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The first verses of the first chapter of the Book of Job are explained first

historically, then in an allegorical, and lastly in a moral sense.




1.  There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job.  [Job 1, 1]  It is for this reason that we are told where the holy man dwelt, that the meritoriousness of his virtue might be expressed; for who knows not that Uz is a land of the Gentiles?   and the Gentile world came under the dominion of wickedness, in the same proportion that its eyes were shut to the knowledge of its Creator.   Let us be told then where he dwelt, that this circumstance may be reckoned to his praise, that he was good among bad men; for it is no very great praise to be good in company with the good, but to be good with the bad; for as it is a greater offence not to be good among good men, so it is immeasurably high testimony for any one to have shewn himself good even among the wicked.   Hence it is that the same blessed Job bears witness to himself, saying, I am a brother to dragons, and a companion to owls. [Job 30, 29]  Hence it was that Peter extolled Lot with high commendation, because he found him to be good among a reprobate people; saying, And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked; for he was righteous in seeing and hearing [so Vulg.], dwelling with them who vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds. [2 Pet. 2, 7.8.]  Now he evidently could not have been vexed unless he had both heard and witnessed the wicked deeds of his neighbours, and yet he is called righteous both in seeing and in hearing, because their wicked lives affected the ears and eyes of the Saint not with a pleasant sensation, but with the pain of a blow.  Hence it is that Paul says to his disciples, In the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine like lights in the world. [Phil. 2, 15]  Hence it is said to the Angel of the Church of Pergamos, I know thy works,and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is; and thou holdest fast My name, and hast not denied My faith. [Rev. 2, 13]  Hence the Holy Church is commended by the voice of the Spouse, where He says to her in the Song of love, As the lily among the thorns, so is my love among the daughters. [Cant. 2, 2]  Well then is the blessed Job described, (by the mention of a gentile land,) as having dwelt among the wicked, that according to the testimony borne by the Spouse, be might be shewn to have grown up a lily among thorns, for which reason it is well subjoined immediately after,

And that man was simple [so Vulg.] and upright.   




2.  For there are some in such wise simple as not to know what uprightness is, but these walk wide of the innocence of real simplicity, in proportion as they are far from mounting up to the virtue of uprightness; for while they know not how to take heed to their steps by following uprightness, they can never remain innocent by walking in simplicity.  Hence it is that Paul warns his disciples, and says, But yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil. [Rom. 16, 19]  Hence again he says, Brethren, be not children in understanding, howbeit in malice be ye children. [1 Cor. 14, 20]  Hence Truth enjoins Her disciples by Her own lips, saying, Be ye wise as serpents and harmless as doves. [Mat. 10, 16]  For in giving them admonition, He needfully joined the two together, so that both the simplicity of the dove might be instructed by the craftiness of the serpent, and again the craftiness of the serpent might be attempered by the simplicity of the dove.  Hence it is that the Holy Spirit has manifested His presence to mankind, not in the form of a dove only, but also in the form of fire.  For by the dove simplicity is indicated, and by fire, zeal.  Therefore He is manifested in a dove, and in fire, because all they, who are full of Him, yield themselves to the mildness of simplicity, in such sort as yet to kindle with a zeal of uprightness against the offences of sinners.  It follows,

And one ,that feared God and eschewed evil.   




3.  To fear God is never to pass over any good thing, that ought to be done.  Whence it is said by Solomon, Whoso fears God, neglects nothing [Eccl. 7, 18, (Vulg.) 19.]; but because there are some, who practise some good actions, yet in such wise that they are by no means withheld from certain evil practices; after he is said to have been one that feared God, it is still rightly reported of him that he also eschewed evil; for it is written, Depart from evil, and do good [Ps. 37, 27]; for indeed those good actions are not acceptable to God, which are stained in His sight by the admixture of evil deeds; and hence it is said by Solomon, He who offendeth in one point, spoileth many good deeds [Eccl. 9, 18].  Hence James bears witness, saying, For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. [James 2, 10]  Hence Paul saith, A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump [1 Cor. 5, 6].  So then that it might be shewn us how spotless the blessed Job stood forth in his good actions, it is wisely done that we have it pointed out how far he was removed from evil deeds.   


