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

The holy Doctor expounds the seven last verses of the thirty-fourth chapter, the whole of the thirty-fifth, with the first twenty-one verses of the thirty-sixth chapter; and launches out, at very great length, into both allegorical and moral meanings.

1. HAUGHTY men are wont to display this peculiarity in what they say, that, when they know that they have said any thing in a praiseworthy manner, they then enquire of their hearers, whether they have by chance said any thing out of the way. And this they do, not because they doubt of what they say, but because, namely, they seek for approval, in the judgment of their hearers. For the object of their enquiry will be easily discovered, if when any one praises their good qualities, he also blames their faults. For it is certain, that as they are puffed up by praises, so are they inflamed by reproofs; and when they see that they are blamed, even justly, by any one, they seek at once in their faults for materials of self-defence. How then do they humbly doubt of their own good qualities, who even perversely endeavour to defend their bad ones? For he is really humble in his good doings, who does not defend himself in his evil ones. For he who is reproved for his faults, and fires up against the words of his reprover, when he hesitates, as if humbly, in speaking of his good qualities, seeks, by his words of humility, for compliments, and not for instruction. Eliu therefore, as representing the conduct of the haughty, after having stated many spiritual and sublime sentiments, behold, assumes in words an appearance of humility, and under a kind of show of being his disciple, addresses blessed Job with a fair proposal, saying,

Ver. 31, 32. Because I have spoken to God, I will not hinder thee also. If I have sinned, teach thou me; if I have spoken iniquity, I will add no more.

ii. 2. As it is frequently the case, that even wicked men say what is right, Eliu called to mind that he had made a little before many noble statements, and therefore confidently enquired of him if perchance he had erred. For he would not have thus asked, if he had believed that he had erred. For, as I said, it is a craft peculiar to the boastful to be eager to enquire about their erring, when they know that they have not erred. And, again, they disdain to make this enquiry, and to be convicted of error, whenever they plainly foresee that they have done wrong. For they seek not to be, but to appear, humble, and they assume an appearance of humility, by then making the enquiry, when they are praised the more from the very enquiry itself. But, because it is very difficult for the pride, which reigns in the heart, not to break out in the voice, if the hearers of these haughty men wait for a while, and consider their sayings in silence, the words, which follow, too soon make manifest their hearts. For they cannot continue long in that guise of humility, which they assume in appearance only. For to haughty minds humility is lofty; and when they endeavour to climb up to its beauty they stumble, as if from abrupt and rugged paths, with the weary steps of their mind. For that which they wish to appear is foreign to them: and they cannot therefore long cling close to its resemblance. They count it a heavy burden, when they bear it only in appearance, and they suffer a kind of constraint in their heart, till they cast it aside. Because in truth they are slaves to the habit of pride, which fatally rules over them, and are compelled by its authority to shew what they are, so that they cannot appear, for any time, that which they are not. Whence Eliu also, after he requested to be informed of his error, after he promised that he would no longer speak iniquity, suddenly broke out, from an appearance of humility, into words of proud arguing. For he added, saying,

Ver. 33. Doth God require it of thee, because it hath displeased thee?

iii. 3. As though he were saying, I am about to give reasons, in the sight of God, why my iniquity is now blamed by thee, though it is plain that it is not required of thee in judgment. When good men are unrighteously assailed by the world, they appeal to the judgment of heaven. Whence also it is said by the same blessed Job, Behold, my witness is in heaven, and He Who knoweth me is on high. Job 16:19. And because they especially desire to please Him, they seek for the witness of Him only. Wicked men also, because they forsake the life of the just, but sometimes imitate their words, when reproved for their misdeeds adopt that, as a ground of defence, which the righteous urge, as an evidence of their purity. Whence it has become already a custom with them, when any one blames them for their doings, to seek the judgment of God rather than of men. For, even when they know that they will be condemned by God, they are not afraid of being judged by Him, and are ashamed of being judged by men. They prefer, therefore, the greater, which they fear not, in order to be able to avoid the less, of which they are ashamed. For it is written, Every one of us shall give account of himself to God. Rom. 14:12. Because then the condemnation of every one is then manifest, the ungodly now gather from it, that, even the wicked conduct of every one is out of danger, that the righteous should now refute and expose that conduct, with which, it is plain, he has no concern in the judgment. But the consciences of the holy consider on the other hand, that a great reward is conferred on them, when they are now convicted of some of their unlawful deeds. For, they set it before the eyes of their heart, that the strict judgment of God will then be more surely mitigated towards them, the more severely it is now anticipated by the reproofs of man. And they consider as a gain the temporal wrath upon them, by which they know well that they can escape the wrath eternal. Let Eliu, therefore, (as representing all haughty men, and choosing rather to be smitten, with eternal severity, than to be reproved in this life,) say, Doth God require it of thee, because it hath displeased thee? But since those who speak first in a dispute are usually more to blame than those who reply, he subjoins,

For thou didst begin to speak, not I.

iv. 4. He believed himself to be so far innocent, in as much, as he burst forth only on being struck, being doubtless ignorant that innocence is not defended on the score of time, but on that of reason. For what support does it give to his defence, that, though he did not revile him when silent, when he began properly, he replied to him revilingly? But after he displays himself in words of pride, lo, he again conceals himself under the pretext of a demand, and proceeds to say,

But if thou knowest any thing better, say on.

Although, while he does not say, because thou knowest better, but, If thou knowest any thing better, say on, it was itself too proud of him, that he had doubted of the knowledge of his superior. But he signified that he had exhibited his humility, in having given blessed Job an opportunity of speaking. But, as was before stated, that every thing in the doings of the proud, which is concealed by a covering of words, is brought to light, when the boastful purpose again breaks forth, Eliu speedily made known, with what purpose he required blessed Job to speak. For it follows,

Ver. 34, 35. Let men of understanding speak to me, and let a wise man hear me. But Job hath spoken foolishly, and his words sound not of discipline.

v. 5. Lo, how he lays open that, which he was cherishing within, when, as if humbly, he allows blessed Job to speak; saying, Let men of understanding speak to me. For if blessed Job were to presume to speak, he would have disdained him, as though he could not understand his words. And, because he considered that blessed Job was unworthy not only to speak with, but even to hear, him, he immediately added, Let a wise man hear me. As if he were to say, This man is unfairly permitted to speak, who is not worthy even to hear the words of wise men. And he presently shews plainly, how contemptibly he thinks of him, saying, But Job hath spoken foolishly, and his words sound not of discipline. He believed that blessed Job had spoken without discipline, because he said, that he had been just in his doings. Eliu would perhaps be speaking truly, if the Author of discipline had not Himself agreed with what blessed Job had said of himself. For Job asserted that he had been scourged undeservedly, whom God declared also to have been smitten without reason. What haughtiness then did the voice of the sufferer utter, which did not at all differ from the sentence of the Siniter? Those persons are inconsiderately humble, who, whilst they avoid pride, ensnare themselves in falsehood. Nay rather, they shew pride in their falsehood; because they set themselves up against the truth, which they abandon. For he, who states of himself good qualities, which are true, when necessity compels, the more closely is united to humility, the more he adheres also to truth. Was not Paul humble, when from zeal for the truth against false Apostles, he related to his disciples so many bold deeds concerning himself? For he would doubtless be an enemy of truth, if, by concealing his own good qualities, he had allowed the preachers of errors to gain strength.

But because proud men, in that they haughtily examine the sayings of the righteous, consider rather the surface of the words, than the order of the matters, Eliu believed that the sentiments of blessed Job had not sounded of discipline. But since the asperity of haughty men extends sometimes as far as to the severity of cursing, he immediately, as if speaking to God, subjoins against blessed Job,

Ver. 36. My Father, let Job be tried even to the end.

vi. 6. Lo! how he lifts up even in words of cursing, that which he had before conceived of the swellings of arrogance. But he would perhaps wish for the force of a merciful probation, if he had believed that he had stood firm in probation. In order then that the malice of his cruelty may openly appear, he prays, that he may still be tried by scourges, who he complains had already fallen during his scourges. He first stated what he thought, in order that what he wished might be more plainly understood. He requires him to be still smitten, whom he accuses of having sinned already under the hand of the Smiter. These are wishes peculiar to the haughty, to pray that the lives of those who are suffering may be more severely examined, because the more just they are in their own eyes, the more hardened are they in others’ sufferings. For they know not how to take to them the feeling of the other’s infirmity, and to feel pity for their neighbour’s weakness, as they do for their own. For since they think highly of themselves, they do not at all condescend to the humble. Eliu believed that blessed Job had been smitten for his sin, and therefore believed that no bowels of compassion were to be shewn to him, even in the midst of so many sorrows. But when men, who are truly holy, behold any one smitten, even for his faults, though they reprove some of his inordinate doings, yet they sympathize with some of his sufferings; and they are so skilled in keeping down swellings, as yet to know how to relieve wounds, in order that when their hardnesses are softened, their infirmities may be strengthened. But because, on the other hand, haughty men have no bowels of love, they not only do not sympathize with the righteous when suffering, but moreover afflict them, under pretence of proper reproof, and they either exaggerate trifling faults, if there are any in them, or pervert by wrong construction those points which are really good.

7. Although even holy teachers are frequently wont to exaggerate the vices of offenders, and from some outward signs to dive into secret faults, in order from the smallest defects to discover greater. Whence it is said to Ezekiel, Son of man, dig in the wall. Ez. 8:8–10. Where he presently subjoined, And when I had digged in the wall, there appeared a door; and He said unto me, Go in, and see the most wicked abominations that they do here. And I went in and saw, and behold every likeness of creeping things, and the abominations of animals, and all the idols of the house of Israel, were painted on the wall. For by Ezekiel is represented the person of rulers; by the wall the hardness of subjects. And what is the digging into the wall, except laying bare hardness of heart by sharp reproofs? For when he had dug into it, there appeared a door; because when hardness of heart is opened by sharp reproofs, a kind of door appears, through which all the secret thoughts of the person, who is reproved, can be seen. Whence it also well follows in that place, And He said to me, Go in, and see the most wicked abominations which they do here. A person enters as it were to behold abominations, who on examining certain signs which appear outwardly, so penetrates the hearts of those under him, that all their unlawful thoughts are made plain to him. Whence he added, And I went in and saw; and behold every likeness of creeping things, and the abomination of animals. By reptiles are especially understood worldly thoughts: but by animals, those which rise a little above the earth, but still seek for the rewards of an earthly recompense. For reptiles cling to the earth with the whole of their body, but though animals are in their belly suspended from the earth, yet they are by the appetite of gluttony ever bending to the earth. Reptiles therefore are within the wall, when thoughts which are never elevated from worldly desires, are revolved in the mind. Animals also are within the wall, when if any just and becoming thoughts are conceived, they subserve the pursuit of worldly gains and honours, and of themselves indeed they are already suspended, as it were, from the earth, but by their ambition, they still bring themselves down to the basest objects, as by gluttonous desire. Whence it is also well subjoined, And all the idols of the house of Israel were painted on the wall. For it is written, And covetousness which is idolatry. Col. 3:5. After the animals, therefore, the idols are properly described, because, though they arise themselves, as it were, from the earth by becoming conduct, yet they bring themselves down to the earth again by dishonourable ambition. But it is well said, Were painted; because while the appearances of outward objects are drawn inward, whatever is thought in imagination is painted, as it were, on the heart.

8. We must therefore observe, that first a hole, and afterwards a door, is seen in the wall: and that then at last the secret abomination is laid open: because, doubtless, the signs of every sin are first observed without, next the door of detected iniquity is laid open; and then at last all the evil is disclosed, which is lurking within. Therefore even holy teachers are wont to examine severely into minute points, in order to arrive at greater hidden faults, from outer faults at the very surface. They utter words of sharp reproof, in order to root out the thorns of deadly thought, and when they act thus, they rage with the love of charity, and are not puffed up with the swelling of pride. For they are ready to die for those, whom they afflict as if raging even to the death. In their thoughts they retain this affection, while they assume persecution in appearance. They insinuate sound truths in their preaching, they announce and warn against evils, and do not as Eliu pray for, and desire them. They are sometimes so prompt in reproof against those committed to their care, as though they had nothing of calmness: but are so tranquil in affection, as though no warmth could kindle them. For they greatly fear, that if they should cease to reprove the wicked, they would be punished themselves for their damnation. And when warmed into words of reproof, they unwillingly have recourse to them, but yet prepare them, as a defence for themselves, before their strict Judge.

9. Whence it is said again also to the same Ezekiel, Son of man, take thee a brick, and thou shalt place it before thee, and thou shalt describe on it the city Jerusalem, and thou shalt build munitions, and heap up a mound, and set a camp against it, and place battering rams around it. And take thou an iron pan, and thou shalt place it as an iron wall between thee and the city. Ezek. 4:1–3. For whom does Ezekiel represent, but rulers? And to him it is said, Take thee a brick, and thou shalt place it before thee, and thou shalt describe on it the city Jerusalem. For holy teachers take to themselves a brick, when they lay hold of the earthly heart of hearers, in order to instruct it. And they place this brick before them, because they guard it with the entire attention of their anxiety. And they are ordered also to describe the city Jerusalem thereon, because they earnestly endeavour in their preaching to shew to earthly hearts, how great is the vision of heavenly peace. And it is well said to him also, And thou shalt set in array the siege against it, and thou shalt build munitions. For holy teachers set the siege in array against the brick, on which the city Jerusalem is described, when they shew to an earthly mind, now seeking after its heavenly country, what an opposition of sins assails it in the season of this life. For when it is pointed out, how each separate sin lays ambush against the mind, the siege is set, as it were, against Jerusalem by the voice of the preacher. But because they suggest not only how sins lay wait and assault the mind, but also how virtues, when guarded, strengthen it, it is rightly subjoined, And thou shall build munitions. For a holy preacher builds munitions, when he ceases not to teach what virtues oppose what vices. And because the contests of temptation frequently become stronger as virtues increase, it is still rightly added, And thou shalt heap up a mound, and set a camp against it, and place battering rams around it. For every preacher raises up a mound, when he points out the mass of increasing temptation. And he raises a camp against Jerusalem, when he points out to the right disposition of his hearers the circumventions of the crafty enemy, as snares which are beyond their understanding. And he places battering rams around, when he makes known the stings of temptations which surround us on every side in this life, and pierce through the wall of virtues.

