the same clay; yet let not my wonder terrify thee, and my eloquence be burdensome to thee. What then is meant by Eliu acknowledging the order of his true creation, and not knowing the limits of proper speech? What by his putting himself on a level with Job when created, and setting himself above him when about to speak? What but this, that though haughty men remember that they are equal in nature to other men, yet that through the pride of knowledge they do not deign even to believe that they have even their equals: and that though they compare themselves with them, in the condition of their nature, they place themselves above them from pride in their wisdom. They decide that though they were made equal by birth, yet they have not continued so, in their way of life. And from their not being equal to them as it were in their way of life, they count it a greater marvel that they were equal to them when they were born. And hence Eliu says, when inflated with pride, Behold, God made me as well as thee, and I also was formed from the same clay; yet let not my wonder terrify thee, nor my eloquence be burdensome to thee. For it is peculiar to the arrogant, that they always believe, even before they speak, that they are going to say some wonderful thing, and that they anticipate their own words by their own admiration, because, with all their acuteness, they are not sensible how great a folly is their very pride. We must observe also that Paul, when he was giving the Hebrews some striking warnings, subjoined, I beseech you, brethren, suffer the word of consolation, for I have written to you in few words. Heb. 13:22. But Eliu uttered empty words, and afterwards added, as if for consolation, Let not my wonder terrify thee, nor my eloquence be burdensome to thee. The one called his sayings the word of consolation, the other called them eloquence, and a marvel. Behold, how different in taste are the fruits which spring forth from diverse roots of thought. The one thinks humbly of his high qualities, the other exalts himself without reason on his scanty endowments. What then is specially to be observed in all this, but that those who are about to rise, think themselves low, and that they who are soon to fall, ever stand on high ground? As Solomon bears witness, The heart is exalted before destruction, and is brought low before honour. Prov. 16:18. It follows,

Ver. 8. Thou hast spoken then in mine ears, and I have heard the voice of thy words. And subjoining the very words, he says,

Ver. 9–11. I am clean, and without spot of sin, and there is no iniquity in me, because He hath found complaints in me, therefore He hath counted me as His enemy, He hath placed my feet in the stocks, He hath guarded all my ways. And in answer to these words which he said blessed Job had spoken, he immediately states his own opinion, saying,

Ver. 12. This is the thing then in which thou art not justified.

xvii. 30. Blessed Job had indeed truly said, that he had been scourged without any fault. For he said of himself exactly what the Lord had said of him to the devil, Thou hast moved Me against him to afflict him without cause. Job 2:3. But Eliu did not believe, that his fault doing nothing in it, he could be scourged as a matter of grace. For he did not know that by his scourgings his fault was not corrected, but his merits increased, and because he had said that he had been scourged without any fault, he reproves him in these words, saying, This is the thing then in which thou art not justified. For it is the special fault of the arrogant, to be more eager to convict, than to console; and to consider that whatever sufferings they see befal men, have befallen them solely from their sins. They know not how to enquire deeply into the secret judgments of God, and humbly to investigate that which they cannot understand: for while pride at their knowledge raises them on high, it frequently casts them down from the secret investigation of God’s judgments.

31. For suffering of mind is an impediment in the way of truth: because while it puffs us up, it obscures our view. For if these persons ever seem to acquire wisdom, they feed, as it were, on the husks of things, and not on the marrow of their inmost sweetness; and with their brilliant abilities, they frequently reach only to the outside of things, but know not the savour of their inward taste; for, in truth, though sharp-sighted outwardly, they are blind within. Nor do they form such a notion of God, as tastes secretly within, but such as when thrown outward gives a sound. And though they gain in their understanding a knowledge of some mysteries, they can have no experience of their sweetness: and if they know how they exist, yet they know not, as I said, how they savour. And so it is frequently the case, that though they speak boldly, yet they know not how to live up to what they profess. Whence a certain wise man well said, May God grant me to speak these things according to my sentence. Wisd. 7:15. For sentence is derived from sense. And a man who wishes not merely to speak from outward knowledge, but to feel and experience what he says, is anxious to give utterance to the truths he holds, not as a matter of mere knowledge, but of real feeling. But the mind of haughty men does not penetrate the meaning of its own words; because by a righteous judgment it is driven away from the inward taste of things, and is wrecked by that applause which it desires from without. But real knowledge influences without elating; and makes those whom it has filled, not proud, but sorrowful. For when any one is filled therewith, he is in the first place anxious to know himself: and conscious of his own state, he acquires thereby a greater savour of strength, the more truly sensible he is of his own weakness therein. And this very humility opens to him more widely the pathway of this knowledge, and when he beholds his own weakness, this very knowledge opens to him the hidden recesses of sublime secrets; and pressed down by this knowledge, he is made more subtle to press forward into things hidden. Eliu then does not in the scourgings of blessed Job discover their true reason, because he knows not how to search for it with humility: and being more ready to reproach than to console, he says, It is in this thing, then, that thou art not justified. Job 13:2.