4.  But it is the custom of narrators, when a wrestling match is woven into the story, first to describe the limbs of the combatants, how broad and strong the chest, how sound, how full their muscles swelled, how the belly below neither clogged by its weight, nor weakened by its shrunken size, that when they have first shewn the limbs to be fit for the combat, they may then at length describe their bold and mighty strokes.  Thus because our athlete was about to combat the devil, the writer of the sacred story, recounting as it were before the exhibition in the arena the spiritual merits in this athlete, describes the members of the soul [mentis], saying, And that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil; that when the powerful setting of the limbs is known, from this very strength we may already prognosticate also the victory to follow.  Next comes, 




5.  Ver.  2.  And there were born unto him seven sons and three daughters.  The heart of the parent is often enticed into avarice by a numerous offspring, for he is the more inflamed with ambition for laying up an inheritance, in proportion as he abounds in the number to inherit it.  In order then that it might be shewn what holiness of mind blessed Job possessed, he is both called righteous, and is said to have been the father of a numerous offspring.  And the same man in the beginning of his book is declared devout in offering sacrifices, and besides he afterwards with his own mouth records himself as ready in giving alms.  Let us then consider with what resolution he shewed himself to be endowed, whom no feelings of affection for so many heirs could ever dispose to be greedy of an inheritance for them.  It proceeds;




5.  Ver.  3.  His substance also was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household.  We know that the greater the loss, the greater the grief with which it affects the mind; to shew then how great was his virtue, we are told that it was very much, that he lost with patience; for never without pain do we part with aught, saving that which we hold without fondness; therefore while the greatness of his substance is described, yet soon after he is reported as resigned to the loss of it; thus parting with it without regret, it is plain that he had kept it without regard.  It is also to be noted that in the first instance the riches of his heart are described, and afterwards the wealth of the body; for an abundant store is wont to make the mind so much the more slack to the fear of God, as it obliges it to be occupied with a diversity of cares; for inasmuch as it is dissipated by a multitude of objects, it is prevented standing fast in that which is within.  Which was pointed out by Truth Itself in setting forth the Parable of the sower; He also that received seed among the thorns, is he that heareth the word, and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. [Matt. 13, 22]  See how the blessed Job is both said to have great possessions, and a little after is related to be devoutly assiduous in the divine sacrifices. 


7.  Let us then consider how great was the holiness of that man who though thus busied disengaged himself for such assiduous attendance upon God.  Nor had the power of that precept as yet shone out, which bids us leave all things; yet blessed Job already kept the intent of it in his heart, in that he surely had left his substance in intention, which he kept without taking delight in it. 


8.  So that this man was the greatest of all the men of the East.  [Job 1, 3]  Who does not know that the men of the East are very wealthy, accordingly ‘he was the greatest of all the men of the East;’ as though it were expressly said that he was even richer than the rich.   


9.  Ver.  4.  And his sons went and feasted in their houses, every one his day; and sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them. 




Greater wealth usually becomes the cause of greater discord between brethren.  O, inestimable praise of a father's training! the father is both declared rich, and the sons at peace together, and while the wealth to be divided among them was there, an undivided affection yet filled the hearts of all.   


10.  Ver.  5.  And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent, and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt-offerings according to the number of them all. 




When it is said, sent and sanctified them, it is openly shewn what strictness he practised with those when present, for whom when absent he was not wanting in concern.  But this circumstance demands our discreet consideration, that, when the days of feasting were past, he has recourse to the purification of a holocaust for each day severally; for the holy man knew that there can scarcely be feasting without offence; he knew that the revelry of feasts must be cleansed away by much purification of sacrifices, and whatever stains the sons had contracted in their own persons at their feasts, the father wiped out by the offering of a sacrifice; for there are certain evils which it is either scarcely possible, or it may be said wholly impossible, to banish from feasting.  Thus almost always voluptuousness is the accompaniment of entertainments; for when the body is relaxed in the delight of refreshment, the heart yields itself to the admission of an empty joy.  Whence it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. [Exod. 32, 6]  


11.  Almost always talkativeness is an attendant upon feasts, and when the belly is replenished, the tongue is unloosed; whence the rich man in hell is well described as thirsting for water, in these words, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame. [Luke 16, 24]  He is first said to have fared sumptuously every lay, and then it is recorded that he craved a drop of water upon his tongue; for as we have said, because at feasts talking is wont to give itself full vent, the fault is indicated by the punishment, in that he, whom the Truth had said fared sumptuously every day, was described as most on fire in his tongue.  They that attune the harmony of stringed instruments arrange it with such exceeding skill, that frequently, when one chord is touched, a very different one, placed with many lying between, is made to vibrate, and when this last is sounded, the former, which is attempered to the same tune [cantu], rings without the others being struck.  According to which Holy Scripture very often so deals with the several virtues, and vices too, that while by express mention it conveys one thing, it does by its silence bring before us another, for nothing is recorded against the rich man relating to talkativeness, but while the punishment is described as in the tongue, we are shewn, which among others was his greatest offence in his feasting.   