10. Where it is well added, And take thee an iron pan, and thou shalt place it as an iron wall between thee and the city. For, by the pan is set forth parching, and by the iron, strength. But what so parches and tortures the mind of a ruler and teacher as zeal for the Lord? Whence also Paul was burned by the parching of this pan, when saying, Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not? 2 Cor. 11:29. And because whoever is kindled with a zeal for God against sinners, is constantly protected by a strong guard within, in order that he may not be condemned for neglecting his charge of preaching and ruling, it is well said, Thou shalt place it as an iron wall between thee and the city. For the iron pan is placed as an iron wall between the Prophet and the city, because when teachers now display a resolute zeal, they hold afterwards the same zeal, as a strong bulwark, between themselves and their hearers; that they may not then be given up to punishment, if they have been now negligent in reproof. The same Prophet heard that he was to hold this pan between himself and his hearers, when the voice of God addressed him before, saying, If thou hast announced to the wicked, and he have turned not from his wickedness, and from his evil way, he himself shall die in his wickedness, but thou hast delivered thy soul. Ez. 3:19. Paul had placed this pan, as a wall between himself and his disciples, when saying, I am pure from the blood of all of you: for I have not shunned to declare unto you the whole counsel of God. Acts 20:26, 27. It is, therefore, necessary that teachers should seek to be burned up now with ardent zeal, that they may not be compelled to suffer torments in the fire of hell for the sloth of negligence.

11. But we owe one duty to those who are unrighteous and subject to us, and another to those who are righteous and not subject to us. For fear should enkindle us to reprove those, and to take good care of the accounts we have to render. But the thought of equity should incline us to reverence these. But haughty men, because they know not this kind of discretion, exhibit the same conduct to those who are righteous, and not subject to them, as they see good preachers display towards those who are unrighteous, and subject to them. And when they unjustly launch out into warmth of invective, they venture even on words of malediction. For, because they do not love their neighbours as themselves, they cease not to wish for their neighbours that, which they are afraid of befalling themselves. Whence Eliu, venting his secret hatred in open malediction, exclaims, O my Father, let Job be tried even to the end, cease not from the man of iniquity. He calls him a man of iniquity, whom God, by a testimony from on high, pronounces righteous above all men. And because many things are still subjoined, from this want of discrimination, I think that they must be run through briefly. For sayings, which are wanting in weight, do not require any careful exposition. It follows,

Ver. 37. Who hath added blasphemy upon his sins.

vii. 12. He accuses him of having deserved scourges for his sins, and of having sinned after the scourges. But the Lord judges far otherwise, Who both asserts that he was scourged without reason, and conferred on him double goods, after his scourges. Blessed Job, then, is proved to have spoken without sin, whom rewards follow after his speech. Because, therefore, Eliu, when speaking in the Lord’s defence, thinks of blessed Job differently from the Lord, he is at variance with the truth, while multiplying, as it were, his words in behalf of the truth. It follows,

Let him be bound meanwhile amongst us, and then let him provoke God to judgment with his words.

viii. 13. As though he were saying, Let him know from our assertion, that he is by no means able to bear the examination of God. And, because haughty men strive to say not only foolish, but also many, things, the verse which follows is frequently well introduced respecting him.

Chap. 35. Ver. 1. Eliu therefore spake these words again.

ix. 14. Every one, who says many things, is anxious to be always beginning, in his speech, in order, by this very beginning, to keep his hearers in suspense, so that they may be the more attentively silent, the more they expect, as it were, to hear some new thing. But Eliu, finishing one subject, begins another without delay, in order that his loquacity may be continued without limit, by beginnings being constantly joined on. It follows,

Ver. 2. Doth thy thought seem right to thee, that thou saidst, I am more righteous than God.

x. 15. Every one observes, who reads the text of the history, that blessed Job did not say that he was more righteous than God. But he says, Let Him put forth equity against me, and my judgment shall come to victory. Job 23:7. Vulg. Examining namely his life, and not knowing the reasons of his smiting, as has been often observed, he believed that he was scourged for the sake of washing away his sins, and not of increasing his merits. And he was therefore confident, that his judgment would come to victory, because he found in himself no fault, for which he deserved to be smitten. Which thing indeed the Lord also said of him to the devil; Thou hast moved Me against him, to afflict him without cause. Job 2:3. What had he sinned then, by speaking thus, who, unknowingly, agreed, in these words, with the divine and secret sentence upon himself? Or what harm is there, if, in the judgment of men, our words differ, on the surface, from the exactness of truth, when, in that on which they turn in the heart, they are closely joined to, and agree with, it. The ears of men consider our words to be such as they sound outwardly, but the divine judgments hear them as they are uttered from our inmost heart. Among men, our heart is judged of from our words, but with God, our words are judged of from our heart. Whilst blessed Job, then said without, that, which God said within, he justly uttered every thing which he said, inasmuch as he, piously, did not differ from the Inner sentence. Although in that which ho said, filled by the spirit of Prophecy, Let Him put forth Equity against me, and my judgment shall come to victory, he might be looking for the presence of our Redeemer. For He, Who is the Virtue and the Wisdom of the Father, may be, not improperly, considered as His Equity. Whence it is written, Who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification. 1 Cor. 1:30. And because, namely, God has placed this Equity against sinners who fly from Him, by exhibiting It Incarnate, He recalled them at once from their iniquity; and, in that judgment in which it found the Equity of God opposing its ways, mankind has overcome its ancient opponent. It follows,

Ver. 3. For thou saidst, that which is right doth not please thee, or what will it profit thee, if I shall have sinned.

xi. 16. If the whole course of the book is attended to, blessed Job is proved to have said none of these things. But haughty men, as we have also said before, are wont to have this peculiarity, that while they go on in violent invective, they also speak falsely in their inveighing, and that, when they cannot justly blame the things which exist, they reprehend, in their falsehood, those which do not exist. It follows,

Ver. 4. I will therefore answer thy words, and thy friends with thee.

In his former saying, he mentioned culpable words, as if those of blessed Job, and derived from them matter for his remarks. But, in the words which follow, he examines, with great acuteness, that, which he craftily invented as matter to speak upon. And the sentiments which follow are powerful, but are not applicable to the character of blessed Job; and the shafts of this reproof strike him the less, the more unjustly they are launched against him. It follows,

Ver. 5–7. Look unto the heaven, and see, and behold the sky, that it is higher than thou. If thou hast sinned, what will thou hurt Him? If thine iniquities have been multiplied, what wilt thou do against Him? If, moreover, thou hast acted justly, what wilt thou give Him, or what will He receive of thy hand?

xii. 17. Although these words ought not to have been said to blessed Job, who knew greater truths, yet the things, which are said, are true, namely, that neither do our sins hurt God, nor our good deeds assist Him. Whence he followed, and added, (ver. 8) Thine iniquity will hurt a man that is like thee, and thy righteousness will profit the son of man. But amongst these things we must carefully notice that which he says, Look into the heavens, and see, and behold the sky, that it is higher than thou. For from speaking in this way he doubtless signifies, that Job should consider, how much, less he could either benefit, or injure, God by his conduct, since he could neither benefit, nor injure, the loftiness of the heaven, or of the sky. For although we can understand by the heaven, or the sky, the heavenly powers, who are ever steadily gazing on the sight of the Godhead, (in order that, when we behold that the angelic spirits are still far distant from us, we may acknowledge how far we are distant below, from the Creator and Lord of spirits Himself,) yet nothing prevents our understanding by them in this place the material substance of heaven and sky. For if we look attentively at outward things, we are recalled by their very means to inward things. For the wonderful works of the visible creation, are the footsteps of our Creator. For we cannot as yet behold Him Himself; but we are yet tending to a sight of Him, if we admire Him in these things which He has made. We call, therefore, the creation His footsteps, because we journey onwards towards Him by following up those things which proceed from Him. Whence Paul says, The invisible things of Him are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and God head. Rom. 1:20. Whence also it is written in the Book of Wisdom, For by the greatness and beauty of the creatures the Maker of them can be intelligently seen. Wisd. 13:5. For to our mind, which is through sin scattered abroad, God is not as yet made known within, as He really is. But while He sets before us from without the beauty of His creation, He gives us, as it were, certain hints, and shews what to follow within. He leads us on wonderfully by these same outward forms to inward things, He intimates with boundless admiration what He is, by-shewing us these marvels without, which are not Himself.

For hence it is written of Wisdom, She sheweth herself cheerfully unto them in the ways, and meeteth them in all forethought. Wisd. 6:16.

18. For the works of the creation are, when considered, ways to the Creator. For when we see these things, which are made, we admire the power of their Maker. In these ways we are met by Wisdom, with all forethought, because the power of our Maker is set before us, to be enquired into, in every thing, which appears to have been wonderfully wrought. And wherever the soul turns itself, if it looks attentively, it finds God in the very same objects, through which it forsook Him; and again acknowledges His power, from a consideration of those objects, for the love of which it abandoned Him. And it is recalled, when converted, by those things, by which, when perverted, it fell. For we make efforts to rise on the very spot where we fell, and in rising, we place, as it were, the hand of consideration on the spot, where, falling with the foot of slippery love, we were lying prostrate through neglect. But because we have, by visible things, fallen from invisible, it is right that we should again strive, by visible things, to reach invisible; in order that what was to the soul a fall to the bottom, may be a step in turn to the summit, and that it may rise by the same paces by which it fell: while, as was before said, those objects, rightly considered, recal us to God, which, when improperly chosen, separated us from Him. Eliu, therefore, in order to apply the force of consideration, and to shew from bodily objects, how far higher is God than man, well observed, Look unto the heaven, and see, and behold the sky, that it is higher than thou. For we learn from these created and corporeal objects, how far we are distant from the loftiness of our Creator: because, by every thing which we behold, we are warned to be humble; in order that the beauty of the creature, when considered, may be, as it were, a kind of lesson to our mind. Let him say then, Look unto the heaven, and see, and behold the sky, that it is higher than thou. If thou hast sinned, in what will thou hurt Him? If thine iniquities have been multiplied, what wilt thou do against Him? If, moreover, thou hast acted justly, what wilt thou give Him, or what will He receive of thy hand? As if he were saying, Understand from the very creatures, which thou seest by thy bodily senses, to be higher than thyself, how far thou art removed from the loftiness of the Divine Power, and conclude, from this thy consideration, that thou canst neither benefit God by thy good living, nor, again, injure Him by thy evil deeds.

19. But if, as we before said, we understand the superior Powers by ‘heaven,’ or the ‘sky,’ Eliu, in these words, warns us to consider, that, because the angelic spirits themselves cannot fully contemplate the power of our Creator, (though it is certain that they are higher than ourselves, as not having fallen into the lowest depths,) we should hence infer, how far we are inferior to God, who are beneath even those sublime creatures, who are yet far His inferiors. As if he were to say, Lo! how widely thou art separated from the loftiness of the Godhead, from Whose might even those powers shrink in their humility, who surpass thee with immeasurable loftiness; and how far inferior thou art to the Most High, who discernest that thou art inferior to those, who are inferior to Him. But, by pointing out the highest objects, he brings to an equality, and says,

Ver. 8. Thine iniquity will hurt a man, who is like thee, and thy righteousness will profit the son of man.

xiii. 20. The iniquity of man hurts him, whom it pollutes by perversion. And, again, our righteousness profits him, whom it converts from his wickedness. For those things cannot either hurt, or profit, which cannot either corrupt from what is good, or change from what is evil. The powers above, then, cannot be either hurt, or profited, because they have already received to be free from change. But they who are involved in earthly desires, cannot consider these things. For it is difficult for minds, which are scattered abroad, to, return to themselves; because evil ways detain them, more pleasurably, when once ensnared, the more every thing, which pleases them, is therein permitted. For no wall of discipline stands in the way to confine them, no punishment of retribution is looked forward to, to frighten them. But, when the eyes of the heart are closed, the soul is plunged the more surely into the lowest abyss, as it is shut out from the highest objects, and commits temporal sins more fearlessly, the more obstinately it despairs of eternal blessings.

21. But that wickedness of the reprobate, separating the life of the Elect, as corn from the chaff in threshing, oppresses, that it may purify. For the wicked, whilst they afflict the good, release them the more from the desires of this world; because, while they heap on them many cruelties here, they compel them to hasten heavenwards. Which is well signified by the Jewish people, when Moses was summoning, and king Pharaoh raging against, them. For Moses was then sent to call them, when Pharaoh had been already urged to oppress them by hard labours: in order that the one, while summoning, might draw away, as it were, the minds of the Israelites disgracefully clinging to Egypt, and the other might urge them on, as it were, while raging: and that the people, which was disgracefully held in bondage, might be moved, either by being invited by blessings, or driven by sufferings. This occurs daily, while the reprobate are allowed to rage against the Elect, when heavenly rewards have been announced to them; in order, that, if we neglect to go forth, when called, to the land of promise, we may be compelled at least by raging oppressions; and, that this Egypt, that is, our present life, which oppressed us, when flattering, may aid, when pressing, us: and that, that which, when cherishing, crushed us with the yoke of bondage, may shew the way of liberty, while it tortures. This is the special reason, why the righteous are allowed to be afflicted by the wicked, in order, namely, that while they hear of future blessings to desire, they may also suffer present evils to shudder at; and that, while love invites, torture may drive them to an easier escape. Whence Eliu, going on to speak of the same sufferings of the Elect, under the oppressions of the reprobate, says,

Ver. 9. They will cry out, by reason of the multitude of oppressors, and will wail on account of the force of the arm of tyrants.

xiv. 22. We can rightly term all the ungodly ‘oppressors,’ not those only, who spoil our outward goods, but those, also, who endeavour by their wicked habits, and by the example of their reprobate life, to scatter our inward treasures. For those go about to attack the things, which are without us, but these seek to prey on us within. The one cease not to rage with love for our goods, the other with hatred of our virtues. The one envy what we possess, the others the way we live. The one desire to spoil our outward goods, because they like them, the others are busy in squandering our inward goods, because they dislike them. As the life, then, of our habits is superior to the substance of our goods, he is the greater oppressor, who assaults our virtues, by wicked conduct, than he who injures our goods, by violently oppressing us. For though he has withdrawn nothing from our support, yet he has set before us examples of perdition. He has inflicted on us, therefore, a heavier oppression, since he has roused our heart, when quiet, by temptation. And though he has not persuaded us to the works of his conduct, he has yet imposed on us a contest of temptation. We suffer therefore a heavy oppression from his life, because, doubtless, we suffer that within, which we must overcome with difficulty. And because the life of the wicked abounds in this world, to torture us, it is well said, They will cry out by reason of the multitude, of the oppressors.

23. But because they sometimes endeavour to extort even by unrestrained violence, that which they cannot persuade by words, it is rightly subjoined, And will wail on account of the force of the arm of tyrants. For whoever compels us, by his example, to live wickedly, uses in our case, as yet, the voice of the oppressor. But whoever desires to frighten us also, when persuading us to sin, now rages against us with the arm of tyranny. For, to recommend vices by one’s conduct, is one thing, to enforce it by terrors, is another. When we look then at patterns of evil doing, we hear, thus far, as it were, the noise of the oppressor; but when we are by force compelled to sin, we endure at once a tyrant in our heart.