32. We must observe further, that blessed Job said that his foot was placed in the stocks, but that he never said that he was clean, in the way in which is objected to him, or free from sin, or without spot, and iniquity. But Eliu, in his desire to reprove austerely what has been said, falsely added what had not been said. For they who are ever eager to reprove and not to encourage, frequently state many false-hoods in their reproofs. For in order to appear clever in reproving, they frequently invent statements, for the sake of reproving them, and, being eager, as horses, to run their course of ostentation, they clear the way for assailing those who are subject to them by inventing charges of iniquity. It must be understood besides, as I said above, that haughty men often blend forcible words with their words of boasting, and that sometimes they do not consider how they live, but studiously weigh what they teach. Of such Eliu is a specimen in the present case, who is not so anxious to live well, as to teach well. Since then he speaks, though arrogantly, yet with knowledge, let us pass over the pride of his conduct, and consider the solidity of his teaching. After all these boastful words, then, he begins at length to display his knowledge, and says,

Ver. 12. I will answer thee, that God is greater than man.

xviii. 33. Some one may perhaps observe, Who knows not that, even without being told it? But no wonder if this remark is believed to be of little value, if it is not considered in the very root of its meaning. He was speaking to one who had been scourged, who had both felt the blows of smiting, and was ignorant of the reason of them. And therefore he remarked, I will answer thee, that God is greater than man; that man, when scourged, yet considering that God is greater than himself, may submit himself to the judgment of Him, to Whom he has no doubt he is inferior, and may believe that that which he suffers from his superior is just, even though he does not know the grounds of its justice. For whoever is smitten for his sins, unless he murmurs and struggles against it, begins at once to be a righteous man, from not impugning the justice of Him who smites him. For man is created inferior to God, and returns to the order of his creation, when he submits himself to the equity of his Judge, even when he cannot comprehend it. It is therefore well said, I will answer thee, that God is greater than man, in order that on considering the power of the Creator, the swelling of the mind may cease to rage, through the thought of the condition in which it was created. Whence David the Prophet, when compelled by the weight of the blows to burst forth into extravagant words, says on bringing himself back to the consideration of his own origin, I was dumb, and opened not my mouth, since Thou hast made me. Ps. 39:9. For he considered in what rank he was created, and learned the justice of the blow; for He Who kindly created him who as yet was not, surely smote him only with justice when he was now in being. It follows.

Ver. 13, 14. Thou contendest against Him, because He hath not replied to thee to all thy words. God will speak once, and will not repeat the same thing a second time.

xix. 34. It is natural to the afflicted heart, when it beholds anything going contrary to its wishes, to wish to gain an answer, if possible, by the voice of God, why things are in this way, and not in that: to consult God in this whole matter under debate, and to acquiesce on learning the meaning of His reply. But Eliu, foreseeing that the Lord was composing holy Scripture, for the purposes of replying therein to the open or secret enquiries of all men, says, Thou contendest against Him, because He hath not replied to all thy words. God will speak once, and will not repeat the same thing a second time. As if he were to say, God does not reply in private speaking to the hearts of men one by one; but fashions His word in such a manner, as to satisfy the enquiries of all men. For if we look for our own cases one by one, we are sure to find them in the teaching of His Scriptures; nor is there need to seek for a special answer from the voice of God, in our own special sufferings. For there a general reply is given to all of us in our own special sufferings: there the conduct of those who go before is a model for such as come after. To take one instance out of many. We are labouring under some suffering or annoyance of the flesh. We wish perhaps to know the secret reasons of this suffering or annoyance, in order that we may be comforted in our trial from the very knowledge. But because no special reply is given to us one by one, concerning our own special trials, we betake ourselves to holy Scripture. And there is it that we find what Paul heard when tried by the infirmity of the flesh. My grace is sufficient for thee; for strength is made perfect in weakness. 2 Cor. 12:9. And this was spoken to him in his own peculiar suffering, that it might not be spoken to us one by one. We have heard therefore in holy Scripture the voice of God to Paul in his affliction, in order that we may not seek to hear it one by one, for our own private consolation, if perchance we are afflicted. God does not then reply to all our words, because He will speak once, and will not repeat the same thing again; that is, He has provided for our instruction, by what He stated to our fathers in holy Scripture. Let the teachers then of Holy Church, let even these men of arrogance, announce, (on beholding some within her sinking from faintheartedness,) that God does not reply to all our words, that God will speak once, and will not repeat the same thing twice. In other words, He does not now satisfy the doubts and perplexities of individual men by the voice of the Prophets on every side, or by the ministry of Angels. Because He includes in holy Scripture whatever can possibly befal each one of us, and has provided therein for regulating the conduct of those who come after, by the examples of those who have gone before.

35. But yet this remark, God will speak once, and will not repeat the same thing twice, may be understood in a deeper meaning; that the Father begat His Consubstantial, Only-begotten Son. For God’s speaking is His having begotten the Word. But for God to speak once, is for Him to have no other Word beside the Only-begotten. And hence it is fitly subjoined, And He will not repeat the same thing twice, because this very Word, that is, the Son, He begat not otherwise than only-begotten. But in that He says not, “He spake,” but “will speak,” using, namely, not the past tense but the future, it is plain to all, that neither past nor future time is appropriate to God. Any tense is therefore the more freely used in speaking of Him, since no one is used with strict truth. But any tense whatever could not be freely used, if one at least could be used properly. It is allowable then for any tense to be boldly used in speaking of God, since no one is strictly proper. For the Father begat the Son without regard to time.