12.  But whereas the seven brethren are described as making feasts, each one in his day, and whereas, when the days of feasting were over, Job is related to have offered seven sacrifices; the account plainly indicates that, in offering a sacrifice on the eighth day, the blessed Job was celebrating the mystery of the Resurrection.  For the day, which is now named ‘The Lord's day,’ is the third from the death of our Redeemer, but in the order of creation it is the eighth, which is also the first in the work of creation, but because, on coming round again, it follows the seventh, it is properly reckoned the eighth; whereas then it is said that he offered sacrifices on the eighth day, it is shewn that he was full of the Spirit of sevenfold grace, and served the Lord for the hope of resurrection.  Hence that Psalm is entitled ‘for the Octave,’ wherein joy for the resurrection is proclaimed, but, that the sons of blessed Job had been forearmed by the discipline of such perfect training, that they neither offended by word nor deed at their feasts, is plainly shewn, in that it is subjoined, 




13.  For Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed" God in their hearts.  For he had taught them to be perfect in deed and in word, about whose thought alone the father entertained fears.  Now that we should not judge rashly of other men's hearts, we perceive in the words of this Saint, who does not say, ‘that they have cursed God in their hearts,’ but it may be that they have cursed God in, their hearts.  Whence it is well said by Paul, Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, Who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts; [1 Cor. 4, 5] for whoever deviates from the right line in thought, sins in darkness; we then should be the more backward boldly to condemn the hearts of others, in proportion as we know that we cannot by our own sight throw light into the darkness of another man's thought.  But here [al. this] we should consider with discrimination, with what severity that father was likely [potuit] to correct the deeds of his children, who set himself with so much solicitude to purify their hearts.  What do those rulers of the Faithful say to this, who know nothing even of the very overt acts of their disciples?  What are they thinking of in excuse for themselves, who mind not in those committed to them even the wounds of evil actions?  But that his perseverance too in this holy work may be demonstrated, it is well added, 




14.  Thus did Job all the days; for it is written, But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.  In the sacrifice then, the holiness of his conduct is shewn, and in the entire number of the days of the sacrifice, perseverance in that holy conduct.  These particulars we have gone through cursorily in following out the history.  Now the order of interpretation requires that beginning afresh we should at this point open the secrets of its allegories.   






15.  Ver, 1.  There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job.  We believe from the history that these things took place, but let us here turn to see in what way they were allegorically fulfilled; for, as we have said, Job is interpreted, ‘a mourner,’ and Uz ‘a counsellor.’  Whom else then does the blessed Job express by his name, saving Him, of Whom the Prophet speaks, saying, Surely He hath borne our griefs? [Isa. 53, 4]  He dwells in the land of Uz, in that He rules the hearts of a people of wise counsels; for Paul saith, that Christ is the Wisdom of God and the Power of God [1 Cor. 1, 24]; and this same Wisdom Herself by the lips of Solomon declareth, I Wisdom dwell with Prudence, and am in the midst of witty inventions. [Prov. 8, 12]  So Job is an inhabitant of the land of Uz, because Wisdom, Which underwent the pain of the Passion in our behalf, has made an habitation for Herself in those hearts, which are instinct with the counsels of life.   




16.  And that man was perfect and upright, In uprightness, justice is signified, and in simplicity, mercy [or ‘meekness,’ mansuetudo].  We in following out the straight line of justice, generally leave mercy behind; and in aiming to observe mercy, we deviate from the straight line of justice.  Yet the Incarnate Lord maintained simplicity with uprightness; for He neither in shewing mercy parted with the strictness of Justice, nor again in the exactitude of justice did He part with the virtue of mercifulness.  Hence when certain persons, having brought an adulteress before Him, would have tempted Him, in order that He might step into the fault either of unmercifulness or of injustice, He answered both alternatives by saying, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.[John 8, 7]  He that is without sin among you, gives us the simplicity of mercy, let him first cast a stone at her, gives us the jealous sense of justice.  Whence too the Prophet saith to him, And in Thy Majesty ride prosperously, because of truth, and meekness, and righteousness. [Ps. 45, 4]  For in executing truth, He kept mercy united with justice, so that He neither lost the jealous sense of rectitude in the preponderance of mercy's scale, nor again unsettled the preponderance of mercy by that jealousy of rectitude.   




17.  And one that feared God, and eschewed evil.  It is written of Him, and the Spirit of the fear of the Lord hath filled Him; for the Incarnate Lord shewed forth in His own person whatsoever He hath inspired us withal, that what He delivered by precept, He might recommend by example.  So then according to our human nature our Redeemer feared God, for to redeem proud man, He took for man's sake an humble mind.  And His acting likewise is fitly designated hereby, in that the blessed Job is said to eschew evil.  For He Himself eschewed evil, not evil which He came in contact with in the doing, but which upon meeting with it, He rejected; for He forsook the old life after man's method, which He found at His birth, and He stamped upon the character of His followers that new life, which He brought down with Him.   