24. But the minds of the strong, which are stedfastly fixed in God, despise all these assaults, the more they discern that they rise up against the commands of their Creator For waiting for the rewards of eternity, they gain strength from their adversities, because, as the fight grows strong they doubt not that a more glorious victory awaits them Thus while the desires of the Elect are kept down, they make progress by adversity, just as the fire is blown back by the blast, in order to increase, and gains strength by the means, by which it appears to be extinguished. For we shew in this way, with what great desire for God we are inflamed, if we pass over to Him, not merely by tranquil and smooth, but even through rugged and hard paths. For hence the Prophet says, Who hath made my feet like harts’ feet. Ps. 18:33. For, when a hart climbs mountain ridges, it passes over, with a bound, whatever rugged places it beholds, whatever spots, entangled with briars, oppose themselves, and rises up to higher ground, without any obstacle to its course. So also the minds of the Elect leap over, with the bound of contemplation, whatever they see obstructing, or opposing them in this world, and, despising the thorns of worldly anxieties, raise themselves, like hinds, to things above. Hence he says again, And by my God, I shall pass over a wall. Ps. 18:29. For ‘a wall’ is every thing thrown in our way, that we pass not over to Him, Whom we love. But we pass over a wall, when we trample down, for love of our heavenly country, whatever things have, in this world, been placed in our way. Hence the Lord says, by the same Prophet, to a struggling soul; I heard thee in the hidden place of the tempest, I proved thee at the waters of contradiction. Ps. 81:7. For it is ‘the hidden place of the tempest,’ when the waves of tempting thoughts swell up in the contrite heart, when the tumults of worldly cares dash themselves against the zeal of holy love. He is heard, then, in the hidden place of the tempest, because this very agitation of tribulation, is the cry of suppliants. But, because there are never entirely wanting such, as endeavour to advise evil to those who are seeking for good, the waters of contradiction are opposing people. And because our desire is then proved, when it is opposed by any adversity, it is rightly said, I have proved thee at the waters of contradiction. By these efforts of virtues, then, the strong make progress, from adversity: but the weak, if any obstacles have been placed against them, often languish in their desires, and, when assaulted by mighty tribulation, fail from cowardice. Whence Eliu, inflicting on blessed Job reproaches for his cowardice, having first mentioned the oppressions of the wicked, proceeds immediately to speak of the cowardice of the weak, saying,

Ver. 10. And He said not, Where is God, Who made me?

xv. 25. It is the practice of Holy Scripture, to pass suddenly from the singular to the plural, and to turn itself from the plural to the singular. Whence Eliu, when saying, They will cry and wail, did not subjoin, They said not, Where is God? but, He said not, Where is God? For, coming from the plural to the singular, he suddenly passed over to the person of each of the weak. Perhaps because that is better discerned by individuals, which is heard spoken of them individually: so that each of them returns to his own heart, and blames in himself that, which is stated of each man one by one. He, therefore, retained the singular number, saying, He said not, Where is God, Who hath made me? For, whoever is crushed by the tribulation of adversities, does not look at Him, by Whom He was made. For He, Who made that, which was not, leaves it not, when made, without guidance: and He Who made man mercifully, does not permit him to be tormented unjustly. Nor does He carelessly suffer that, which is, to perish, Who also created that which was not, that it might be. When we ask, then, the cause of our tribulation, and perhaps too slowly discover it; there is this consideration, we can suffer nothing unjustly, because if, God being our Creator, we exist, who before were not, God being our Ruler, we, who are, are not unjustly afflicted. It follows,

Who hath given songs in the night.

xvi. 26. A ‘song in the night’ is joy in tribulation; because, though afflicted with worldly oppressions, we yet now rejoice in the hope of eternity. Paul was announcing songs in the night, saying, Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation. Rom. 12:12. David had taken up his song in the night, who was saying, Thou art my hope from the oppression which hath surrounded me, my Exultation, deliver me from those who surround me. Ps. 32:7. Lo! he calls oppression ‘night,’ and yet amidst his straitnesses, he calls his Deliverer, his Exultation. There was ‘night’ indeed without, in the encompassing of oppressions, but ‘songs’ were resounding within, from the consolation of joy. For, because we cannot return to eternal joys, except through temporal losses, it is the whole object of Scripture, that the hope of the joys, which will abide, should strengthen us, amid these passing adversities. Whence also the Prophet Ezekiel witnesses, that he had received a book, in which were written, lamentations, a song, and woe. Ezek. 2:10. For what is signified by this ‘book,’ except the words of God? For since they enjoin on us tears and sorrow, lamentations are said to be written therein. They contain also a song and woe; for they so set forth joy from hope, as yet to announce oppression and difficulties in this present life. They contain a song and woe, because though we seek for what is sweet there, it is yet first necessary for us to endure bitternesses here. The Lord was preaching a song and woe to His disciples, when He was saying, These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace: in the world ye shall have tribulation. John 16:33. As though He were plainly saving, May you have an inward refreshment and consolation from Me, because cruel and heavy oppression will befal you from the world without. Because then, every feeble person, when oppressed, has, by reason of his great weakness of heart, but faint hope of joy, and, when suffering adversities without, forgets that, in which he used to rejoice within, it is well said, He said not, Where is God Who made me, Who hath given songs in the night? For, were he to say these words, he would moderate the violence which he suffers, and, by the lasting good he was seeking within, would consider, that the transitory pain he endures, is not intolerable. It follows,

Ver. 11. Who teacheth us more than the beasts of the earth, and instructeth us more than the fowls of heaven.

xvii. 27. The beasts of the earth are they, who seek the lowest things, from the habit of a carnal life. But the fowls of the heaven are they, who search into lofty things, with the eagerness of a proud curiosity. These degrade themselves, by their conduct, below what they are in themselves; these exalt themselves, by their enquiries, beyond what they are able. The pleasure of the flesh casts down those to the very bottom, the lust of curiosity exalts these, as it were, in things above them. To those it is said by holy Scripture, Be ye not as the horse, and the mule, which have no understanding. Ps. 32:9. The proud labour of these is blamed, when it is said, Seek not out the things that are higher than thou, neither search the things that are above thy strength. Ecclus. 3:21. To those it is said, Mortify your members which are upon the earth, fornication, lust, evil concupiscence. Col. 3:5. To these it is said, Let no man deceive you through philosophy and vain deceit. Col. 2:8. God teaches us, therefore, more than the beasts and the fowls of the air, because, while we understand what we are, neither docs the infirmity of the flesh cast us down, nor does the spirit of pride raise us up. We do not, by sinking down, fall beneath the lowest things, nor are we puffed up, by pride, as to those above us. For he, who falls in the flesh, is overcome by the appetite of beasts, but he, who is exalted in mind, is raised up, like the fowls, as if with the wing of lightness.

28. But if we keep strict watch, that both humility of mind and chastity of body be preserved, we soon know that the one is preserved by the other. For pride has often been to many a seed-plot of lust; for, whilst their spirit raised them, as it were, on high, their flesh plunged them in the lowest depths. For they are first secretly raised up, but afterwards they fall openly; for while they swell in the secret motions of the heart, they fall with open lapses of the body. Thus, thus, elated, they required to be smitten with righteous retribution; in order that, since they set themselves above men by pride, they might be brought down, by their lust, even to a resemblance of beasts. For, man when he was in honour, understood not, he hath been compared to the senseless beasts, and made like them. Ps. 49:20. For the wing of knowledge had raised them, as it were, on high, of whom Paul said that which we before mentioned; Because, when they had known God, they glorified Him not as God, or gave Him thanks, but became vain in their thoughts. Rom. 1:21. But how they fell into bestial and more than bestial pleasure, he added, saying, God gave them up to the desires of their hearts, unto uncleanness. ib. 24. Lo! the flesh overwhelmed those, whom boastful learning had raised up, and, from the flying of birds, they fell beyond the appetite of beasts, and sank beneath themselves, by the very means by which they appeared to rise above themselves. We must take heed then, and the mind must be kept, with all care, from the swelling of pride. For our thoughts fly not in vain, before the eyes of God; and no moments of time pass in thought, without an abiding of retribution. God then beholds what elates the mind within; and therefore permits that which is to bring it down to gain strength without. That which is afterwards to be struck down without by the pollution of lust, is first raised up within us. Open punishment, namely, follows a secret fault, in order that our inward evils may be punished, by those from without, and that the heart, which was secretly puffed up, may fall openly. For hence it is said by Hosea, against the Israelites, The spirit of fornication is in the midst of them, and they have not known the Lord. Hos. 5:4. Who, in order to shew that the cause of lust sprung from the sin of pride, proceeded to say, And the pride of Israel will answer to his face. ib. 5. As if he were saying, The sin, which through pride of mind lurked in secret, openly replied by the lust of the flesh. Wherefore the cleanness of chastity is to be preserved, by guarding humility. For, if the spirit is piously humbled before God, the flesh is not raised unlawfully above the spirit. For, the spirit holds the dominion over the flesh, committed to it, if it acknowledges the claims of lawful servitude to the Lord. For if, through pride, it despises its Author, it justly takes on itself a contest with its subject flesh. Whence also that first disobedient one, as soon as he had sinned through pride, covered his shameful parts. For, because his spirit had put an insult on God, it soon experienced the insult of the flesh. And, because it refused to submit to its Creator, it lost its right over the subject flesh, which it used to rule: in order, namely, that the confusion of its own disobedience might redound upon itself, and that it might learn, when vanquished, what it had lost through pride.

29. Let no one, then, after he has begun to aim at things above him, consider, if overcome by carnal pleasure, that he is only then defeated, when he is openly overpowered. For, if the poison of lust frequently springs from the root of pride, the flesh then triumphed, when the spirit was secretly proud. The soul then fell, as to the beginning of its fault, into the wantonness of beasts, when, by raising itself, like the fowls, it soared higher than it ought. For it is hence, that long-maintained continence is suddenly broken through, hence, that virginity, though preserved even to old age, is frequently violated. For, since humility of heart is neglected, the righteous Judge despises even chastity of body, and at last proclaims, by an open sin, those to be reprobates, whom He endured in secret, though long ago rejected. For he, who has suddenly lost a long-treasured good, has retained, in himself within, another evil, from which a further evil has suddenly burst forth, by which he was, even then, estranged from God, though he shewed that he cleaved to Him by cleanness of body. Because, therefore, pride of mind leads to the pollution of the flesh, the heart of the reprobate is, from the flight of birds, plunged into the wantonness of beasts. But holy men, that they may not be carried down into the whirlpool of lust, through bestial appetite, carefully guard the thoughts of their mind from the flight of pride; and, that they may not sink, through folly, into the lowest depths, humbly keep down all their high notions. It is therefore rightly said, Who teacheth us more than the beasts of the earth, and instructeth us more than the fowls of heaven. Thou understandest, ‘this he also said not.’

30. He says, therefore, that he does not remember in tribulation, that he is superior to the beasts, and to the fowls. As if he were to say, Every one who is weak, does not strengthen himself when in perturbation, because he does not moderate himself, when in tranquillity; and he therefore knows not how to endure adversities, because, when prosperous, he knew not how to keep himself down in thought from the flight of birds, nor to raise up the motions of his flesh from the gluttony of beasts. But this was the more unfitly said to blessed Job, as his life is wonderfully kept in the mean, between things high and low. But it can also be understood in another way; Who teacheth us more than the beasts of the earth, and instructeth us more than the fowls of heaven. For as the life of men, still subject to the motions of the flesh, is signified by the word ‘beasts;’ so is the pride of haughty spirits set forth by the appellation ‘fowls;’ in order that earthly men may be designated by ‘beasts,’ but the devils by ‘fowls.’ Whence, when the Lord said that the seeds had fallen by the way side. He adds, The fowls of the air came and devoured them up; Mat. 13:4. signifying doubtless by fowls, the powers of the air.

31. But because holy persons neither follow the lowest examples of men, nor, again, are deceived by the subtlety of devils, they rise, by the virtue of their instruction, both above the beasts of the earth, and the fowls of heaven. For they are taught more than the beasts of the earth, because they despise whatever can be desired below: and they are instructed more than the fowls of the air, because they understand all the stratagems of unclean spirits. They are taught above the beasts of the earth, because they seek not any thing, which passes away in this life. They are instructed more than the fowls of the air, because they trample down even now, by the merits of their life, the powers of the air, which they still tolerate through the infirmity of the flesh. Paul had been already taught above the beasts of the earth, when saying, For many walk; and shortly afterwards, Whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, who savour of earthly things. But our conversation is in heaven. Phil. 3:18, 19, 20. And again he knew that he was instructed above the fowls of the air, when he said, Know ye not that we shall judge angels? 1 Cor. 6:3. He perceived that the beasts were beneath him, because, namely, though still dwelling on earth, he was trampling down the habits of men, who engage in grovelling pursuits. And again he had surpassed the flying of fowls, by the dignity of his merits, because, when now about to enter heaven, he was not ignorant that he would judge Angels. In the one he was treading under the basenesses of the impure, in the other the loftinesses of the proud. For the minds of holy men despise all transitory objects, and behold every thing that is proud, and every thing that passes away, sink beneath them. And placed on a lofty eminence, they see all things the more subject to them, the more truly they submit themselves to the Author of all; and they transcend all things, just as they prostrate themselves in true humility before the Creator of all things. Let him say then, Who teacheth us more than the beasts of the earth, and instructeth us more than the fowls of the heaven. As if he were saying, The weak man, overcome by his cowardice, said not thus, and therefore the adversity of temptation smote him: because in the season of tranquillity he did not overcome all these transitory objects, by any perfection. For he would not dread the adversities of this life, if he had trampled even its prosperity under foot, by the merit of his perfection. It follows,

Ver. 12. There they will cry, and He will not hear, because of the pride of evil men.

xviii. 32. There; namely, in tribulation: as it is written on the other hand of joy, The children of thy servants shall inhabit there. Ps. 102:28. But it seems doubtful whether he says, Because of the pride of evil men He will not hear, or, they will cry because of the pride of evil men. But it can be better understood, if they are rather said not to be heard, than to cry out, because of the pride of evil men. For, that they cry out, because of the pride of evil men, is already stated, in the verse in which it is said, They will cry out by reason of the multitude of the violent. ver. 9. Something is therefore suggested to us in this verse, to be attended to a little more minutely. Because often, when the oppressed have cried out, they deserve indeed to be heard, for their own sake; but yet their desires are deferred, on account of the pride of their oppressors. For the Just God allows His own people to be oppressed in their worldly goods, and the malice of the violent sinfully to increase; in order that, while the life of these is wasted away in purification, the wickedness of those may be consummated. But it frequently happens, that the righteous, when involved in tribulation, enjoy, even in this life, heavenly consolation, which they do not ask for in this life. For they wish to be saved not for their own sakes, but for the salvation of their adversaries; in order that, while Almighty God delivers them, by working a kind of miracle, from their boundless dangers, He may manifest His might, even to their persecutors; and may deliver the adversaries for eternity, by the same means, as He rescues His own people in this world. As the Prophet also, taking up the language of martyrs, says, Deliver me, because of mine enemies. Ps. 69:18. As if he were saying; For myself indeed, I seek not to be delivered from temporal tribulation; but yet I wish to be delivered, on account of my adversaries; in order that, while my life is seen to be miraculously preserved, the hardness of my enemies may be converted at the very sight of the miracles. As the Lord then frequently rescues the life of His own people, in this world, for the conversion of His enemies, so does He frequently not listen to the cry of His own people, for the sake of the condemnation of their persecutors; in order, namely, that they may add to their guilt, from the fact that they wickedly rejoice that they have prevailed. For they, who despise invisible things, can sometimes be moved by visible miracles. But frequently no visible miracle is worked in behalf of the righteous, because their adversaries do not deserve to be invisibly enlightened. Let it be said then, There will they cry, and He will not hear, because of the pride of evil men. As if he were saying, The guilt of the oppressors prevents His hearing the voice of the oppressed: and the righteous are not visibly rescued, because the unrighteous do not deserve to be invisibly saved. Hence it is again said by the Prophet, When he shall see the wise dying, the simple and the foolish shall perish together. Ps. 49:10. For those, whom they behold dying visibly, they do not believe can live invisibly, and they add to the guilt of their unbelief, as they despair of eternity, when they behold the death of the faithful. The violent, then, fail the more fatally, from the very fact, that they outwardly prevail against the life of the innocent. And the inmost Truth drives them forth the more from Itself, the more It suffers them to work their will, in this world, against those who are Its own.