26. And who can worthily speak of that ineffable nativity, that the Coeternal is begotten from the Eternal, that He who existed before all ages begat His Equal, that the Son was not posterior to Him Who begat Him? We can marvel at these things, but it is beyond our power to look into them. But to be able to wonder at that mighty nativity is in a certain degree to see it. But how do we see that which we do by no means comprehend? But we must borrow an instance from the habits of the body to illustrate the feelings of the mind. If any one is lying down in a dark place, with his eyes closed, and the light of a candle suddenly flashes before him, his eyes, though closed, are so struck by the very approach of the light, that they open. Why are they thus affected, if they saw nothing when closed? And yet it was not any thing perfect which they could see when closed. For if they had seen the whole object perfectly, why should they when opened seek for something to look at? And thus, thus are we, when we endeavour to behold ought of the incomprehensible nativity. For even in this, that the mind is struck with surprise at the shining, and sees in a manner what it is not able really to see, it beholds as if in darkness the power of the light with closed eyes. But because the secret admiration of the Divine Nature is not easily made known to minds which are occupied with worldly desires, he very fitly suggests the way in which God speaks to us, by saying,

Ver. 15. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when sleep falleth upon men, and they sleep on their bed.

xx. 37. What is meant by the word of God being made known to us in a dream, except that we do not learn the secret things of God, if we are kept awake by worldly desires? For in a dream the outward senses are at rest, and inward objects are discerned. If we wish then to contemplate things within, let us rest from outward engagements. The voice of God, in truth, is heard as if in dreams, when, with minds at ease, we rest from the bustle of this world, and the Divine precepts are pondered by us in the deep silence of the mind. For when the mind is at rest from outward employments, the weight of the Divine precepts is more fully discerned. It is then that the mind penetrates, in a more lively manner, the words of God, when it refuses to admit within the tumult of worldly cares. But a man is awake to little good purpose, when the turmoil of worldly business gives him unusual disturbance. For the crowd of earthly thoughts, when it clamours around, closes the ear of the mind. And the voice of the presiding judge is less plainly heard in the secret tribunal of the mind, the less the sound of tumultuous cares is kept still. For a man when distracted is not fully equal to attend to both together. But while he seeks for inward instruction, but so as yet to be engaged in outward employments; by opening his ear to things without, he becomes deaf within Moses, when living amongst the Egyptians, was, as it were, awake, and so when dwelling in Egypt he did not hear the voice of God. But after that he had fled into the desert, after the slaughter of the Egyptian, and dwelt there forty years, he fell asleep as it were from the disquieting tumults of worldly desires; and therefore it was vouchsafed him to hear the voice of God, because the more indifferent he became through Divine grace to outward objects of desire, the more was he really awake to discern truths within And again, when appointed to rule over the people of Israel, he is taken up into the Mount, to learn the precepts of the Law, and is preserved from tumults without, that he might penetrate into mysteries within.

38. And hence is it that holy men, who are obliged by the necessity of their employments to engage in outward pursuits, are ever studiously betaking themselves to the secrets of their hearts; and there do they ascend the height of secret thought, and learn (as it were) the Law in the Mount: when they put aside the tumults of worldly business, and ponder, on the height of their thought, the sentence of the Divine will. And hence is it that the same Moses frequently retires to the Tabernacle on doubtful points; and there secretly consults God, and learns what certain decision to come to. For to leave the crowd, and retire to the Tabernacle, is to put aside the tumults of outward objects, and to enter into the secret recess of the mind. For the Lord is there consulted, and we hear inwardly and in silence, what we must do openly and without. This course wise rulers daily pursue; when they are aware that they cannot settle doubtful points, they betake themselves to the secret recesses of their mind, as if to a kind of tabernacle. By looking into the Divine Law, they consult the Lord, as it were before the Ark. And what they first hear in silence, they afterwards make known to the world in their conduct. For in order that they may engage in outward employments without injury to themselves, they constantly take care to withdraw to the secrets of their heart. And they thus hear the voice of God, as it were, in a dream, while they withdraw themselves in the thoughts of their mind from the influence of carnal things. Hence is it that, in the Song of Songs, the Bride who said, I sleep, and my heart is awake, Solom. Song 5:2. had heard the voice of the Bridegroom in dreams. As if she were saying, While I give my outward senses rest from the anxieties of this world, I have a more lively perception of inward truths, when my mind is unemployed. I am asleep to outward things, but my heart is awake within, because, when I am insensible as it were to outward objects, I have a keen apprehension of inward secrets.

39. Well then says Eliu, that God speaketh by a dream; and fitly did he add, In a vision of the night. For a vision of the night usually presents itself to the contemplation of the mind under certain images. But we perceive objects more plainly by daylight, we see less quickly in a vision of the night. And because all holy men, as long as they are in this life, behold the secrets of the Divine Nature only under certain resemblances, (since they do not, as yet, gain a clearer sight of them as they really are;) after Eliu had said that God speaks to us in a dream, he rightly adds, in a vision of the night. For ‘night’ is this present life, and as long as we are in it, we are covered with a mist of uncertain imaginations as far as the sight of inward objects is concerned. For the Prophet was sensible that he was held by a certain mist in his sight of the Lord, when he says, My soul longed for Thee in the night. Is. 26:9. As if he were to say, I long to behold Thee in the obscurity of this present life, but I am still surrounded by the mist of infirmity. David also wishing to avoid the gloom of this life, and waiting for the brightness of the true light, says, In the morning I will stand before Thee, and will see. Ps. 5:3. He who longs for the approach of morning, in order to behold God, perceives that he can still see but imperfectly, in the night. But because, as we said, sleeping is ceasing from outward action, Eliu rightly adds, When sleep falls upon men. And because holy men, when unemployed in outward action, rest within the chambers of their mind, he fitly subjoins, and they sleep on their bed. For holy men to sleep in their bed, is for them to take rest in the chamber of their mind. Whence it is written, The saints shall exult in glory, they shall rejoice in their beds. Ps. 149:5. Let it be said then that God speaks once to us through a dream in a vision of the night, when sleep falls upon men, and they sleep in their bed. Because we then doubtless discern the secrets of the Godhead, when we withdraw ourselves into the chambers of our minds from the tumultuous desires of this world. But because, as we have already frequently said before, the turmoil of worldly business closes the ear, and the rest of secret contemplation opens it, he properly subjoins,