18.  Ver.  2.  And there were born to him seven sons and three daughters.  What is conveyed to us in the number of seven, saving the sum of perfection?  for to say nothing of the arguments of human reasoning which maintain that it is therefore perfect, because it consists of the first even number, and of the first uneven; of the first that is capable of division, and of the first which is incapable of it; we know most certainly that holy Scripture is wont to put the number seven for perfection, whence also it tells us that on the seventh day the Lord rested from His works; and it is hence too ,that the seventh day was given to man for a rest; i.e.  for a 'Sabbath.'  Hence it is that the year of jubilee, wherein we have a full rest set forth, is accomplished in seven weeks, being completed by the addition of the unit of our uniting together. 


19.  Thus there were born to him seven sons; namely, the Apostles manfully issuing forth to preach; who in putting in practice the precepts of perfection, as it were maintained in their manner of life the courage of the superior sex.  For hence it is that twelve of them were chosen, who should be replenished with the perfection of the sevenfold grace of the Spirit.  As from the number seven we rise to twelve; for seven multiplied in its component parts is extended to twelve; for whether four be taken by three or three by four, seven is changed into twelve, and hence, forasmuch as the holy Apostles were sent to proclaim the holy Trinity in the four quarters of the globe, they were chosen twelve in number, that by their very number they might set forth that perfection, which they proclaimed both by their lips and in their lives.


20.  And three daughters.  What do we understand by the daughters but the weaker multitudes of the faithful, who, though they never adhere with a virtuous resolution to perfection of life, yet cleave with constancy to the belief of the Trinity which has been taught them.  Thus by ‘the seven sons’ is represented the order of the Preachers, and by ‘the three daughters’ the multitude of the hearers.  By ‘the three daughters’ may also be signified the three orders of the faithful, for after mention of the sons the daughters are named, in that succeeding next to the distinguished courage of the Apostles came three divisions of the faithful, in the state of life in the Church; viz. of Pastors, of those following continence, and of the married.  And hence the prophet Ezekiel declares that he heard three men named that were set free; viz.  Noah, and Daniel, and Job [Ezek. 14, 14f]; for what is signified by Noah who guided the Ark in the waters, but the order or rulers, who, while they govern the people for the fashioning of their lives, are the directors of holy Church amidst the waves of temptation?  What is represented by Daniel, whose marvellous abstinence we have described to us, but the life of the continent, who, while they give up every thing that is of the world, rule with elevated mind over Babylon which lies beneath them?  What is signified by Job but the life of the good that are married, who, while they do deeds of mercy by the good things of the world which they possess, do as it were advance to their heavenly country by the paths of earth?  Therefore because after the holy Apostles there came these three divisions of the faithful, after the sons rightly follows the mention of the three daughters that were born to him.  It proceeds:

Ver. 3.  His substance also was three thousand sheep and three thousand camels.




21. That believing hearers have been gathered from various manners of 1ife, a truth which is first declared generally by the mention of the daughters, the same is afterwards brought before us in detail by the specification of the animals.  For what does he set forth in the seven thousand sheep, but some men's perfect innocency, which comes from the pastures of the Law to the perfect estate of grace?  what again is signified by the three thousand camels, but the crooked defectiveness of the Gentiles coming to the fulness of faith.  Now in Holy Scripture, sometimes the Lord Himself is expressed by the title of a camel, and sometimes the Gentile people.  For the Lord is signified by the name of a camel, as when it is said by that very Lord to the Jews that set themselves against Him, who strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. [Mat. 23, 24]  For a gnat wounds while it whispers, but a camel of free will bends to receive its load.  Thus the Jews strained at a gnat, in that they sought that a seditious robber should be let go, but they swallowed a camel, in that Him, Who had come down of His own accord to take upon Him the burthens of our mortal nature, they strove to overwhelm by their clamours.  Again, the Gentile state is signified by the naming of a camel; and hence Rebecca on going to Isaac is brought on a camel's back, in that the Church, which hastens from the Gentile state to Christ, is found in the crooked and defective behaviour of the old life; and she, when she saw Isaac, descended, in that when the Gentile world knew the Lord, it abandoned its sins, and descending from the height of self-elation sought the lowly walks of humility; and she too in bashfulness covers herself with a veil, in that she is confounded in His presence for her past life.  And hence it is said by the Apostle to these same Gentiles, What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? [Rom. 6, 21]  Whereas then by the sheep we understand the Hebrews coming to the faith from the pastures of the Law, nothing hinders but that we understand by the camels the Gentile people, crooked in their ways and laden with idolatrous ceremonials.  For because they devised them gods of their own selves whom they should worship, there had grown up as it were out of themselves a load upon their back which they should carry. 