33. Whoever, then, persecutes the life of the good, is then condemned with more fearful vengeance, when he is opposed by no adversity; and he is then exposed to the risk of more fearful wrath, when he prosecutes successfully his sinful desires. Because, namely, the vengeance of the Divine Judgment has given up, by reserving for future punishment, him, whom It has here not cared to oppose in his wickedness. For hence the Lord says by the Prophet, I gave them up according to the desires of their heart, and they will go on in their own wills. Ps. 81:12. Hence it is said again, The rod of God is not upon them. Job 21:9. Hence also it is written of their chief himself, He will do, and prosper. Dan. 8:12. Hence again it is said of the same person, And craft shall be guided aright in his hand. ib. 25. For craft is guided aright, in the hand of Antichrist, because he is not hindered by any adversity, in this world, from fulfilling that, which he has purposed against the good. Hence again it is said by Solomon, The prosperily of fools shall destroy them. Prov. 1:32. It is, then, a manifest token of perdition, when subsequent success favours much-wished for iniquities, and when no obstacle hinders that, which a perverse mind has conceived. For frequently, while the wishes of sinful men are delayed, they are changed, and, while they feel the difficulty of performing an evil action, they learn its guilt; and they, who are thwarted at first against their will, shrink afterwards, of their own accord, from that which they had conceived. Because then the Lord, when He forsakes the wicked, allows them to prevail, and, because the wickedness of the proud is perfected, by the same means, as the long-suffering of the humble is consummated, let it be rightly said, There will they cry, and He will not hear, because of the pride of wicked men. It follows,

Ver. 13. For God will not hear without reason, and the Almighty will behold the causes of men one by one.

xix. 34. We must observe that two points are stated: both that He does not hear without reason him, who cries to Him, and yet regards his sufferings; and pretends not to hear his cry, and still is not ignorant what each one suffers. Let no one, then, who is not speedily heard, believe that he is not cared for by God’s providence. For our desires are often heard, because they are not speedily granted: and that, which we wish to be soon fulfilled, is the better prospered by the very delay. Our prayer is frequently made good, the more it is deferred; and when our request is, in appearance, neglected, our wishes are more fully carried out in the depth of our thoughts. As the seeds of harvest are firmly compressed by frost, and spring up in greater number, to bear produce, the slower they come forth to the surface. Our desires, therefore, are deferred, in order that they may make progress; they make progress, in order to gain strength for that which they are about to enjoy: they are exercised in the contest, in order that greater rewards may be heaped on them, in recompense. The labour of the contest is protracted, in order that the crown of victory may become greater. When the Lord, then, does not speedily hear His own people, He draws them to Himself, just as He is believed to repel them. For He is, in truth, our spiritual Physician, and cuts out the infection of vices, whose existence within us He utterly reprobates. He extracts the poison of corruption with the knife of tribulation; and the more He pretends not to hear the cries of His patient, the more is He providing for the ending of his sickness. For hence the Prophet exclaims, O my God, I will cry through the day, and Thou wilt not hear; and in the night, and not to my folly. Ps. 22:2. As if He were saying, It tends not to my folly, that Thou dost not hear me, when I cry to Thee, day and night, without ceasing; because Thou trainest me the more in heavenly wisdom, by seeming, as it were, to desert me in my temporal affliction. Hence also he says, A helper in opportunities, in tribulation. Ps. 9:9. Intending to speak of tribulations, he first mentioned opportunities; because we are frequently bruised by tribulation, and yet it is not a fit season for our being assisted according to our desire for deliverance. Let it be said then, For God will not hear without reason, and the Almighty will behold the causes of men one by one. But because some persons are frequently broken down by this very delay of assistance, he fitly subjoins,

Ver. 14. Even when thou shalt say, He doth not consider, judge thyself before Him, and wait for Him.

xx. 35. For perhaps when our cry seems to be disregarded, the hope, which was in our heart, is weakened, and we believe that assistance from above will fail us, because we are too slow in asking: and we lament that the unavenged wrongs we are enduring are almost disregarded by God. But when this storm of despair agitates us, our disordered mind sooner takes shelter in the harbour of hope, if it weighs accurately its causes with the Lord; if it recals to its memory His favours, if it does not artfully excuse in itself the evils it has returned for His goodness; if it balances what it has justly deserved, and what it has received of His mercy; if it actively searches its own conduct; if, examining all its doings in God’s sight, it conceals not itself from itself; if it remembers that it was brought into being, which before was not; if it reflects that though it was lying in darkness, it was illumined, and raised up. Bringing then all these points together in itself, while it considers the blessings it has received, it blames not the ills it is suffering; and, strengthened with the consolation of so many gifts, it is not crushed with despair. Because, when it calls to mind past mercies, it derives hope for the future. Let him say therefore, Even when thou shall say, He doth not consider, judge thyself before Him, and wait for Him. As though he were to say, When God is believed not to regard, because He is slow in shewing compassion, enter into thy most secret thoughts, and there undertake the judgment of thy cause before His eyes, and discern both what thou hast conferred on Him, by thy conduct, or what thou hast mercifully received. And then thou returnest to the confidence of hope, when thou art ashamed at the mercies of such great goodness: so that thou mayest confidently look for Him in adversities, Whom thou rememberest to have been gracious to thee, even after thine offences. For thou hadst reason to hope for assistance from above, even though no favours had preceded. And thou must feel sure that God does not unjustly reject man, whom He mercifully created.

36. We must consider, therefore, how dangerous it is to behold past gifts, and to despair of future: how dangerous, if in this storm of tribulations, we suffer shipwreck from despair, bound as we are to the harbour of hope by the boundless ties of past favours. Let it then be said rightly, Judge thyself before Him, and wait for Him. For he who judges not himself before God, does not wait for Him when afflicted. For he despairs that assistance can hereafter come from Him, Whose preceding kindnesses He does not admit: and when he forgets those that are past, he is deprived also of a bounteous supply of subsequent blessings. But behold, while we are afflicted, while we patiently wait for the grace of consolation, the wicked break out into greater wickedness, and proceed the more in adding to their iniquities, as they are left unpunished. And yet the Almighty mercifully bears with sinners, and grants them time for repentance, which He converts, if they are not converted strains the wrath, which at length He pours out irrevocably. Whence it is fitly subjoined,

Ver. 15. For He doth not now bring on His fury, nor severely punish wickedness.

xxi. 37. For God in truth bears a long while with him, whom He condemns for ever; and forbears now to bring on His wrath, because He reserves it to be poured forth, hereafter, without end. For suffering is here the portion of the Elect, in order to their being trained for the rewards of their heavenly inheritance. It is our portion to receive stripes here, for whom an eternity of joy is reserved. For hence it is written, He scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. Heb. 12:6. Hence it is said to John, I rebuke and chasten those whom I love. Rev. 3:19. Hence Peter says, It is time, that judgment must begin at the house of God. 1 Pet. 4:17. Where he immediately adds with astonishment, But if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that believe not the Gospel of God? For the severity of God permits not sins to remain unpunished; but the wrath of judgment commences with our punishment here, in order that it may cease to rage at the damnation of the reprobate. Let the reprobate proceed then, and accomplish the desires of their pleasures, with unpunished iniquity: and let them feel no temporal scourges, since eternal punishments await them. But their unpunished wickedness, is well signified by the sin of Ham: to whom it was said by his father, Cursed be thy son Canaan, a servant shall he be to his brethren. Gen. 9:25. For Canaan was the son of Ham. And what is signified by his son Canaan receiving the sentence of punishment, when Ham offended? What is meant by his being smitten, not in himself, but in his posterity, except that the sins of the reprobate go on unpunished in this world, but are smitten hereafter? Let it be said then, For He doth not now bring on His fury, nor severely punish wickedness.

38. But it must be noticed, that he inserted the word “severely;” for, although He patiently endures some wickednesses, yet some He punishes even in this life: and He sometimes begins to smite even here, what He intends to destroy with eternal damnation. Therefore He smites some sins, and leaves some unpunished: for, if He were to be severe with none, who would believe that God regarded the doings of men? And again, if He were to smite all of them here, for what reason would the last judgment still remain? Some are, therefore, smitten, in order that we may tremble at the attentive Care of our Ruler over us. Hut some are still left unpunished, in order that we may feel that judgment still remains. It is well said then, He doth not severely punish sin: because while some small portion of iniquity is punished, the sentence of eternal judgment is even now foretasted by unconverted souls.

39. All this then that Eliu says is right, if it were said rightly. For he knows what he ought to say, but knows not to whom he is speaking. For the things which he said are true, but are out of place, in reproving blessed Job; because he the less needed this reproof, as he had not sinned, even from any cowardice. But, because the pride of haughty men is often an occasion of virtues for the righteous, blessed Job is so dealt with in the secret judgment, in order that, after the scourges of punishments, he may gain strength also, by the words of the arrogant. For, lo! the more he is despised by the minister of pride, the more is he comforted by the truth teaching him within. For, after Eliu knew that he had said so many powerful words, he disclosed what pride he bore within, and despised blessed Job, by thinking highly of himself, saying;

Ver. 16. Therefore doth Job open his mouth in vain, he multiplieth words without knowledge.

xxii. 40. By introducing these words, he doubtless asserts, that blessed Job both knew nothing, and had said much; and, though he introduces his own opinions loquaciously, he accuses him of the fault of loquacity. But this seems also to be a peculiar fault of the arrogant, that they believe the much, which they have said, to be little, and the little, which is said to them, to be much. For, because they always wish to speak their own words, they cannot hear the words of others; they think that they suffer violence, if they do not pour forth their own immoderate opinions more immoderately. And, although blessed Job was silent at his words, yet Eliu finds cause for invective, in the speech, in which he had replied to his friends; in order to get himself larger space of his silence, and that he himself might answer many things, he asserts that he had multiplied words. For he immediately begins the commencement of a tedious speech, and endeavours to commence, as though he had as yet said nothing at all. Whence it is subjoined,

Chap. 36. Ver. 1, 2. Eliu also added, and spake thus; Suffer me a little, and I will shew thee.

xxiii. 41. He had already said much, and hopes that he will be borne with yet a little longer; because, namely, haughty men consider that they suffer a heavy loss, if they confine their skill by speaking within brief limits. For they believe, that they shew themselves to be more learned, the more they have been able to lay open their minds in multiplicity of much speaking. But, because they frequently perceive that the respect of silence is not paid to them, they mention, at times, the power of the Lord, from Whom they seem to be speaking; and, under pretence of Him, they exact that silence for themselves, which they by no means deserve; and, while in appearance they bring God forward, when exacting a hearing for themselves from reverence for Him, they strive more to display themselves, than to set forth His doings. Whence also Eliu subjoins, saying,

Ver. 2. For I have yet somewhat to speak on God’s behalf.

Because holy teachers sometimes frequently repeat any things they state rather obscurely, in order to instil these hidden sayings into the hearts of their hearers, by the language of repetition; haughty men also wish to imitate this practice, and the things they have said they repeat in an insolent manner, not because they seek to insinuate the subjects into the hearts of their hearers, but because they wish to appear eloquent in their judgment. Whence Eliu subjoining, says,

Ver. 3. I will repeat my knowledge from the beginning.

But because, on the mention of knowledge, his pride of heart hath displayed itself in his voice, he is plainly discovered to be a haughty person, if he does not quickly conceal himself by some disguise. Whence in concealing his I own arrogance, he immediately introduces the righteousness of the Lord, and says, And I trill prove my Maker just.