Ver. 16. Then He openeth the ears of men, and teaching, instructeth them with discipline.

xxi. 40. For when they are dead to outward objects, they hear with open ears the causes which come before their inward judgment. And when they consider minutely with themselves either their open punishments, or their secret judgments, they cease not to afflict themselves with tears. Whence it is well said, And teaching, He instructeth them with discipline, because to a mind which reflects and wounds itself with penitence, the sorrows of compunction are like the stripes of a blow. Whence Solomon also rightly uniting together the force of these kinds of blows, says, The blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil, and blows in the secret parts of the belly. Prov. 20:30. For by the blueness of a wound he implies the discipline of blows on the body. But blows in the secret parts of the belly are the wounds of the mind within, which are inflicted by compunction. For as the belly is distended when filled with food, so is the mind puffed up when swollen with wicked thoughts. The blueness then of a wound, and blows in the secret parts of the belly, cleanse away evil, because both outward discipline does away with faults, and compunction pierces the distended mind with the punishment of penance. But they differ from each other in this respect, that the wounds of blows give us pain, the sorrows of compunction have good savour. The one afflict and torture, the others restore, when they afflict us. Through the one there is sorrow in affliction, through the other there is joy in grief. But because the very act of compunction wounds the mind, he not unfitly calls it discipline.

41. For there are four modes in which the mind of a righteous man is strongly affected by compunction: when he either calls to mind his own sins, and considers WHERE HE HATH BEEN; or when fearing the sentence of God’s judgments, and examining his own self, he thinks WHERE HE SHALL BE: or when, carefully observing the evils of this present life, he reflects with sorrow WHERE HE IS; or when he contemplates the blessings of his heavenly country, and, because he does not as yet enjoy them, beholds with regret WHERE HE IS NOT. Paul had called to mind his former sins, and was afflicting himself by the sight of what he had been, when he said, I am not worthy to be called an Apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God. 1 Cor. 15:9. Again, from carefully weighing the Divine sentence, he was afraid that it was bad for him in prospect, when he says, I chastise my body, and bring it into subjection, lest perchance, when I have preached to others, I myself should become a castaway. 1 Cor. 9:27. And again, he was considering the evils of this present life, when he said, While we are in this body, we are absent from the Lord: 2 Cor. 5:6. and, I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me captive to the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? Rom. 7:23. And again, he was considering the blessings of his heavenly country, when saying, We see now through a glass darkly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then shall I know, even as also I am known. 1 Cor. 13:12. And again, We know that if our earthly house of this habitation be dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 Cor. 5:1. And looking at the blessings of this house, he says to the Ephesians, That ye may know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who have believed. Eph. 1:18, 19. But blessed Job, considering the evils of this present life, says, The life of man upon the earth is a temptation. Job 7:1. Whence David says, Every man that liveth is altogether vanity; and though man walketh in the image of God, yet will he be disquieted in vain. Ps. 39:6. But again, on contemplating his heavenly home, and weighing the evils in which he then was, and considering the good things which he did not as yet enjoy, he says, Woe is me that my sojourning is prolonged; Ps. 120:5. and, I said in my fear, I am cast out from the sight of Thine eyes. Ps. 31:22. Being raised up in an ecstasy, which our translators properly interpreted fear, he saw that he was cast out from the sight of the eyes of God. For after beholding that inward light, which flashed within his mind with bright rays through the grace of contemplation, he returned to himself; and discerned, by the knowledge he had gained, either the blessings which were there, of which he was deprived, or the evils with which he was here surrounded. For no one is able to look on the ills of life as they really are, if he is unable by contemplation to gain a taste of the blessings of the eternal country. Whence also he knew that he had been cast out of the sight of the eyes of God. For when he was raised up in a trance, he saw that which, when he fell back on himself, he lamented that he could not of himself behold.

42. For that compunction with which it dispels all bodily imaginations which crowd upon it, and annoy it, and with which it strives to fix the eye of the heart on the very ray of the boundless light, is wont in truth more deeply to affect a perfect mind. For these appearances of bodily figures it has attracted to itself within, through infirmity of the flesh. But when it is completely filled with compunction, it is here specially on its guard, lest the imagination of circumscribed vision should delude it, when it is searching after truth; and it rejects all imaginations which present themselves to it. For since it has fallen, by their means, beneath itself, it endeavours to rise above itself, by escaping from them: and after it has been distracted, in an unseemly manner, by many objects, it endeavours to gather itself again together; that prevailing by the mighty power of love, it may contemplate one single and incorporeal Being.