22.  Furthermore in that they are common animals, it is possible that by camels is represented the life of the Samaritans.  For camels chew the cud, but do not divide the hoof.  So likewise the Samaritans do as it were chew the cud, in that they receive in part the words of the Law, but do not divide the hoof as it were, forasmuch as they despise it in part.  And they bear a grievous burthen upon the mind's pack, in that they weary themselves in whatsoever they do without any hope of eternity.  For they are strangers to faith in the Resurrection, and what can be more grievous or more burthensome than to endure the tribulation of this passing state of existence, and yet never, for relief of mind, to look forward to the joy of our reward; but forasmuch as the Lord, when He appeared in the flesh, both filled the Hebrew people with the grace of perfection, and brought some of the Samaritans to the knowledge of the faith by shewing marvellous works, it might well be said of the shadow which was to express the reality, that he possessed both seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels.  It goes on;

And five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses




23.  We have said above that by the number fifty, which is completed by seven weeks and the addition of an unit, rest is signified, and by the number ‘ten’ the sum of perfection is set forth.  Now forasmuch as the perfection of rest is promised to the faithful, by multiplying fifty ten times,  we in this, way arrive at five hundred.  But in sacred Writ, the title of ‘oxen’ sometimes represents the dulness of the foolish sort, and sometimes the life of well doers.  For because the stupidity of the fool is represented by the title of an ox, Solomon says rightly, he goeth after her straightway, as an ox goeth to the slaughter. [Prov. 7, 22]  Again, that the life of every labourer is forth by the title of oxen, the Precepts of the Law are a testimony, which enjoined through Moses; Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn. [Deut. 25, 4]  And this again is declared in plain words; the labourer is worthy of his hire.  [Luke 10, 7]  By the title of asses, too, we have represented sometimes the inertness of fools, sometimes the unrestrained indulgence of the wanton, sometimes the simplemindedness of the Gentiles; for the inertness of fools is imaged by the designation of asses, as where it is said through Moses, Thou shalt not plough with an ox and an ass together. [Deut. 22, 10]  As though he said, ‘do not associate fools and wise men together in preaching, lest by means of him who has no power to accomplish the work, you hinder him who has abundant power.’  The unrestrained indulgence of the wanton is likewise set forth by the appellation of asses, as the prophet testifies, where he says, whose flesh is as the flesh if asses. [Ezek. 23, 20]  Again, by the title of asses is shewn the simplicity of the Gentiles.  Hence when the Lord went up toward Jerusalem, He is related to have sat upon a young ass, for what is it for Him to come to Jerusalem sitting upon an ass, except taking possession of the simple hearts of the Gentiles to conduct them to the vision of peace, by ruling and ordering them?  And this is shewn by one passage, and that a very easy one; in that both the workmen of Judaea are represented by oxen, and the Gentile peoples by an ass, when it is said by the Prophet, The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib. [Isa. 1, 3]  For who appears as the ox, saving the Jewish people, whose neck was worn by the yoke of the Law?  and who was the ass but the Gentile world, which was found like a brute animal of every deceiver, and was overlaid with whatever deceit he pleased, without resisting by any exercise of reason?  Thus the ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib, in that both the Hebrews found out the God Whom they worshipped but as yet knew Him not, and the Gentile world received the food of the Law, which it had none of.  That therefore which is spoken above in the designation of the sheep and of the camels, is here repeated below in the oxen and the asses.


24.  Now even before the coming of the Redeemer Judaea possessed oxen, in that she sent out labourers to preach, to whom it is said by the voice of Truth, Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. [Mat. 23, 15]  These were weighed down with the heavy yoke of the Law, because they were burthened with the ordinances of the external letter, to whom it is spoken by the voice of Truth, Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.  Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart. [Mat. 11, 28. 29.]  That in the Gospel, therefore, rest is promised to those that labour well, is the same thing as that five hundred yoke of oxen are made mention of in this place; for whereunto does their way lead, who submit their necks to the dominion of our Redeemer, excepting to rest?  And hence we are told of five hundred she asses, forasmuch as the Gentile folk that are called, so long as they desire to attain to rest, gladly bear all the burthens of the commandments; and hence, that this rest should be sought of the Gentiles, Jacob in addressing his sons did mean to signify by the voice of prophecy, saying, Issachar is a strong ass, crouching down between the boundaries [Vulg. Terminus, E.V. burthens]: And he saw that rest was good, and the land that it was pleasant, and bowed the shoulder to bear. [Gen. 49, 14. 15.]  For to crouch down between the boundaries is to rest forestalling the end of the world, and to seek nought of those things, which are now going forward amongst men, but to long after the things that shall be at the last; and the strong ass sees the rest and the pleasant land, when the simple Gentile world lifts itself up to the strong effort of good works, and that because it is on its way to the land of life eternal; and it bows the shoulder to bear, in that having beheld the rest above, it submits itself in doing its work even to severe precepts, and whatever littleness of mind represents as hard to bear, the hope of the reward makes this appear to it light and easy.  So because both Judaea and the Gentile world are gathered to eternal rest as a portion of the elect, he is rightly related to have possessed five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses.  The account goes on;

And a very great household.