In order that, while he speaks as if in behalf of God’s righteousness, whatever escapes from him arrogantly, may be excused in the judgment of man. He follows,

Ver. 4. For truly my words are without falsehood.

xxiv. 42. Even righteous men, when they see that they cannot be understood by their feeble hearers, are frequently wont to praise the things they say. Not because they are eager for their own praise, but to inflame their hearers with an anxious desire of listening to them; in order that, while they are uttered by their voice, they may be embraced, with more ardent affection, by the hearts of their hearers. Whence Paul, when he had spoken to the Corinthians things wonderful and many, says, Our mouth is opened unto you, O ye Corinthians, our heart is enlarged. 2 Cor. 6:11. But haughty men, while they know not the heart of the good, and imitate only their words, from time to time, are hurried forward in praising what they say, not because the listlessness of their hearers displeases them, but because they eagerly please themselves. They imitate and feign the voice of the righteous, but know not the power of their voice. They see what the righteous put forward, but know not what they seek for. For, when holy teachers set forth the praise of their preaching, they raise, as it were, the hearts of their hearers from grovelling thoughts, by the hand of their voice; in order that, having been suddenly roused, they may run, as if to meet the words which follow, and may hold them the more firmly in the embrace of their understanding, the more they had loved them, by the voice of their praiser, even before they beheld them. But, as I said, haughty men know not these things. For since that, which they seek for, is without, they cannot feel what is desirable within. For it is written of the Church of the Elect, All the glory of her, is from within. Ps. 45:13. Mat. 25:4. the daughter of kings, And the wise virgins are said to carry oil in their lamps. Whence it is said by the voice of the Saints, Our glory is this, the testimony of our conscience. 2 Cor. 1:12. But haughty men, because they have no testimony of their conscience before God, seek the testimony of another’s voice before men; and, when they slowly obtain it, they burst forth into shameless praise of themselves. For if they find not the applause of men, which they eagerly look for, they themselves speak in praise of their own wisdom. Whence also Eliu adds, saying,

And perfect knowledge shall be proved to thee.

xxv. 43. He doubtless felt that he was about to utter great things, but he could not conceal his lofty estimate of himself, in his swelling heart; and therefore preceded by his praises his sound opinions; because he would be already indeed guilty in God’s judgment, if he had merely felt in silence great things of himself. For we are by no means safe, before the searching examination of the Truth, even though we have nothing in ourselves which deserves blame, in the judgment of men. For, frequently, when careless in our thoughts, we are assaulted by the pride, which yet we suppress in silence. But unless our secret pride is extinguished, by awakened repentance, in the chamber of the heart, in which it takes its rise; all the merit of our conduct is extinguished before our strict Judge. We must, therefore, hence consider, with what great punishment that pride will be condemned, which is cherished till it is boldly uttered, if even that is inexcusable which springs up secretly in the heart. We must consider also with what power that pride reigns within, which is so far encouraged, as not to be ashamed even to break forth without. Because then Eliu felt great things, he could not humbly control himself, he maintained the loftiness of knowledge, he spurned the grace of humility. And while following after the gift by which he desired to speak well, he lost the grace by which he might have lived well. For knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. 1 Cor. 8:1. But let him now state that right thing, which he still knows not how to speak rightly. For, after he had breathed forth the proud thoughts of his mind, in words of pride, he added a noble sentiment, saying,

Ver. 5. God rejecteth not the mighty, though He Himself is mighty.

xxvi. 44. Some things in the course of this mortal life are hurtful in themselves, some are such from circumstances. Some are hurtful of themselves; as sins and wickednesses. But some things are, now and then, hurtful from circumstances, as temporal power, or the bond of wedlock. For marriage is good, but those things which grow up around it, through the care of this world, are evil. Whence Paul says, He that is with a wife, thinketh of the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. 1 Cor. 7:33. Whence also, recommending to certain persons a better course, he dissuades them from marriage, and says, But this I say, not that I may cast a snare on you, but for that which is comely, and which may give you power to pray to the Lord without impediment. Ib. v. 35. While that then which is not hurtful is retained, something hurtful is commonly committed from attendant circumstances: as frequently we journey along a straight and clear road, and yet we are entangled by our clothes in briars which grow by its side. We do not stumble in a clear road, but something grows by the side to wound us. For great is that temporal power, which, from being well administered, has its special reward from God: and yet sometimes from being preeminent over others, it swells with pride of thought. And while all things for its use are at its service, while its commands are speedily fulfilled, according to its wish, while all its subjects praise its good deeds, if there are any, but do not oppose its evil doings with any authority, while they too commonly praise, even that which they ought to blame; the mind, being led astray by those things that are beneath it, is raised above itself, and while it is encircled with unbounded applause without, is bereft of truth within. And, forgetting itself, it scatters itself after others speech, and believes itself to be really such, as it is spoken of without, and not such as it ought to see itself to be within. It despises those beneath it, and does not acknowledge them to be its equals in order of nature, and believes that it has exceeded those also in the merits of its life, whom it has surpassed by the accident of rank. It considers that it is far wiser than all those, than whom it sees itself greater in power. For it places itself in truth on a lofty eminence, in its own opinion, and, he that is confined within the same natural condition as others, scorns to look on them as his equals, and is in this way led even to resemble him, of whom, it is written, He beholdeth every high thing, and is a king over all the children of pride; Job 41:34 and of whose body it is said, A generation, whose eyes are lofty, and their eyelids are raised up on high. Prov. 30:13. It is led to a resemblance of him, who aiming at singular loftiness, and scorning a life in company with angels, says, I will ascend above the height of the clouds, I will be like the Most High. Is. 14:14. By a marvellous judgment, then, it finds the depth of downfal within, whilst it raises itself without, in loftiness of power. For a man is in truth made like an apostate angel, when he disdains to be like his fellow men. Thus Saul grew up, from meritorious humility, into swelling pride, by his height of power. He was in truth raised up in consequence of his humility, and rejected through his pride: as the Lord bears witness, Who says, When thou wast little in thine own eyes, did not I make thee the head of the tribes of Israel? 1 Sam. 15:17. Before he attained to power he had seen that he was little, but supported by temporal authority he no longer saw himself to be so. For preferring himself, in comparison with others, he counted himself great in his own judgment. But marvellously, when little in his own sight, he was great in the sight of the Lord, and when great in his own sight, in the Lord’s sight he was little. The Lord forbids us, by His Prophet, to be great in our own sight, saying, Woe unto you that are wise in your own eyes, and prudent in your own sight. Is. 5:21. And Paul admonishes us not to be great in our own opinions, saying, Be not wise in your own conceits. Rom. 12:16. While the mind then is puffed up, through the number of those that are subject to it, it falls into the lust of pride, the very height of its power pandering to it.

45. But for this and that not to be good is one thing, for any not to know how to use the good aright is another. For power is good in its proper place, but it requires careful conduct in a ruler. He therefore exercises it aright, who has learned both how to retain, and how to overcome it. He exercises it aright, who knows how to raise himself, by its means, above his faults, and, with it, to keep himself down on a level with others. For the mind of man is frequently elated, even when not supported by any power. How much more then does it exalt itself, when power joins itself unto it? And yet it is prepared to correct the faults of others with due punishment. Whence also it is said by Paul, For he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Rom. 13:4. When then the administration of temporal power is undertaken, a person must watch with the greatest care, in order to learn how to select from it what is of use, and to withstand its temptations, and to feel himself, even with it, on an equality with others, and yet, by his zeal for revenge, to set himself above those who do wrong. We gain a fuller knowledge of this discretion, if we look also at some instances of ecclesiastical power. Peter then, though holding the Chief power in the Church by Divine authority, refused to be reverenced unduly by Cornelius, who was a righteous man, and was prostrating himself before him, and acknowledged himself to be but his equal, saying, Arise, do it not, I myself am also a man. Acts 10:26. But on discovering the sin of Ananias and Sapphira, he soon displayed with what great power he had risen above others. For by a word he smote their life, which he detected by the searching of the Spirit; and called to mind that he held within the Church the chief power against sinners, which, when the honour had been violently thrust on him, he refused to acknowledge before his righteous brethren. In the one case holiness of conduct deserved a communion of equality, in the other his zeal for vengeance displayed his rightful power. Paul did not acknowledge that he was superior to his righteous brethren, when he said, Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy. 2 Cor. 1:24. And he immediately added, For by faith ye stand. As if he were saying, We have not dominion over your faith, for this very reason, because ye stand by faith. For we are your equals, in a case where we know that you are standing firm. He seemed not to know that he was superior to his brethren when he said, We have made ourselves as little ones among you; 1 Thess. 2:7. and again, And ourselves your servants through Jesus Christ. 2 Cor. 4:5. But when he discovered a fault, which needed correction, he immediately remembered that he was their master, and said, What will ye? shall I come to you with a rod? 1 Cor. 4:21.

46. A high place is therefore rightly discharged, when a ruler exercises his authority rather over sins, than over his brethren. For nature has made us all equal; but that some are committed to others to rule over them, it is not nature, but their own fault which places them beneath. Rulers, therefore, ought to raise themselves above the vices, on account of which they are placed above others: and, when they correct offenders, they should attend carefully to smite their faults with discipline, by the right of their power, but, by guarding their humility, to acknowledge, that they are equal with those very brethren, who are corrected. Although it is frequently even right, that we should, in our secret thought, prefer those, whom we correct, to ourselves. For their faults are smitten, through us, with the vigour of discipline, but, in the faults we ourselves commit, we are not wounded by any one, with an attack of even a word. We are, therefore, the more indebted to the Lord, the more we sin without punishment from man. But our discipline the more exempts those under it from Divine punishment, the more it leaves not their faults unpunished here. We must maintain then both humility in our heart, and discipline in our work. And we must, meanwhile, keep careful watch, lest the rights of discipline should be relaxed, while the virtue of humility is unduly guarded, and lest, while a ruler humbles himself more than is becoming, he should be unable to bind beneath the bond of discipline the life of his subjects. Let us outwardly, then, keep up that office, which we undertake for others’ benefit. Let us keep, within, the estimate we entertain of ourselves. But yet even those committed to us may properly learn, by some evidences which break forth, that we are such to ourselves within, in order to see what to dread from our authority, and to learn what to imitate from our humility. Having maintained the authority of our office, let us return unceasingly to our heart, and assiduously consider, that we are created on an equality with others, not that we have been temporally placed above others. For the more eminent is our power outwardly, the more ought it to be kept down within, lest it should overpower our thought, lest it should hurry the mind to be delighted with it, and lest the mind should soon be unable to control that power, to which it submits itself from desire of authority.

47. David had well learned to govern his kingly power, who used to overcome, by humbling himself, all pride at this power, saying, O Lord, my heart is not exalted. And who subjoined, to increase his humility, Nor mine eyes lofty. And added, Neither have I walked in great things. And examining himself still further, with most searching enquiry, Nor in wonderful things above me. And drawing forth also all his thoughts from the bottom of his heart, he subjoins, saying, If I have thought not humbly, but if I have exalted my soul. Lo! he frequently repeats the sacrifice of humility, offered from his inmost heart, and, by again and again confessing, ceases not to offer it, and brings it before the eyes of his Judge, by repeatedly speaking of it. What is this? and how had he learned, that this sacrifice was pleasing to God, which he was offering, in His sight, with so great a repetition of words? Except that pride is ever wont to attend on the powerful, and that haughtiness is almost always associated with prosperity; because also abundance of humour often causes the hardness of a tumour.

48. But it is very wonderful, when humility of manners reigns in the hearts of the lofty. Whence we must consider, that whenever powerful persons think humbly, they attain to an eminence of strange, and, as it were, far distant virtue: and they rightly appease the Lord, the more readily, with this virtue, because they humbly offer Him that sacrifice, which the powerful can scarcely meet with. For it is a most difficult art of living, for a man to possess a high place, and to keep down boasting; to be indeed in power, and yet not to know that he is powerful; to know that he is powerful, for conferring favours, not to know all the power he possesses for requiting wrongs. It is therefore rightly said of such, God rejecteth not the mighty, though He Himself is mighty. For he, in truth, desires to imitate God, who administers his lofty power with a view to the benefit of others, and is not elated with his own praises; who, when placed above others, desires to serve, and not to rule over, them. For it is swelling pride, and not position of power, which is to blame. God confers power, but the wickedness of our mind causes haughtiness at our power. Let us take away, then, what we have contributed of our own, and those things, which we possess of God’s bounty, are good. For because not lawful power, but wicked deeds are condemned, it is fitly subjoined,

Ver. 6. But He saveth not the wicked, and giveth judgment to the poor.

xxvii. 49. Holy Scripture is frequently wont to call the humble, ‘poor.’ Whence they are mentioned in the Gospel, with the addition, ‘spirit,’ when it is said, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matt. 5:3. For, because riches visibly manifest the powerful, those are poor in their own sight, who are not puffed up in their own minds. But he calls those ‘wicked,’ who are either cut off from the piety of the faith, or who else contradict themselves, by their wicked habits, in that which they faithfully believe. Because then Almighty God condemns pride of wickedness, not loftiness of power; after it was said, God rejecteth not the mighty, though He is Himself mighty; it is rightly subjoined, But He saveth not the wicked, and giveth judgment to the poor. That is, He destroys the proud, but sets free the humble, by His judgment. Or certainly He gives judgment to the poor, because those who are now wickedly oppressed, then come themselves as judges over their oppressors.

50. There are in truth two classes, namely, of the Elect and the reprobate. But two ranks are comprised in each of these classes. For some are judged and perish; others are not judged and perish. Some are judged and reign; others are not judged and reign. They are judged and perish, to whom it is said in our Lord’s declaration, I hungered, and ye gave Me not to eat; I thirsted, and ye gave Me not drink; I was a stranger, and ye took Me not in; naked, and ye covered Me not; sick and in prison, and ye visited Me not. Mat. 25:42, 43. To whom it is before said, Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. Ib. v. 41. But others are not judged in the last judgment, and yet perish. Of whom the Prophet says, The ungodly do not rise again in the judgment. Ps. 1:5. And of whom the Lord declares, But he that believeth not is judged already. John 3:18. And of whom Paul says, They who have sinned without the Law, shall perish without the Law. Rom. 2:12. Therefore even all unbelievers rise again, but to torment and not to judgment. For their case is not then examined; because they come into the presence of their strict Judge, with the condemnation already of their own unbelief. But those, who retain their profession of faith, but have not works in accordance with it, are convicted of sin, in order to their perishing. But they, who have not enjoyed even the sacraments of the faith, do not hear the reproof of the Judge at the last ordeal; for, condemned already by the darkness of their own unbelief, they do not deserve to be condemned by the open reproof of Him, Whom they had despised. Those hear at least the words of the Judge, because they have retained at least the words of His faith. These hear not in their condemnation the sentence of the eternal Judge: because they would not retain their reverence for Him even in words. Those perish by the Law, because they have sinned under the Law; whilst no mention of the Law is made to these, in their condemnation; because they made no effort to have any thing of the Law. For a prince, who administers an earthly commonwealth, punishes in different ways a citizen, who offends at home, and an enemy who makes war abroad. In the first case, he considers his rights, and condemns him in language of just reproof. But against an enemy he wages war: he wields instruments of destruction, and inflicts the tortures his wickedness deserves. But he does not enquire what the law provides for his offence. For it is not necessary for him to be destroyed by Law, who could never be held by the Law. Thus, therefore, in the last judgment, both a lawful reproof smites him down, who has departed in his conduct from that which he held in profession; and he is destroyed without a judicial sentence, who is not held by the law of faith.