43. And hence it is admitted, at times, to taste some unusual savour of sweetness within, and is suddenly in a measure refreshed, when breathed on by the glowing Spirit; and is the more eager, the more it gains a taste of something to love; and it desires that within itself, which it feels to taste sweetly within, because it has in truth, from the love of its sweetness, become vile in its own sight; and after having been able, in whatever way, to enjoy it, it has discovered what it had hitherto been without it. It endeavours to cling closely to it, but is kept from approaching its strength, by its own remaining weakness; and because it is unable to contemplate its purity, it counts it sweet to weep, and, sinking back into itself, to make its bed in the tears of its own weakness. For it cannot fix the eyes of its mind on that, of which it has only taken a hasty glance within; because it is compelled by its own old habits to sink downwards. It meanwhile pants and strives and endeavours to rise above itself, but sinks back, overpowered with weariness, into its own familiar darkness. But because a mind thus affected, has to endure itself as the cause of a stubborn contest against itself, and because all this controversy about ourselves causes no small amount of pain, when we are engaged in it, whatever pleasure may be blended therewith; Eliu, after having said that God speaks to us in a dream, and that our ears are opened by His words, calls this same opening of the ears a discipline, and with good reason. Because the more the sound of inward wisdom by the grace of its secret inspiration bursts forth upon us, the more does it affect us with distress. For no one would outwardly lament that which he is, if he had not been able to perceive within, that which as yet he is not. For on seeing that we ourselves were created aright, but that we were deceived by giving a fatal consent to the persuasions of the devil, we observe in our own case, that what we made ourselves is one thing, and what we were made is another: that by nature we were sound, but that we became corrupted through our own fault. And therefore when we are pinched by conscience, we seek to escape from what we ourselves have done, that we may be refashioned after the pattern in which we were first made. Whence it fitly follows,

Ver. 17. That He may withdraw man from the things that he has done, and may deliver him from pride.

xxii. 44. For what has man done of himself but sin? And it is written, Pride is the beginning of all sin. Ecclus. 10:13. It is rightly said, then, that when man is withdrawn from what he has done, he is freed from pride. To transgress the commands of our Creator by sin, is to be haughty against Him; because a man casts off, as it were, the yoke of His authority, to Whom he scorns to submit by obedience. On the other hand, he who wishes to avoid what he has done, calls to mind what he was made by God: and humbly returns to the order of his creation, when flying from his own deeds, he loves himself as he was at first created by God. But because eternal glory is obtained, and eternal punishments are avoided, by this wisdom, it is appropriately subjoined,

Ver. 18. Rescuing his soul from corruption, and his life from passing to the sword.

xxiii. 45. For every sinner, in consequence of his corruption by sin here, is compelled to pass thither to the sword of punishment; that he may be justly punished in that world, by the very sins in which he delighted in this.

We must observe therefore, that God, speaking to us in a dream, delivers us first from corruption, and afterwards from the sword: because in truth He delivers the ‘life’ of that person from avenging punishment there, whose mind He here withdraws from the allurement of sin. Nor has he any thing to fear there from the sword of judgment, whom the pollution of guilt has not here corrupted after his amendment. It is well said then, Rescuing his soul from corruption, and his life from passing to the sword. For to pass from corruption to the sword, is, after the commission of sin, to arrive at the punishments which have to be endured. It follows,

Ver. 19. He chastens him also with pain upon his bed, and makes all his bones to waste away.

xxiv. 46. By bed, or pallet, or couch in holy Scripture, is understood, sometimes carnal pleasure, sometimes a resting in good works, sometimes temporal rest; for what is meant by what our Lord said in the Gospel to a certain one who was healed, Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house, Mat. 9:6. except that bodily pleasure is signified by bed? And he is specially commanded, when restored to health, to carry that on which he had lain when sick, since every one, who still delights in sin, lies overpowered with fleshly pleasures. But he carries that, when healed, on which he had lain when sick, because when rescued by Divine assistance from his sins, he afterwards endures the insults of that very flesh, in the indulgence of which he used to rest content. But again, by bed, or couch, is designated a resting in good works. Whence the Apostle Peter says, in the Acts of the Apostles, Æneas, may the Lord Jesus Christ make thee whole; arise, and make thy bed. Acts 9:34. For what is meant by rise, but leave off the sins which thou hast committed? and what by make thy bed, but engage in those means of grace, in which thou oughtest to rest? So that by rising he was to forsake what he had done, and by making his bed, find after what he should have done. And both these points the Prophet briefly sums up, in saying, Turn aside from evil, and do good. Ps. 37:27. For to turn aside from evil is to rise from that whereon he lay; but to do good, is to make ready those works that win reward, in which he should rest. But he who turns aside from evil, but does not as yet do what is good, has risen from that whereon he lay, but has not yet made for himself a place wherein he is to rest. And again, bed, or couch, is taken for temporal rest; as it is written, Thou hast turned all his bed in his sickness. Ps. 41:3. For when any one, worn out by secular cares, is urged on by Divine grace to forsake the toilsome ways of this world, he is wont to consider how to avoid the attractions of the present life, and to rest from its labours. He presently seeks for himself the station of rest which he desired, and wishes to find a place of cessation from all his labours, as though it were a kind of bed. But because a man while still in this life, in whatever situation, cannot in the secresy of any retirement whatever live without temptations; the pain of temptation is found to press more heavily on that spot, which is contrived for the sake of rest. Whence it is well said by the Prophet, Thou hast turned all his bed in his sickness. As if he were to say, All that he has here contrived for himself for the sake of rest, Thou hast by secret judgment converted to his disturbance. And this is so ordained by the merciful design of God, in order that, in the season of his sojourning, the life of the Elect may be exposed to confusion.