25.  What means it that the number of the animals is first described, while the household is not mentioned till the end, but that the foolish things of the world are first gathered in to the knowledge of the faith, that afterwards the crafty things of the world may also be called?  as Paul bears witness, who says; For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many noble, not many mighty are called; But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. [1 Cor. 1, 26. 27.]  For the first beginnings [principia] of holy Church are reputed to have been without knowledge of letters, plainly for this reason, that in His preachers the Redeemer might manifest to all, that it was not their discourse, but their cause, which had influence with the numbers [populos] that believed unto life.  It proceeds;

So that this man was the greatest of all the men if the East.




26.  That our Redeemer is styled The East is declared by the testimony of the Prophet, where he says, And lo! the Man whose name is The East. [Zech. 6, 12  Vulg. Orients, E.V. the Branch]  And thus all that live in this Orient by faith, are rightly called men of the East.  Now because all men are only men, whereas ‘The East’ Himself is both God and Man, it is rightly said, He was the greatest of all the men of the East.  As though it were said in plain words, He surpassed all those that are born to God in faith.  Because it is not by adoption, as others are, but by the Divine Nature that He is exalted, Who though He appeared like to others in His human Nature, yet in His Divine Nature continued above all men without fellow. 

Ver.4.  And his sons went and feasted in their houses.




27.  The sons went to feast at their houses, when the Apostles as preachers, in the different regions of the world, served the banquet of virtue to hearers as it were to eaters.  And hence it is said to those very sons concerning the hungering multitude, Give ye them to eat. [Mat. 14, 16]  And again; And I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint by the way [Mat. 15, 32]; that is, let them by your preaching receive the word of consolation, that they may not by continuing to fast to the food of truth, sink under the labours of this life.  Hence again it is said to the same sons, Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life. [John 6, 27]  And how these feasts were set forth is added, whereas it is forthwith subjoined,

Everyone in his day.




28.  If without any doubt the darkness of ignorance is the night of the soul, the understanding is not improperly styled the day.  And hence Paul says, One man esteemeth one day above another; another esteemeth every day alike.  [Rom. 14, 5]  As, if he had said in plain words; ‘One man understands some things so as that some are left out, and another acquaints himself with all things that are possible to be understood, in such sort as they may be seen.  Thus each son sets forth a feast in his day, in that every holy preacher, according to the measure of the enlightening of his understanding, feeds the minds of his hearers with the entertainments of Truth.  Paul made a feast in his own day, when he said, But she is happier if she so abide according to my judgment. [1 Cor. 7, 40]  He bade each to take account of his own day; when he said, Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. [Rom. 14, 5]  It goes on;

And sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them.




29.  The sons call their sisters to the feast, in that the holy Apostles proclaim to hearers that are weak the joys of the refreshment above, and inasmuch as they see their souls to be starved of the food of truth, they feed them with the feast of God's Word.  And it is well said, to eat and to drink with them.  For holy Scripture is sometimes meat to us, and sometimes drink.  It is meat in the harder parts, in that it is in a certain sense broken in pieces by being explained, and swallowed after chewing; and it is drink in the plainer parts, in that it is imbibed just as it is found.  The Prophet discerned holy Scripture to be meat, which was to be broken in pieces in the explaining, when he said, The young children ask, and no man breaketh it unto them [Lam. 4, 4], i.e. the weak ones sought that the stronger declarations of holy Scripture might be crumbled for them by explanation, but he could no where be found who should have explained them.  The Prophet saw that holy Writ was drink, when he said, Ho, everyone that thirsteth come ye to the waters. [Isa. 55, 1]  Had not the plain commandments been drink, Truth would never have cried out with His own lips; If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink. [John 5, 37]  The Prophet saw that there was, as it were, a lack of meat and drink in Judaea, when he declared, And their honourable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst. Isa. 5, 13]  For it belongs to the few to attain a knowledge of the mighty and hidden meanings, but to the multitude it is given to understand the plain sense of the history.  And therefore he declares that the honourable men of Judaea had perished not by thirst, but hunger, in that those who seemed to stand first, by giving themselves wholly to the outward sense, had not wherewithal to feed themselves from the inward parts by sifting their meaning, but forasmuch as when loftier minds fall away from the inward sense, the understanding of the little ones even in the outward meaning is dried up; it is rightly added in this place, And the multitude dried up with thirst.  As if he said in plainer words, ‘whereas the common sort give over taking pains in their own lives, they now no longer seek even the streams of history.’  And they bear witness that they understood both the deep and the plain things contained in divine Writ, who in complaining to the Judge that rejects them, say, We have eaten and drunk in Thy presence [Luke 13, 26]; and this they subjoin in plain terms by explaining it; And thou hast taught in our streets.  Therefore because the sacred oracles are broken in the more obscure parts, by the explanation thereof, but in the plainer parts are drunk in just as they are found, it may be truly said, And they sent and called for their three sisters, to eat and to drink with them.  As though it were said in plain terms, they drew every weak one to themselves by the mildness of their persuasions, that both by setting forward great truths contemplatively, they might feed their minds, and by delivering little things historically, they might give them nourishment.  The account proceeds:

Ver.  5.  And it was so, when the days of their feasting [V. thus] were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all.




30.  ‘The days of feasting are gone,’ when the ministrations of preaching are brought to an end; and when the feasts were ended, Job offered an holocaust for his sons, in that our Redeemer besought the Father in behalf of the Apostles, when they returned from preaching.  Now it is rightly said, that he ‘sent and sanctified,’ in that when He bestowed the Holy Spirit Which proceeds from Himself, upon the hearts of His disciples, He cleansed them from whatsoever might be in them of offence, and it is rightly delivered that he rose up early to offer sacrifices; forasmuch as through this His offering up the prayer of His Intercessions in our behalf, he dispelled the night of error, and illumined the darkness of man's mind; that the soul might not be polluted in secret by any defilements of sin contracted from the very grace of preaching; that it might never attribute to itself aught that it does; that it might not, by attributing them to itself, lose all the things it had done.  Hence it is well added,

For Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and blessed God in their hearts.




31.  For this blessing God, which means cursing, is the taking glory to one's self from a gift of His hand.  Hence the Lord did well to wash the feet of the holy Apostles after their preaching, doubtless with this view, that He might shew plainly, both that very frequently in doing good the dust of sin is contracted, and that the steps of the speakers are often defiled by the same means whereby the hearts of their hearers are purified.  For it often happens that some in giving words of exhortation, however poorly, are inwardly lifted up, because they are the channel, by which the grace of purification comes down; and while by the word they wash away the deeds of other men, they as it were contract the dust of an ill thought from a good course.  What then was it to wash the disciples' feet after their preaching, but after the gloriousness of preaching to wipe off the dust of our thoughts, and to cleanse the heart's goings from inward pride?  Nor does it hinder the universal knowledge which our Mediator has, that it is said, It may be; for knowing all things, but in His mode of speech taking upon Him our ignorance, and, in taking the same, giving us a lesson, He sometimes speaks as it were with our doubts; as where He says, Nevertheless, when the Son of Man cometh shall He find faith on the earth? [Luke 18, 8]  When the feasting then was over, Job offered a sacrifice for his sons, saying, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their heart; in that our Saviour, after He had cleansed His preachers from the evils that beset them even in the midst of the good things which they had done, kept them from temptations.  It goes on,

Thus did Job continually. 




32.  Job does not cease ‘to offer sacrifice continually,’ in that our Redeemer offers a holocaust for us without ceasing, Who without intermission exhibits to the Father His Incarnation in our behalf.  For His very Incarnation is itself the offering for our purification, and while He shews Himself as Man, He is the Intercession that washes out man's misdeeds, and in the mystery of His Humanity He offers a perpetual Sacrifice, even because those things too are eternal which He purifies.




33.  Now because in the very opening of our exposition we so made the Lord to be set forth in the person of blessed Job, that we said that both the Head and the Body, i.e. both Christ and His Church, were represented by him; therefore since we have shewn how our Head may be taken to be represented, let us now point out, how His Body, which we are, is set forth; that as we have heard from the history somewhat to admire, and learnt from the Head somewhat to believe, we may now deduce from the Body somewhat to maintain in our lives.  For we should transform within ourselves that we read, that when the mind is moved by hearing, the life may concur to the execution of that which it has heard. 

There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job.