51. But of the class of the Elect, some are judged and reign. As those, who wipe away with their tears the stains of their life, who, atoning their former misdeeds by their subsequent conduct, conceal from the eyes of their Judge, with the cloak of alms deeds, whatever unlawfulness they may have ever committed. To whom, when placed at His right hand, the Judge says at His coming, I hungered, and ye gave Me to eat, I thirsted, and ye gave Me to drink. I was a stranger, and ye took Me in, naked, and ye covered Me; sick, and ye visited Me; I was in prison, and ye came to Me. Mat. 25:35, 36. To whom he speaks before, saying, Come, ye blessed of My Father, possess the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. Ib. v. 34. But others are not judged, and yet reign; as those, who surpass even the precepts of the Law in the perfection of their virtues; because they are by no means satisfied with fulfilling that which the Divine Law enjoins on all, but with surpassing eagerness desire to perform more, than they would learn from general precepts. To whom it is said by the voice of the Lord; Ye which have left all and have followed Me, when the Son of Man shall sit on the throne of His Majesty, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Mat. 19:28. And of whom the Prophet says, The Lord will come to judgment with the elders of His people. Is. 3:14. And of whom Solomon, when speaking of the Bridegroom of holy Church, observed, saying, Her husband is noble in the gates, when he sitteth with the elders of the land. Prov. 31:23. These, therefore, are not judged in the last judgment, and yet reign, because they come as judges together with their Creator. For, leaving all things, they performed, from ready devotion, more than they heard ordered in general terms. For that, which the rich young man heard, was said by a special command to the more perfect, and not generally to all, Go and sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shall have treasure in heaven, and come and follow Me. Matt. 19:21. For if a general command bound all persons under this precept, it would be at once a fault for us to possess any thing of this world. But a general direction to all persons in Holy Scripture is one thing, a command specially to the more perfect is another. These then are rightly not bound by the general judgment, who in their conduct have far surpassed even general precepts. For as they are not judged, and yet perish, who, from the persuasion of unbelief, scorn to be bound by the Law; so, they are judged not, and yet reign, who, from the persuasion of godliness, advance even beyond the general precepts of the Divine Law. Hence is it, that Paul, far surpassing even special precepts given him, performed more in deed, than he received by the appointment of permission. For when he had received, that preaching the Gospel he should live of the Gospel, he both communicated the Gospel to his hearers, and yet refused to be maintained at the expense of the Gospel. Why then should he be judged in order to reign, who received a less obligation, but found out a higher mode of life? Let it be said then rightly, He giveth judgment to the poor: because, the more they are despised, by this world, for their great humility, the more do they then rise up, with greater height of power, to the seats which have been assigned them. Whence it also follows;

Ver. 7. He will not withdraw His eyes from the righteous, but establisheth kings on the throne for ever, and there are they exalted.

52. For God is perhaps believed to have withdrawn His eyes from the righteous, because they are here wounded by the injustice of the unrighteous, and are unavenged. But He then more regards His servants, when the iniquity of their persecutor unjustly afflicts them. For, beholding what they here humbly endure, He doubtless even now looks forward to the recompense He is there mercifully to bestow on them. He does not therefore withdraw. His eyes from the righteous. Behold how the one groans in his humility; the other is proud, and flourishes in his wickedness. The one bruises his heart, the other is exalted with pride at his iniquity. Which then of these is far withdrawn from the sight of God, the one who has suffered injustice, or the one who has inflicted it on the sufferers? The one, who has kept hold of Divine grace, amid the gloom of sorrow, or he who, amidst external pleasure, has lost the light of righteousness within?

xxviii. 53. But holy men are properly termed ‘kings,’ in the language of Scripture; because having been raised above all the motions of the flesh, at one time they control the appetite of lust; at another, they moderate the heat of avarice; at one time, they bow down the boastfulness of pride; at another, they crush the suggestion of envy; at another, they extinguish the fire of passion. They are ‘kings’ then, because they have learned not to give way to the motions of their temptations, by consenting to them; but to gain the mastery, by ruling over them. Since, therefore, they pass, from this power of authority, to the power of retribution, let it be rightly said, He establisheth kings on the throne for ever. For they are wearied for a time, by ruling themselves, but they are placed for ever on the throne of the kingdom of eternal elevation; and they there receive the power of justly judging others, just as they are here unskilled in unjustly sparing themselves. For it is hence said in another place; Until righteousness be turned into judgment. Ps. 94:15. Paul says of himself and his fellows; That we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Cor. 5:21. Righteousness, then, is turned into judgment, because they, who now live righteously and blamelessly, then obtain the power of judging others. Hence the Lord says to the Church of Laodicea, To him that hath overcome I will give to sit with Me on My throne, as I have overcome, and have sat with My Father on His throne. Rev. 3:21. The Lord asserts, that He had sat as a conqueror with His Father on His throne, because after the struggles of His passion, after the reward of His resurrection, He pointed out more clearly to all, that He was equal to the Power of the Father, and He made it known that He was not inferior to Him by having trampled under foot the sting of death. Hence He says to Mary, who did not as yet believe that He was like His Father, Touch Me not, for I have not yet ascended to My Father. John 20:17. For, for us to sit on the throne of the Son, is for us to judge with the authority of the Son Himself. For, because we derive, from His virtue, the power of judgment, we sit, as it were, on His throne. Nor is it inconsistent, that He declares, in another place, that His disciples will come on twelve thrones, and that here He says, that they will sit on His throne. For, by twelve thrones is set forth the universal judgment, but by the throne of the Son, the special preeminence of judicial power. One and the same thing then is designated by twelve thrones, and by the single throne of the Son, because, namely, the universal judgment is undertaken, by the intervention of our Mediator. Let it be said then, He establisheth kings on the throne for ever.

54. But by suitably subjoining “for ever,” he suggests, what he plainly means. For if he were speaking of the throne of an earthly kingdom, he would not have added “for ever:” since they who seize hold of that throne, are placed in it, not for ever, but only for a time. But he properly subjoined, And there they are exalted. As if he were suggesting to the mind of his hearer, saying, Because they are here brought low, they are there raised up. For to holy men this is a place of humiliation, as that is to be one of exaltation. Whence it is written in another place, Thou hast humbled them in the place of affliction. Ps. 44:19. For this present life is a place of affliction. They then, who are journeying to their eternal home, now despise themselves in the place of affliction for a time, that they may then be truly exalted in the place of joy. It follows:

Ver. 8, 9. And if they shall be in chains, and bound with the cords of poverty, He will shew them their works, and their wickednesses, because they have been violent.

xxix. 55. The chains of bondage, are the very detention of their present pilgrimage. Paul had seen, that he was bound by these chains, when he was saying, I have a desire to be dissolved, and, to be with Christ. Phil. 1:23. He perceived that he was bound with the cords of poverty, when, beholding the true riches, he entreated them also for his disciples. That ye may know what is the hope of His calling, what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the Saints. Eph. 1:18.

But after this it is rightly added, He will shew them their works, and their wickednesses, because they have been violent. For when, by loving, we learn more of heavenly glory, we then feel the sins we have committed to have been more burdensome. Whence also Paul, after having felt the grace of heavenly things, found that what he had believed to be in him a zeal for virtue, was but wickedness; saying, Who before was a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly, in unbelief. 1 Tim. 1:13. Or certainly, when saying, But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Phil. 3 7. Whence it is also fitly subjoined,

Ver. 10. He will open also their ear, to correct them, and will speak to them that they return from iniquity.

xxx. 56. To ‘open the ear from iniquity,’ is to lay open the understanding of knowledge. But a man is reproved, and his ear opened, when he feels within him a desire after eternal goods, and acknowledges the sins which he has outwardly committed. But temporal punishment can also be understood by the chains and cords of poverty. For they who hear not the words of their Ruler, are frequently warned by the blows of the Smiter; in order that punishments, at least, may lead them onwards to good desires, whom rewards do not invite. Whence it is said by the prophet, Bind with bit and bridle the jaws of those who do not draw near to Thee. Ps. 32:9. But if they despise even scourges, it is plain that they there feel the sufferings of heavier punishments, the more they here trample down the grace of greater consideration. Whence also it follows,

Ver. 11, 12. If they shall hear and observe Him, they shall fulfil their days in good, and their years in glory; but if they shall not hear, they shall pass away by the sword, and shall be consumed with folly.

xxxi. 57. By ‘good,’ is designated right conduct, but by ‘glory,’ heavenly recompense. They, then, who study to obey the Divine commands, fulfil their days in good, and their years in glory. Because they pass the course of this life in right deeds, and perfect their consummation by a blessed retribution. But if they shall not hear, they shall pass away by the sword, and shall be consumed in their folly. For vengeance smites them in tribulation, and the end shuts them up in folly. For there are some, whom not even torments keep back from their abandoned habits. Of whom it is said by the Prophet, Thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved; Thou hast scourged them, and they have refused to receive correction. Jer. 5:3. And of whom it is said under the figure of Babylon, We have cured Babylon, and she is not healed. Jer. 51:9. Of whom it is said again, I have slain and destroyed My people, and yet they have not returned from their ways. Jer. 15:7. These sometimes become worse by the scourge, because, when attacked by pain, they are either more hardened in their contumacious obstinacy, or, what is worse, launch out into even the exasperation of blasphemy. It is well said, then, that they pass away by the sword, and are consumed with folly; for through their scourges, they increase those sins, which they ought, in consequence of them, to correct. And they both feel even here the punishments of the blow, and do not escape there the sufferings of righteous retribution. For it is the infatuation of folly that iniquity so fetters them, that not even punishment keeps them from offending. It follows,

Ver. 13. Hypocrites and crafty men provoke the wrath of God.

xxxii. 58. When mentioning hypocrites, he appropriately subjoins, ‘and crafty.’ For unless they are crafty in wit, they cannot consistently make pretence of that which they wish to appear. For there are certain faults, which are easily perpetrated even by those of duller sense. For any one even of dull understanding is able to swell, for instance, with pride, to be eager with the desires of avarice, and to yield to the assaults of lust. But a person is unable to carry on the falsity of simulation, unless he is one of more subtle wit. For whoever is such, is distracted in truth by constant observation, in watching two points; so as to skilfully learn, both to conceal what he really is, and to make a show of what he is not; to suppress his real faults, and to display unreal goods; not to boast himself openly of that, which he seems to be; and to pretend often to decline glory, in order to obtain the greater glory. For, because he cannot attain it by pursuing it before the eyes of men, he generally studies to secure it by shrinking from it. These things then do not at all suit the simple; for if they do, they are no longer simple.

59. But when mentioning hypocrites and crafty men, he very properly added, not that they deserve, but that they provoke the wrath of God. For to sin even through ignorance, is to deserve the wrath of God. But wilfully to contradict His commands, to know what is good, but to make light of it, to be able and yet unwilling to do good, is to provoke it. For these are darkened within by the commission of iniquity, and are whitened outwardly by their display of righteousness. To whom it is declared by the voice of the Lord, Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which appear to men beautiful without but are within full of dead men’s bones, and all uncleanness. Mat. 23:27, 18. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. They preserve, then, in outward display, that which they assail in their inward conduct. But, by thinking evil within, they increase those sins, which they conceal outwardly, by assuming another character. They cannot therefore now have any excuse, before the strict Judge, from ignorance; because, while they display every kind of sanctity before the eyes of men, they are a witness against themselves, that they are not ignorant how to live aright. Let it be rightly said then, Hypocrites and crafty men provoke the wrath of God. But he adds what befals them at last, saying,

Ver. 13. Neither shall they cry, when they are bound.

xxxiii. 60. Every wicked person, who, though he is wicked, does not seek to appear holy, when smarting under the infliction of the scourge, is not ashamed to confess that he is wicked. But a wicked person, who intercepts the judgments of men by a shew of sanctity, even when he is smitten with the rod, shrinks from exposing his iniquity, because he has been accustomed to appear holy. But if he is ever hard pressed, he scarcely confesses, even superficially, that he is wicked; because he is confounded at disclosing his inward character by sincere confession. But we are, as it were, free, when we are not chastened by any reproofs; but we are ‘bound,’ when we are constrained by the blows of the rod. We cry, then, the more loudly when bound, the more sincerely we confess our sins, when placed beneath the blow. For devout confession is a loud cry in the ears of God. Because then the blows of the rod, even when they chastise hypocrites, do not bring them to honest confession; (for they shrink from being discovered to be sinners, because they were counted holy in the opinion of all men;) though the scourges now smite them to the utmost, though they are aware that they are being led on to eternal punishments, they yet wish to remain the same in the opinion of men, as they had always studied to display themselves. Though smarting, then, even under the blow of the extremest suffering, because they neglect to put forth an honest confession, even when afflicted, they scorn, as it were, to cry out, even when bound. It is well said then, Neither shall they cry, when they are bound.

61. Although it can be understood in another way also. For every one, who, although he is wicked, fears not to be called holy by men, though he blames himself as wicked, in his secret thought, yet when he begins to hear of himself frequently as righteous, loses that which he used to hold of himself within. For he pours forth his heart without; and because he willingly receives a false testimony of himself without, he does not enquire what he should think of himself within. Whence it comes to pass, that he seeks even for the solaces of empty praise, if they are wanting, and that, forgetting what he is, he seeks to appear what he is not. While they who are such, then, pretend to be righteous in the judgment of men, and display their praiseworthy actions to the eyes of beholders, they are dealt with justly in secret so that, the more they endeavour to deceive others, the more are they even themselves deceived as to themselves within. For they lose all eye for anxiously searching into their own state. For they excuse themselves from searching into, and examining their own conduct, but believe themselves to be the persons they are said to be; and they consider themselves to be holy, not because they so live, but because they are so called. But they neglect God’s searching judgment, and to look into themselves; for they rest their belief in their merit on the testimony of another’s mouth. But when they are smitten by a sudden blow, they are unable either to confess that they are wicked, or to discover themselves as they really are: because, namely, they believed themselves to be holy from the profession of men. It is well said, then, Neither shall they cry, when they are bound. For they trust, with vain hope, that they are coming before their heavenly Judge, such as they know they appeared in the sight of men. And the wretched men do not find themselves out, even in the midst of torments; and, while they look for the testimony of untrue praise, they lose the remedy of true confession. They are said even to be bound, and yet to cry not; for, overcome by the importunity of human applause, the wretched men consider themselves holy, even when they are dying in sins. To whom it is well said by the Prophet, Return ye transgressors to your heart. Is. 46:8. For were they to return to their heart, they would pour out themselves in words of outward profession. For what is nearer to us than our heart? What is nearer to us, than that thing which is within us? And yet, when it is distracted with wicked thoughts, our heart wanders far away from us. The prophet then sends the transgressor a long way, when he compels him to return to his heart: for the more he has distracted himself with outward things, the more does he hardly find out the means of returning to himself. But since, because the mind of hypocrites is diverted from the single consideration of eternity, it is ravaged by the inundation of manifold thoughts, it is rightly subjoined,

Ver. 14. Their soul shall die in a tempest.

xxxiv. 62. For they were seeming to live as if in calm, when they were taking care to rejoice in the credit of holiness. But their soul, which used to rejoice in the fatal tranquillity of human praise, dies by a sudden tempest. For most commonly an unexpected tempest suddenly produces a change in all the calm blandishment of the air, and danger cannot be avoided, inasmuch as it could not be foreseen. Whence hypocrites, who neglect to watch over their conduct, are said to die in a tempest. For the sudden whirlwind of an inward shock casts them forth hence, whom the pride of outward applause exalts on high; and, while they embrace in their praise that which they are not, they suddenly find in vengeance what they are. But it is well said by Solomon, As silver is proved in the fining-pot, and gold in the furnace, so is a man proved by the mouth of him that praiseth him. Prov. 17:3. For praise of one’s self tortures the just, but elates the wicked. But while it tortures, it purifies the just; and while it pleases the wicked, it proves them to be reprobate. For these revel in their own praise, because they seek not the glory of their Maker. But they who seek the glory of their Maker, are tortured with their own praise, lest that which is spoken of without, should not exist within them; lest, if that, which is said, really exist, it should be made void in the sight of God by these very honours; lest the praise of men should soften the firmness of their heart, and should lay it low in self-satisfaction; and lest that, which ought to aid them to increase their exertions, should be, even now, the recompense of their labour. But when they see that their own praises tend to the glory of God, they even long for and welcome them. For it is written, They may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. Matt. 5:6. They make themselves, therefore, a path for men to follow, as often as they manifest any thing in themselves, by which God can be recognised; because they seek not to attract the praises of men to themselves, but wish they should pass on, through their means, to the glory of their Maker. But haughty men prostitute their effeminate hearts to human praise, because they are corrupted by self-love. Of whom it is said in another place, Men shall be lovers of their own selves. 2 Tim. 3:2. But of this very corruption of theirs it is here fitly subjoined,

And their life among the effeminate.

xxxv. 63. For, if they were living as men, transitory praise would not infect them with any corruption. Whence the Prophet persuades the Elect, saying, Do manfully; and let your heart be strengthened. Ps. 31:24. For when saying, Do manfully, he immediately subjoined, and let your heart be strengthened. As if he desired to secure the sex of the heart. For the mind of a luxurious man is corrupted, if it is delighted with transitory objects. The life of hypocrites then perishes among the effeminate, because it is found to be corrupted with the luxury of praise. But in another translation, it is not rendered, Their life among the effeminate, but, Let their life be wounded by angels. But though these expressions differ in words, they agree in sense; for angels wound the life of the effeminate, when the messengers of truth assail it with the shafts of holy preaching. Because we have heard then what occurs in the damnation of the reprobates, let us hear what follows, respecting the deliverance of the humble.