47. For our present life is the road by which we journey on to our home: and we are harassed here by frequent disturbances, in the secret judgment of God, expressly that we may not love our road instead of our home. For some travellers, if they see by accident some pleasant meadows on their road, are wont to delay, and to turn aside from the straight path on which they have entered. And the beauty of the road delays their steps, while it affords them pleasure. The Lord then makes the way of this world rugged to His Elect, who are journeying towards Him: in order that no one when enjoying the rest of this present life, as if it were some beauteous road, might take greater pleasure in prolonging the journey than in speedily arriving at its end; or forget, when delighted by the way, what he used to long for in his home. But because all the rest, which we have happened to secure for ourselves in this world, is liable to disturbance, it is well said, He chastens him also with pain upon his bed, that is, He disturbs us in the rest of this world, either by the stings of temptation, or by the affliction of the scourge. For if the mind of man has been engaged in virtuous pursuits for ever so short a time, without temptation, it is often, in consequence of those very pursuits, in which it is tranquilly engaged, soon elated by those very virtues, which it is endeavouring to multiply within, from being conscious of the progress it is making. It is therefore exposed to the assaults of temptations, by the merciful dispensation of our Ruler, that thus pride, at the advance it is making, may be checked within it. Wherefore after he had said, He chastens him also with pain on his bed, he fitly subjoined, And makes all his bones to waste away.

48. By bones in holy Scripture we understand virtues; as it is written, The Lord keepeth all his bones; not one of them shall be broken. Ps. 34:20. Which is specially understood not of the bones of the body, but of the powers of the mind. For we know assuredly, that the bones of many Martyrs were broken in a bodily sense, and the persecutors of the Lord broke the bones of that thief, to whom it was said, To-day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise, Luke 23:43. as well as those of the other thief on the cross. When He chastens us then with pain on our bed, He makes all our bones to waste away; because when we are assailed with the scourge of temptation, in that rest which we secure for ourselves from this world, we, who might perhaps have been puffed up by our virtues, are brought low by being sore vexed at the knowledge of our infirmity. For when we are advancing as we wish towards God, if no temptation checked our progress, we should believe that we were persons of some strength. But since the Divine dispensation thus deals with us, in order that we may remember our infirmity when tempted, because we forget it when we are advancing, we learn when we advance what we are by the divine gift; and in our temptation what we are by our own strength. But this temptation would in truth entirely hurry us away, did not heavenly protection keep us up. But it strikes us without breaking, it presses on us without moving us, it staggers, but does not cast us down: that we may feel that it is all owing to our own weakness that we are shaken, but that it is the gift of God that we stand firm. But because a soul which is conscious of any good quality in itself, frequently revels in a kind of delight, on calling its virtues to mind, and is bloated as it were by congratulating itself on its own fulness, it is well said that the bones waste away under the assault of temptation. Because while our own weakness is ascertained by the questionings of temptation, all that, as it were, bloated and florid self-congratulation on our own strength, is dried up by the sudden pain of anxiety. And we who, on weighing our good deeds, believed them to be of some value, when smitten somewhat more heavily are afraid that we are about to perish immediately. It is then that all satisfaction at our goodness is changed into fear of punishment. We then discover ourselves to be guilty, though, but just before, we believed ourselves to be saints. Our mind wastes away, our eyes become dull, all the prosperity which used to smile on us vanishes away; the light itself is loathsome, and the darkness of sorrow alone spreads itself over the mind. We see nothing to please us, every thing which comes before us is full of sorrow. Whence it also properly follows,

Ver. 20. His bread becomes abominable to him in his lips, and to his soul the food which before it desired.

xxv. 49. As if he were to say in so many words; A mind under affliction believes that every thing which used easily to satisfy, and give it pleasure, is turned into bitterness. For by bread is understood in holy Scripture sometimes the Lord Himself, sometimes spiritual grace, sometimes the instruction of divine teaching, sometimes the preaching of heretics, sometimes sustenance for this present life, sometimes the agreeableness of worldly pleasure. The Lord is signified by bread, as He Himself says in the Gospel, I am the living Bread, Who came down from heaven. John 6:51.

Again, by bread is understood the grace of spiritual gifts, as is said by the Prophet, Who stoppeth his ears, that he should not hear of blood, and shutteth his eyes that he should not see evil, he shall dwell in high places, his high place shall be the munitions of rocks, bread is given to him. Is. 33:15, 16. For what is to close his ears, not to hear blood, except to refuse consent to those persuasive sins which spring from flesh and blood? or what to close his eyes, not to behold evil, but to disapprove of every thing which is contrary to uprightness? Such an one will dwell in high places; for though the flesh still confines him to things below, he has already fixed his mind on things above. His high place is the munitions of rocks, because he who tramples beneath his feet his longings for worldly conversation, raises himself to his heavenly country by the patterns of the fathers who have gone before. And because he is satisfied with spiritual grace through the gift of contemplation, it is rightly subjoined, Bread is given him; that is, he enjoys the refreshment of spiritual grace, because he has raised himself above the goods of the world, by hoping for those of heaven. Hence also the Lord says of Holy Church by David, I will satisfy her poor with bread; Ps. 132:15. because the humble-minded who dwell therein are filled with the refreshment of spiritual gifts. Again, by bread is set forth the instruction of heavenly doctrine, as is said by the Prophet, Ye who dwell in the land of the South, meet with bread him that is flying away. Is. 21:14. For they dwell in the land of the South who, placed within Holy Church, are breathed upon by the love of the Spirit from on high. But he is flying, who is wishing to escape from the evils of this world. He then who dwells in the land of the South, should meet with bread him that is flying; that is, he who is already full of the Holy Spirit within the Church, should console with words of instruction the man who is endeavouring to escape from his evil ways. To meet with bread him that is flying, is surely to offer the food of sound doctrine to one who is in fear of eternal punishments, and at one while to restrain his pride by fear, and at another to comfort his fears by encouragement. But because by bread is not unfitly understood the refreshment of holy Scripture, it is said by the same Prophet to the Jews who looked only to the letter, Wherefore do ye spend your money, but not in bread. Is. 55:2. As though he were saying, Ye consider the holy words, but not for refreshment, because while ye carefully guard the outward letter alone, ye lose that richness of inward refreshment which results from the spiritua meaning. Whence it is properly subjoined in that passage, And your labour for that which satisfieth not.

But again by bread is designated the preaching of heretics; as by Solomon the woman who typifies the congregation of the heretics, and calls together the foolish, says, Eat ye gladly bread in secret. Or, as is written in our translation, Stolen waters are sweeter, and hidden bread is more pleasant. Prov. 9:17. For there are some heresies which are afraid to preach their views openly, and give a greater flavour to their words in the minds of the weak the more they keep them back, as if through greater reverence. Whence it is not improperly said, Eat ye gladly bread in secret. For the secret words of the heretics are more relished by miserable hearts, the more they are not possessed by them in common with other people.

But again, by bread is understood the support of this present life; as Jacob, on his way to Laban, says, O Lord God, if Thou shalt have given me bread to eat, and raiment to put on. Gen. 28:20. And as the Lord says in the Gospel to the crowds which were following Him, Ye seek Me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. John 6:26. For they had been filled of the seven loaves. And in their persons the Lord expresses His detestation of those within Holy Church, who approaching to the Lord by holy ministrations, do not by those ministrations seek to gain higher virtue, but only sustenance for this present life: nor do they think what example they should imitate in their conduct, but what gains they may obtain so as to be satisfied. For to follow the Lord from being filled with the loaves, is to have gained temporal support from Holy Church. And to seek the Lord not for the miracles’ sake, but for bread, is for people to be eager for religious offices, not for the sake of increasing their virtues, but of acquiring a means of support.

Again, by bread is understood the agreeableness of human pleasure. Whence the Prophet Jeremiah said, while lamenting the abandoned habits of the congregation; All her people sighs and seeks for bread; they have given all their precious things for food to revive the soul. Lam. 1:11. For the people sighs and seeks for bread, whilst the wicked multitude of men is afflicted, because it is not satisfied, to its heart’s desire, with the pleasantness of the present life. And it gives all its precious things for food, because it bows down the virtues of its mind to the desire of transitory pleasure. And it endeavours to revive the soul: because it strives to satisfy its own perverse desires. And hence he immediately well adds in the words of that elect multitude, See, O Lord, and consider, that I am become vile. For the People of God becomes vile, when, as the number of the ungodly increases, it engages, in their persons, not in high and heavenly employments, but in worthless and worldly pursuits.

50. What else then does Elin mean by bread, but the pleasures of this life? For after having stated the power of temptation, he immediately subjoined, His bread becomes abominable to him in his life, and to his soul the food which before it desired: because, in truth, all the sweetness he used before to enjoy from the prosperity of his life, afterwards becomes bitter by the power of temptation. For sometimes whatever joy, and whatever virtue seemed to smile on him, is suddenly lost through fear of temptation, and the sorrowful mind, as if deprived of these very virtues, is possessed by grief alone. For when it is assailed somewhat more violently by the force of temptation, because it cannot put forth the strength of its usual courage, it laments for it as if it were already lost; and feeling itself emptied of itself, it learns its own weakness, from this its emptiness. And thence it is immediately broken off, as it were, from every pleasure, and loathing the dainty morsels of former delight, takes its fill of that grief which alone it eagerly desires. For every one, when success in holy living smiles favourably on him, is full of mirth: and this very mirth refreshes the mind like pleasurable food. But when he is assailed more sharply by imminent temptation, all joy is through the loathing of grief rejected by his mind, though it used before to rejoice as though fully satisfied with that very joy. Because then a man, when tempted, casts out from the mouth of his heart all pleasurable food, and nothing else gives him pleasure but knowing and lamenting himself, it is well said, Bread becomes abominable to him in his life, and to his soul the food which before it desired.

51. But, as we said before, we are allowed to be thus tempted under the government of the secret dispensation, in order that we, who by the Divine gift are making progress in virtue, may call to mind what we are by our own natural infirmity: and that all who produce the deeds of virtue, from having received of the gift, may offer the sacrifice of humility from a remembrance of our own weakness. But sometimes after we have increased in strength, not only are we assailed by sins, but chastised by scourges. But when we are assailed by sins, we are dealt with by a merciful dispensation, to keep us from being elated by those virtues, in which we are making progress. But when we are scourged with the rod, we are warned, by the chastisement of evil, not to be led away with the blandishments of the world. Whilst our sins tempt us, they bring low the virtues, which are gaining strength within us; whilst scourges try us, they root out the pleasures of this world which are rising in our heart. We learn by our sins, which tempt us, what we are of ourselves; by the scourges, which smite us, what we should avoid in this world. We are restrained by the one from inward pride, we are kept back by the other from desiring any thing without us. As long then as we are in this life, we must needs be scourged by the rod, and at times tempted by our sins. For both in the tortures of the scourge, and in our struggle with our sins, not only does our weakness become known to us, but we learn also what progress we have made in virtue. For no one, when at rest, is conscious of his powers. For if there is no contest, no opportunities arise for making trial of our virtues. He who boasts of his bravery in peace, is but a short-sighted warrior. Since then the quality of our strength is often made known by sufferings of the rod, Eliu appropriately adds, saying,

Ver. 21. His flesh shall waste away, and his bones which were covered shall be laid bare.