Ver. 15. He will deliver the poor from his straitness.

64. The poor is delivered from his straitness, when any humble person is set free from this affliction of his pilgrimage. For he is here oppressed with even continual tribulations, in order that he may be excited to seek for the joy of real consolation. Whence it follows also, And will open his ear in tribulation.

To open the ear in tribulation, is to open the hearing of the heart, by the affliction of blows. For when we despise commands, we are treated with a merciful severity, in order that we may fear the rod. Tribulation then opens the ear of the heart, which this world’s prosperity often closes. For it is said by Solomon, The turning away of the little ones shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them. Prov. 1:32. It follows,

Ver. 16. He will therefore bring thee safely from a narrow opening into a broad place.

xxxvi. 65. Every one who forsakes the way of life, and casts himself down into the darkness of sins, plunges himself, as it were, into a well or pitfall. But if, through long commission he is also so weighed down by a habit of sin, as to be unable to rise upward, he is pent in, as it were, in the narrow opening of a well. Whence David the Prophet entreats in the person of sinners, saying, Let not the tempest of water drown me, neither let the deep swallow me up, and let not the well press its month upon me. Ps. 69:15. For a tempest of water has, as it were, hurried away him, whom the iniquity of evil doing has moved from stability in goodness. But if it has not yet prevailed by long custom, it has not overwhelmed. He has already fallen into a well, who has done that, which the law of God forbids. But if long custom does not yet weigh him down, the well has not contracted its mouth. He escapes therefore with greater ease, the less closely he is pent in by habit. Whence the prophet Jeremiah, when beholding that Judaea had been overwhelmed, through long habit, by iniquities, bewails himself in his lamentations, under her person, and says, My life is fallen into a well, and they have placed a stone over me. Lam. 3:53. For one’s life falls into a pit, when it is defiled with the pollution of iniquity. But a stone is placed over, when the mind is also consumed by sin, through long habit, so that, though willing to rise, it is quite unable to do so, because the weight of evil habit presses on it from above. But because it submits to the power of God, and is brought back to the large room of good deeds, after the confinement of evil habit, it is said, He will bring thee safely from a narrow opening into a broad place. For he is safely brought from a narrow opening into a broad place, who, after having borne the yoke of iniquity, is brought back by penitence to the liberty of good works.

66. For it is, as it were, the narrowness of a confined opening, to wish, and yet to be unable to rise from an overpowering evil habit; to tend, in desire, to things above, but yet still to remain in deed in things below, to advance in heart, but not to follow in act, and to endure one’s self as a kind of self-contradiction within one’s self. But when a soul, proceeding thus, is assisted by the hand of grace to raise it up, it arrives from a narrow opening to a broad place: because, having overcome its difficulties, it performs the good works which it desires. The prophet David had beheld the enclosure of a narrow opening, when he said, Thou hast delivered my soul from necessities, and hast not shut me up into the hands of the enemy. Ps. 31:7, 8. But the found that he had been brought safely into a broad place, when he added, Thou hast set my feet in a large room. ibid. For our feet are firmly placed in a large room, when we journey to those good things which are fitted for us, and are not impeded by any difficulty. For we are proceeding, as it were, through a wide place whither we please, because we are not hard pressed by any difficulties placed in our way.

67. But Eliu would say this rightly, if his opinion were but suitable to blessed Job. For he believed, that he had been scourged for his faults, and therefore decided that he had fallen into a narrow opening. For with the heavier blows he beheld him afflicted, with the more abominable iniquities he believed him to be weighed down; being surely ignorant that his scourges were an increase of his merits, not a punishment for his sin. But when he declares that he had fallen into a narrow opening, he proceeds, as it were, to speak more fully of the profound depth in which Job is plunged: and says,

And which hath no foundation beneath it.

xxxvii. 68. Every sin has no foundation; because it has no subsistence in its own proper nature. For evil has no substance. But that which any how exists, unites with the nature of good. The narrow opening is said, then, to have no foundation beneath it, because the pollution of sin has no power of subsisting by itself. But since foundation is derived from fundum, (bottom,) we may without impropriety understand that ‘foundation’ is put for bottom, as hearing is derived from ear, and yet the ear itself is frequently designated by the word hearing. When speaking then of a narrow opening, he added, as wishing fully to describe the profound abyss, And which hath no foundation (or bottom) beneath it. For the infernal pit swallows up him, whom iniquity hurries away. But the infernal pit is rightly believed not to have a bottom; because every one who is swept away by it, is devoured by the boundless profound. For the Prophet, wishing to describe fully its boundless immensity, says, The infernal pit hath enlarged its soul, and hath opened its mouth without measure. Is. 5:14. As therefore that is said to be enlarged without measure which attracts very many to itself, so it is not improperly believed to be deep, and without a bottom, because it absorbs, as it were, into the boundless abyss of its immensity those, whom it receives into itself. And therefore when saying, He will bring thee safely from a narrow opening into a broad place, he fitly subjoined, And which hath no foundation beneath it. As if he were saying, He will bring thee safely from a narrow opening, which has no bottom under it. For since it is through sin that we tend to the pit, He brings safely from a narrow opening him whom He delivers from sin. But him whom He rescues from the narrow opening, He withdraws from the depths of hell.

69. Though it can also be understood in another sense. For as he who is plunged into a well, is confined in the bottom of it; so would the mind fall in, and remain, as it were, at the bottom, if, after having once fallen, it were to confine itself within any measure of sin. But when it cannot be contented with the sin into which it has fallen, while it is daily plunging into worse offences, it finds, as it were, no bottom to the well into which it has fallen, on which to rest. For there would be a bottom to the well, if there were any bounds to his sin. Whence it is well said in another place, When a sinner hath come into the lowest depth of sins, he contemneth. Prov. 18:3. For he puts by returning, because he has no hope that he can be forgiven. But when he sins still more through despair, he withdraws, as it were, the bottom from the well, so as to find therein no resting place. It follows,

But the rest of thy table shall be full of fatness.

xxxviii. 70. The rest of the table, is the refreshment of inward satiety: which is said to be full of fatness, because it is set forth with the delight of eternal pleasure. The Prophet was hungering after the feasts of this table, when saying, I shall be satisfied, when Thy glory shall be manifested. Ps. 17:15. He was thirsting for the cups of this table, when saying, My soul hath thirsted for the living God; when shall I come and appear before the face of God? Ps. 42:2. Eliu, therefore, wishing to console the temporal sufferings of blessed Job, by an eternal compensation, promises him, as if freely, from himself, that which was justly due to him as his desert, saying, But the rest of thy table shall he full of fatness. It follows,

Ver. 17. But thy cause hath been judged as the cause of the ungodly, thou shalt receive thy cause and judgment.

xxxix. 71. The cause of the good, is righteousness. And their cause is judged, as the cause of the ungodly, because their righteousness is here smitten with fatherly correction, that they may be taught to exercise greater vigilance, not only by the injunction of commands, but by the infliction of blows. But they receive their cause and justice, because from that righteousness, with which, they now live, they hereafter shine forth in the height of judicial power; so that they are then able to judge all things the more powerfully, the more strictly all their conduct is now judged. But these points, which blessed Job ever maintained with stedfast faith, Eliu mentioned, as if he were making some new promise. For haughty men have these peculiarities: they falsely exaggerate what is wrong, and if ever they state that which is good, they bring it forward as something unknown. Whence it comes to pass that they venture to teach those who are wiser than themselves, because, namely, they believe that they alone are acquainted with such subjects. But when they condescend to any words of consolation, they consider that they have been at once degraded, and by the harshness of proud reproof, they reestablish, as it were, their ability; in order that they who seemed to have condescended in soothing speech, may be dreaded when reproof has suddenly sprung up. Whence also Eliu immediately added, saying,

Ver. 18–21. Let not then anger overcome thee, to oppress any one, neither let the multitude of places bow thee down. Lay down thy greatness without tribulation, and all the mighty in strength. Prolong not the night, that people may go up for them. Take heed that thou decline not to iniquity, for thou hast begun to follow this after misery.

xl. 72. In most manuscripts we find ‘gifts;’ in a few, however, but more ancient, we find places.’ But since the expression, Let not the multitude of gifts turn thee aside, needs no explanation, we have thought good that that expression should be rather expounded, which seems to be explained with some slight difficulty. But the pride, which uttered these words, proves of how great haughtiness they are. But, because we have said that Eliu is a type of the arrogant, and blessed Job of the Elect, if we examine them more accurately, we demonstrate how appropriate they are even now to haughty men within the Church. Holy men wonder at the doings of others, even when trifling, but make light of their own doings, even when great. But haughty men, on the other hand, make light of other persons’ doings, even when great, and wonder at their own even when trifling, and generally think well of their own misdeeds, but cease not to think ill of the good qualities of others. For while they seek their own glory, they are mischievously desirous, that whatever virtue is performed by others, should be scarred with the brand of iniquity, and a weighty deed of goodness they pervert into a taint of guilt. For frequently, when they behold the wicked severely punished by the Church, they unjustly make a kind of complaint that the innocent are afflicted, and they miscall the splendour of its discipline by the appellation of iniquity. Whence Eliu, representing the arrogant, as if admonishing Job, says, Let not anger overcome thee, to oppress any one. For whatever is done by Holy Church with the censure of discipline, haughty men consider as an emotion of anger. And because, from their desire of human praise, they are ever anxious to appear kind, they consider that none should be corrected with strictness and severity. Whence also, as was before observed, they consider that those are oppressed, whom they see restrained from sin, against their will, even by righteous rulers.

73. But the Lord having been the cause that Holy Church has grown up with a height of religious power in all parts of the world; they assail, and ascribe to sinful pride this very temporal power, which it exercises rightly. Whence Eliu subjoins, saying, And let not the multitude of places how thee down. As if it were said by the tongue of haughty men to Holy Church herself, preserving her humility more in prosperity. Because thou art every where regarded with the reverence of faith, beware that thou art not elated with the power this reverence bestows. For they behold certain persons, who under the guise of religion, are puffed up with the sin of pride: and the fault which they justly blame in these, they unjustly bring forward as a charge against all. Not at all considering, namely, that there are those within her, who know how to exercise temporal power aright, though yet despising it, and to love and look forward to eternal objects with full desire; who can discharge the high office which has been committed to them, and carefully fulfil their duty of inward humility; so that neither do they neglect all care for the office they have undertaken, on account of their humility; nor, again, does their humility swell into pride by reason of their office. And if there are perhaps some within her, who serve not God, but their own glory, under pretext of religion, yet she endeavours either severely to correct them, if possible; or, if otherwise, to endure them with patience. And she either, in correcting them, embraces them as her children, or, through tolerating, is harassed by them as her enemies. For she knows that the life of the just is wounded by their pride; she knows that whatever sin is committed through the wickedness of such persons is brought forward as a charge against her. But she is the less afraid of bearing the blame of others’ sins, since she is aware that even her Head endured such wrongs as this. For it is written of Him, And He was numbered with the wicked. Is. 53:12. Mark. 15:28. Of Him it is said again, He Himself hath borne our weaknesses, and He Himself hath carried our sorrows. Is. 53:4. Let haughty men then pursue their course, and by their estimate of the wicked, vex the life of the innocent. The Church of the Elect knows how to tolerate the deeds of the one, and the words of the others: and to convert the minds of the wicked by bearing with them. And even though they are not able to be converted, yet she patiently endures their disgrace. For she considers that it tends to secure her a twofold reward, that she is scorned without for the merits of those, by whose life she is wounded even within.

74. But it must be observed that he does not say, Let not the multitude of places elate thee, but, Let not the multitude of places bow thee down. For every one who is raised up in this world, is turned aside by his very exaltation; because when he exalts himself outwardly, he falls within. Eliu, therefore, beholding the fall of a heart in its pride, says, And let not the multitude of places bow thee down. As if it were said to Holy Church, by the voice of haughty men, Take heed, thou art not diverted from thy inward intention, if thou art exalted by the veneration of the whole world. It follows,

Ver. 19. Lay down thy greatness without sorrow, and all the mighty in strength.

xli. 75. Whom else do we understand by the mighty of Holy Church, except those, who both by their lofty attempts, and by successful designs have strength to overcome the desires of this world? Its greatness therefore consists in the life of its mighty ones; because it is then rendered more glorious, when its Elect contend, even to the death, with constant resolution, in defence of the Faith. Haughty men, therefore, when Apostles have been withdrawn from this world, and Martyrs withdrawn also to heavenly places, because they perhaps perceive that more learned and powerful rulers are greatly wanting, suspect that they have remained the only ones within the Church. And hence, while they prefer themselves, they insult, under pretence of advising, her, and say, Lay down thy greatness without sorrow, and all the mighty in strength. As if they said in open reproaches, “Be not confident, that thou possessest greatness, for, since the old fathers have been taken away, thou hast no longer any in whose life thou canst boast.” They say these things in truth, as not knowing that Almighty God does not leave His Church without proper government. For when He summons the strong to their reward, He strengthens, in their place, the weak for the contest: when He rewards, the one by bearing them away, He supplies to the others strength for their labours, for Him to recompense. Of whom it is said to the same Holy Church, Instead of thy fathers, children are born to thee; thou shall make them princes over all the earth. Ps. 45:16. For those who are afterwards preferred, are appointed to supply the virtue of the old fathers, because also when aged trees are felled, tender shoots grow up in the place of their strength. But haughty men believe not that they are strong, whom they knew at one time to be weak: and they disdain to reverence those when changed, whom they remember to have been contemptible.

76. But since they see that the more righteous are few, and the ungodly the largest body therein, just as in threshing the fruits, the quantity of the chaff is greater; they despise even the life of the righteous from their estimate of the wicked. They see in truth that some of its rulers, supported by temporal power, revel in the pride of that power. They see that that reverence for religion, which their fathers preserved to this world by dying, these sweep away, by exulting in worldly joys; and consider that they are mighty, but not with strength. For while they are supported by temporal power, they are strengthened, as it were, by a kind of weakness. For the stronger they are without, the more are they bereft of all the might of strength within. And therefore it is said to her by haughty men, Lay down the mighty in strength. As if it were plainly said, They once clung to thee, truly strong, who maintained, in their lives, that which they taught in words. But now they who are thy rulers, are mighty in appearance, not in strength. For they cease not to set themselves forth as worthy of honour, but are the more weak and contemptible, the more they are afraid that respect for their honour is set aside, in comparison with the truth. Haughty men rightly think thus of most persons, but plunge headlong into the sin of pride, the more they suppose all persons whom they behold above them, to be such. For the evil conduct of the many ought not to lead them to form an opinion of all. For although those whom they know, and decide upon, are wicked; yet some, whom they know not, are holy. For now is the season of threshing, and the grains are, as yet, concealed beneath the chaff. No fruit then will be expected from the threshing floor, if that alone, which is seen on the surface, is supposed to be therein. Because, therefore, they despise those whom they behold, and sneer at those, whom they know, being put in the place of the old fathers, it is fitly subjoined,

Ver. 20. Prolong not the night, that people may go up for them.

xlii. 77. As if the arrogant openly said; Act not so in the darkness of thy ignorance, as to substitute a host of infirm persons in the place of the strong. For by the name ‘people’ are designated those, who, given up to the common practice, live without restraint in all that they desire. But to ‘prolong the night, that people should go up in the place of the strong,’ is, if it is caused by negligence, that the unlearned and weak occupy the place of the learned and strong. People go up in the place of the strong, when they who have learned to live wickedly, obtain the place of pastors. And this would be rightly said, if it were spoken humbly. For haughty men, even when they give good advice, exercise their wicked overbearingness. For, as was before stated, they more desire to smite with reproof, than to cherish with consolation. Whence it is presently subjoined,

Ver. 21. Decline not to iniquity; for thou hast begun to follow this after misery.

Haughty men in truth call this the misery of the Church, because they suspect that its main body is despised by God: and they scorn it with loftier pride, the more they suspect that it is utterly despised by God.

Having given rapidly a figurative exposition of these words, we must now gather their moral meaning; that, having learned the figure of the Church, which we believe to be generally described, we may learn what we may specially gather from these words in each single case. He says therefore,

Ver. 18. Let not, therefore, anger overcome thee, to oppress any one.

xliii. 78. Every one, who is required to correct the vices of others, ought first of all to look carefully into himself; lest, while punishing others’ faults, he himself should be overcome by his zeal for punishment. For furious anger, under the guise of justice, frequently ravages the mind; and while it seems to rage with zeal for righteousness, it gratifies the fury of its wrath, and considers that it justly performs, whatever its anger wickedly dictates. Whence also it frequently transgresses the due limits of punishment, because it is not restrained by the measure of justice. For it is right, that when we correct others’ faults, we should first measure our own; that the mind should first cease to glow with its own warmth, should first control within itself the impulse of its zeal with calm moderation; lest we should sin ourselves, in the correction of sin, if we are hurried on with headlong fury to punish offences, and lest we, who are deciding on, and punishing, a fault, should commit one by punishing it immoderately. For there follows not the correction, but rather the oppression of the delinquent, if, in punishment, our anger extends further than the offence deserves. For, in the correction of faults, anger ought to be under the control of the mind and not its master, so as not to take the lead in the execution of justice, as though imposing a command, but to follow after, as though obeying directions, and to carry out, as if employed, the sentence which has been made known to it, and not go first as if an employer. It is well said therefore, Let not anger overcome thee, to oppress any one. Because, namely, if he, who is endeavouring to correct, is overcome by anger, he oppresses before he corrects. For, whilst he is more inflamed than he ought to be, he rushes unchecked into enormous cruelty, under the pretence of just punishment. And this is frequently the case, for this reason, because the hearts of rulers are too little intent on the love of their Creator alone. For whilst they desire many things in this life, they are distracted with countless thoughts. And when they suddenly discover the faults of their subjects, they are unable to judge them aright, in agreement with God; because they cannot suddenly bring back to the height of severity, their hearts which have been scattered abroad in transitory cares. They therefore discover less readily, when excited, the balance of moderation for the punishment of sins, the less they seek for it in their season of tranquillity. Whence, when Eliu was saying, Let not anger overcome thee to oppress any, in order to express that the causes of injustice and of overpowering anger were the same, he immediately added,

And let not the multitude of places bow thee down.

xliv. 79. We are turned aside into as many places, as are the cares with which we are distracted. For as the space of the body is the place of the body, so is each intention of thought the place of the mind. And if, while it is impelled hither and thither, it is pleasingly occupied with any delightful thought of its own, it is, as it were, put to rest in a certain place. For as often as, overcome by weariness, we are led from thought to thought, we migrate, as it were, with weary mind from place to place. As many thoughts then as spring up and dissipate the unity of good intention, so do as many places bend down the loftiness of the mind. For the mind would stand upright, if it always clung close to that one thought to which it ought. The mind would stand upright, if it did not, by its countless motions, prostrate itself in fluctuating change. But when it now takes up these things, and now passes off to others, it is turned aside, as it were, from its state of uprightness through a multitude of places; and while it extends itself through many things, it detaches itself from that one intention, to which it ought to adhere. But yet this habit of change has become a nature to us ever since the guilt of the first sin. For when the mind endeavours to stand in itself, it is somehow or other drawn away from itself, without knowing it. For the soul of man is diverted by an impulse of disgust, from every object to which it directs its thoughts. But whilst it eagerly seeks for subjects to think upon, and suddenly loathes those it has thought upon, it teaches us, that that which does not continue at rest, wherever placed, depends on something elsewhere. For it does, in truth, depend on Him, by Whom it was created. And because it was made to seek after God alone, and since every thing which it seeks beneath Him, is less than He; that which is not God, justly does not satisfy it. Hence it is that it is scattered hither and thither, and turns away, as we said, under the impulse of loathing, from every object. For being eagerly desirous of satisfaction, it seeks a place wherein to rest; but it has lost that One, Whom it might have had to its satisfaction. Whence it is now led through many objects, that it may be satisfied with their variety at least, since it cannot be satisfied with their quality.

80. But holy men watch themselves with careful observation, so as not to be separated, through changeableness, from the object of their thoughts; and, because they desire to be ever the same, they carefully confine themselves to the thought with which they love God. For, in the contemplation of their Creator, they are about to obtain this, that they enjoy always the same stability of mind. No changeableness then dissipates them; because, namely, their thought ever continues without any difference in itself. They endeavour, therefore, now to imitate that, with labour, which, afterwards, they receive with joy as a gift. To this unchangeable state had the Prophet attached himself by the virtue of love, when saying, One thing I have asked of the Lord, this I will seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord. Ps. 27:4. To this unity Paul had adhered in his intention, when saying, But one thing I do; forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I follow after for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ. Phil. 3:13, 14. For, if there is any human weakness in their hearts, a severe examination speedily checks it, and when their thought wanders as if childishly, they are soon kept in restraint by manly correction. Whence it is, that they collect at once their distracted mind; and fix it, as far as they are able, in one single thought. Because then the position of the mind is bent down by the changeableness of thoughts, it is rightly said by Eliu, Let not the multitude of places turn thee aside.

81. But frequently, while the mind of a righteous man stands firm in the stronghold of its resolution, while it recovers itself from every dispersion of change, and keeps down whatever superfluously arises within; it is smitten by the very glory of its own rectitude, and is raised up with the pride of presuming on itself. For he who performs great deeds, though he may think humbly of himself, yet knows that his doings are great. For, if he knows not that they are great, he doubtless keeps but little watch over them. And while he neglects to watch them, he either makes less progress in them, or loses them altogether. Whilst then it is necessary to know our good deeds, in order to guard them; from the very knowledge of them, a way is opened to our pride, and the hand of sin, by whose ravages they are to be snatched away, is admitted to the heart of him who does them. But it is brought about by a marvellous dispensation, that our Creator suffers a mind which is elated by prosperity, to be smitten with sudden temptation; in order that it may, in infirmity, behold itself more truly, and may descend, already improved, from that haughtiness of pride, which it had assumed from its virtues. Whence it is now rightly subjoined;

Ver. 19. Lay down thy greatness without tribulation, and all the mighty in strength.

xlv. 82. For the motions of the heart are mighty, when they feel only those things which are virtuous. But we lay down our greatness and our mighty motions, when we are compelled, by the assaults of sin, to consider what we are. We lay aside our mighty motions, when we are no longer raised up by our virtue, but when, by consenting to sin, we are fearful of being overwhelmed by that infirmity, with which we are assaulted. For the mind has great confidence in itself, when it sees that its strength is adequate to its wishes. It arrogates at once to itself the assurance of sanctity, and thinks that it is now equal even to all the heights of virtues, which it has conceived in thought only. But when a temptation suddenly arises and pierces it through, it utterly confounds those lofty thoughts, which had sprung up from its virtues. For an unexpected enemy enters, as it were, an unsuspecting city; and the necks of haughty citizens are smitten with a sudden stroke. There is nothing then at that time but continual lamentation, whilst the captured city of the mind is, by means of slaughter, bereft of the glory of its great ones. Whence it is now said, Lay down thy greatness without tribulation, and all who are mighty in strength. As if it were plainly said, Repress all the pride thou hadst conceived within, at thy good deeds, and lay down those mighty motions of the heart, which thou hadst from thy just doings; because thou now considerest, in the assault of adversity, how vainly thou before entertainedst high thoughts of thyself in thy pride. Which greatness, it is said, must be laid aside without tribulation, doubtless, because when humility makes progress through temptation, that very adversity, which secures the mind from pride, is itself prosperous. But yet this is not effected without great tribulation, when the tranquil mind is assailed by the inroads of temptations, as if by a sudden enemy. For, when the adversity of temptation forces itself into the mind, it produces therein a kind of darkness, and confounds, with the gloom of its bitterness, that soul which had long been enlightened, within itself, by the radiant sweetness of its virtues. Whence it is also fitly subjoined;

Ver. 20. Prolong not the night, that people should go up for them.

xlvi. 83. For the night is indeed prolonged, when the sorrow, that springs from temptation, is not ended by the rising up of consolation. The night is protracted, because the sorrow of the mind is prolonged by confused thoughts. For whilst the mind, placed in temptation, considers that it is driven away from the former solidity of its virtue, it is blinded by superinduced sorrows, as by a kind of gloom. And its eye is closed to every ray of joy, whilst it anxiously trembles, lest it should entirely lose that which it had before begun to be. Whence it is also well said, that, in this night, people go up in the place of the strong; because, namely, in this sorrow of temptation, instead of bold emotions, unworthy and manifold thoughts spring up in the heart. For whilst it sees, in this perturbation, that it has already almost lost that which it had been, it heaps up in itself countless waves and tumults. At one time it sorrows that it has lost its tranquillity; at another, it is afraid lest it should fall into evil deeds. At one time it calls to mind on what a height it had stood, at another, it observes in what a depth of vices it is lying, by means of its pleasure. At one time it prepares itself to recover its strength, at another, as though already defeated and crushed, it despairs that it can recover it.

84. When such manifold thoughts then come forth over the convicted mind, people, as it were, rise and press it down in the night. Which people the Prophet had doubtless presumed he could overcome, not by himself, but by the aid of the Divine protection, when he was saying, My Protector, and in Him will I hope, subduing people under me. Ps. 144:2. For people are subjected to holy minds, when foolish thoughts start away from them, at the presence of strict severity; so as not to hurry them through headlong fancies, but, subjected to reason, humbly to cease from the heart. Hence, therefore, the mind which used, in prosperity, to presume greater things of itself, endures, when placed in temptation, the tumults of hope and despair, it is now well said, Prolong not the night, that people should go up for them. As if it were openly said, Disperse at once the darkness of sorrow, when involved in temptation, lest thou, who hadst thought highly of thyself in tranquillity, shouldest overwhelm thyself more fatally in trouble also, with the gloom of thy thoughts. Which Eliu would properly say, if, however, he knew to whom he was saying it. For these sayings are the less suited to blessed Job, the more deeply all things are known by him. But because, as we have often said, haughty men fall even into insulting words of reproaches, while they presume to teach those, whom they ought not, it is added;

Ver. 21. Take heed that thou decline not to iniquity, for thou hast begun to follow this after misery.

xlvii. 85. He follows iniquity after misery, who, after the evils which he endures for his correction, inflames himself, in his glowing heart, with the torches of impatience. Which Eliu believed that blessed Job had done, having heard him speak in bold words, when in the midst of scourges: being ignorant, namely, that every thing which he said, he uttered not from the sin of impatience, but from the virtue of truth, who did not, even when justifying himself, differ from the sentence of the inward Judge. But we must greatly consider how, when saying, Decline not to iniquity, he immediately subjoined of this very iniquity; For thou hast begun to follow this after misery.

86. What is this, that, while he forbids him to decline to it, he condemns him for it, at once, as if he had already declined to it; except that arrogant men wish rather to appear judges, than consolers? Whence also, they sometimes smite, with severe sentences, those faults, which they suspect have arisen in the heart. And, before the fault of the offenders is certain, severe invective of words is brought forward; and a person is struck by their sentence, before any thing appears, to be smitten.

87. Although even just men commonly oppose, by reproof, wicked and secret thoughts; but, when any preceding doings make plain these thoughts, they frequently root out from the hearts of their hearers, by the hand of reproof, those sins which have not shewn themselves. But then they perceive that they are already following from others, which precede. For as physicians of the body discern that some diseases have already appeared, but heal others, that they may not appear; so do holy teachers sometimes restore to health the wounds they have discovered, and sometimes so deal with men’s minds that they are not wounded. In whom we must carefully observe, that as they generally reprove known faults with severity, so do they speak against doubtful thoughts, even with calmness. The undoubted they chastise with blows: the doubtful they ward off by taking precautions. But because arrogant men know not their rule of discrimination, they wound, with the shafts of their sentences, known and unknown, certain and uncertain faults alike. Whence it is now said by Eliu, Take heed that thou decline not to iniquity, for thou hast begun to follow this after misery. But because the remarks which follow are drawn out with longer allegation, we conclude this book with this close, that it may not be too immoderately extended.








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