xxvi. 52. For when every outward pleasure is worn away by the pressure of the rod, the bones of inward firmness are laid bare. For what is meant in this place by the word flesh, but fleshly pleasure itself? Or what by bones, but the virtues of the soul? The flesh therefore wastes away, and the bones are laid bare, because while carnal pleasure is brought to nought by the reproof of scourges, those sturdy virtues are laid open, which had long been concealed, as it were, beneath the flesh. For no one learns what progress he has made, except in adversity. For in prosperity, the evidences of strength cannot be discerned. Whence it is written elsewhere, The Lord commanded His loving kindness in the day time, and declared it in the night. Ps. 42:8. Because, in truth, it is in tranquil rest that each man obtains the grace of the heavenly gift, but it is in trouble and adversity that he gives proof how much he has received. Let our flesh then waste away, that our bones may be laid bare. Let us be smitten with the reproofs of a father, that we may know what progress we are making. For by the scourge of the Lord the rankness of carnal pleasure is worn down, but the bones of our virtues are laid bare. Our outward beauty is tarnished by this world’s sufferings, but that which was concealed within is made manifest. For when the Apostles had been scourged, they were directed to speak no more in the Name of Jesus. But they rejoiced with exceeding joy, that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the Name of Jesus: and they confidently replied to their adversaries, We ought to obey God rather than man. Acts 5:29. See how the strength of their faith shone forth more vigorously in adversity. See how the soundness of the flesh was cut through, but the bones of their virtues were laid open. It is hence said of them by Wisdom, God proved them, and found them worthy for Himself. Wisd. 3:5. For, though tried by the blows of adversity, they are found worthy by the laying bare of their bones. For that the trial of their scourging is here meant, is plainly declared by what follows, As gold in the furnace He tried them, and received them as a victim of a burnt offering. ibid. 6. Because, then, each man’s strength is made known only by adversity, it is well said, His flesh shall waste away, and his bones which were covered shall be laid bare. For the flesh wastes away, while every thing which is perishable and weak is worn away by the scourge. The bones are laid bare, while by these means our latent strength is also made manifest. As we have before said, not merely is the strength of our resolution made known, but also the weakness of our nature laid bare, by the very trials of adversity; and every one shews indeed under trial the progress he has made through God, but also confesses under the very inflictions of the scourges, how weak he is in himself; because not only are the bones laid bare, but the flesh also wastes away. It is appropriately subjoined,

Ver. 22. His soul shall draw near to corruption, and his life to the destroyers.

xxvii. 53. For the soul of every just man when tempted is said to draw near to corruption, when, for fear his virtue should elate him, he is compelled by the rod to feel what he is in his own natural infirmity. He approaches, in truth, to corruption, because he learns that by his own strength he is not far from destruction, in order that he may ascribe not to himself but to the Lord, that he is far from that destruction. But he approaches to the destroyers, because he sees that, through the infirmity of the flesh, he is very near to sins which cause death: and from these he is the farther removed by the Divine goodness, the more he is conscious that by his own deserts he is very near them. By contemplating his own condition, David had drawn near to corruption, when he said, Remember, Lord, that we are dust; as for man his day is grass. Ps. 103:14, 15. Paul also had, by contemplating his own infirmity, approached the destroyers, when he said, I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and leading me captive to the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? Rom. 7:23, 24. To approach then to corruption, and to the destroyers, is for a man, on considering the infirmity of our human nature, to see that he is a sinner, as far as concerns his deserts, and that he possesses, of his own strength, no ground of boasting in himself. For what are we, when bereft of the protection of our Maker? a protection which is considered to be less necessary, if always enjoyed. But it is withdrawn, generally, for our good, that it may be shewn to a man’s own self how worthless he is without it. The hand of God, then, which bears us up, even when we know it not, in prosperity, brings us to a true knowledge of ourselves in adversity. And when we begin to fall, from being deprived of it, we are yet supported by its aid. It is a warning to us, that we are trembling to our fall, and His protection, that we remain stedfast.

54. Let no one consider then that he has any real virtues, even if he is able to display any resolution: since, if Divine protection leave him to himself, he is suddenly unnerved and overpowered in that very point in which he used to boast that he was standing firm. For what is meant by the man of God, when directed to prophesy against the altar at Samaria, exerting in the king’s presence the authority of bold speaking, by his miraculously withering the extended arm of the rash king, which he afterwards restored to health of his tender pity? by his refusing when invited, to eat in his house, because he kept the commands of the Lord, which forbade him to eat by the way? But yet he was afterwards seduced to eat on the same way, and perished when he had eaten. What do we gather from an accurate examination of this matter, what (if I may so speak) do we fear and suspect, except that he was perhaps silently boasting in himself that he had put contempt on the king in obeying the commands of the Lord? Hence it was that he was soon shaken from his inward stedfastness, and that sin stole on him in his work, from the same source as pride sprang up in his heart; in order that he might learn when deceived by the false prophet, that it was not of his own strength that he had withstood the commands of the king. But he rightly received the sentence of death from the mouth of that very person, by whose seduction he had turned away from the precept of life, in order that he might receive the true announcement of his punishment, from the same quarter by which he had through carelessness admitted a fault. Because then the grace of God more especially guards and instructs each of His Elect, at the very time when He seems to smite and forsake them, let it be rightly said, His soul shall approach to corruption, and his life to the destroyers; that so the more he is led by adversity to consider that he is in his own strength nigh unto death, he may, in all cases in which he has acted with resolution, have surer ground of life, by flying to the protection which comes from trust in God.








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