34.  If ‘Job’ signifies ‘grieving’ and ‘Uz’ ‘a Counsellor,' every elect person is not improperly represented by either name; in that be certainly abides in a mind of wise counsel, who hastens grieving from things present to things eternal.  For there are some that take no heed to their life, and whilst they are seeking transitory objects, and either do not understand those that are eternal, or understanding despise them, they neither feel grief nor know how to entertain counsel, and when they are taking no account of the things above which they have lost, they think, unhappy wretches, that they are in the midst of good things.  For these never raise the eyes of their mind to the light of truth which they were created for, they never bend the keenness of desire to the contemplation of their eternal country, but forsaking themselves amidst those things in which they are cast away, instead of their country they love the exile which is their lot, and rejoice in the darkness which they undergo as if in the brightness of the light.  But, on the contrary, when the minds of the elect perceive that all things transitory are nought, they seek out which be the things for which they were created, and whereas nothing suffices to the satisfying them out of God, thought itself, being wearied in them by the effort of the search, finds rest in the hope and contemplation of its Creator, longs to have a place among the citizens above; and each one of them, while yet in the body an inhabitant of the world, in mind already soars beyond the world, bewails the weariness of exile which he endures, and with the ceaseless incitements of love urges himself on to the country on high.  When then he sees grieving how that that which he lost is eternal, he finds the salutary counsel, to look down upon this temporal scene which he is passing through, and the more the knowledge of that counsel increases, which bids him forsake perishable things, the more is grief augmented that he cannot yet attain to lasting objects.  Hence Solomon well says, He that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow [Eccles. 1, 18]; for he that already knows the high state which he does not as yet enjoy, is the more grieved for the low condition, in which he is yet held.


35.  Job therefore is well said to dwell in the land of Uz, in that the mind of every elect person is kept going grieving in the counsels of knowledge.  We must also observe what absence of grief of mind there is in precipitancy of action.  For they that live without counsel, who give themselves over precipitately to the issue of events, are meanwhile harassed by no grief of reflection.  For he that discreetly settles his mind in the counsels of life, heedfully takes account of himself, exercising circumspection in his every doing, and lest from that which he is doing a sudden and adverse issue should seize him, he first feels at it, gently applying to it the foot of reflection; he takes thought that fear may not withhold him from those things which ought to be done, nor precipitance hurry him into those which ought to be deferred; that evil things may not get the better of him through his desires by an open assault, nor good things work his downfall insidiously by vain glory.  Thus Job dwells in the land of Uz, in that the more the mind of the elect strives to live by following counsel, so much the more is it worn with the grief of so narrow a way.  It goes on;

And that man sincere [simplex, E.V. perfect] and upright, one that feared God, and eschewed evil.




36.  Whoso longs for the eternal country, lives without doubt sincere and upright; I mean, perfect in practice, and right in faith, sincere in the good that he does in this lower state, right in the high truths which he minds in his inner self.  For there are some who in the good actions that they do are not sincere, whereas they look to them not for a reward within but to win favour without.  Hence it is well said by a certain wise man, Woe to the sinner that goeth two ways [Ecclus. 2, 12]; for the sinner goes two ways, when at the same time that what he sets forth in deed is of God, what he aims at in thought is of the world.


37.  Now it is well said, one that feared God and eschewed evil; in that the holy Church of the elect enters indeed upon its paths of simplicity and of uprightness in [al. from] fear, but finishes them in charity, and it is hers then entirely ‘to depart from evil,’ when she has begun now from the love of God to feel unwillingness to sin.  But whilst she still does good deeds from fear, she has not entirely departed from evil; because she sins even herein, that she would sin if she could have done it without punishment.  So then when Job is said to fear God, it is rightly related that he also ‘departs from evil,’ in that whereas charity follows upon fear, that offence which is left behind in the mind is even trodden under foot in the purpose of the heart.  And forasmuch as each particular vice is stifled by fear, whilst the several virtues spring from charity, it is rightly added,

And there were born unto him seven sons and three daughters.




38.  For there are seven sons born to us, when by the conception of good intent the seven virtues of the holy Spirit spring up in us.  Thus the Prophet particularizes this inward offspring, when the Spirit renders the mind fruitful, in these words; And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and piety, and the spirit of the fear of the Lord shall fill him. [Isa. 11, 2]  So when by the coming of the Holy Spirit there is engendered in each of us, ‘wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, piety, and the fear of the Lord,’ something like a lasting posterity is begotten in the mind, which preserves the stock of our nobility that is above unto life, for so much the longer as it allies it with the love of eternity.  Yet surely the seven sons have in us three sisters, forasmuch as all that manly work which these virtuous affections [virtutum sensus] do, they unite with faith, hope, and charity.  For the seven sons never attain the perfection of the number ten, unless all that they do be done in faith, hope, and charity.  But because this store of antecedent virtues is followed by a manifold concern for good works, it is rightly added,

Ver.3.  His substance also was seven thousand sheep and three thousand camels.




39.  For, saving the historical truth, we are at liberty to follow in a spiritual way that which our ears receive in a carnal shape.  Thus we possess seven thousand sheep, when we feed the innocent thoughts within our breast, in a perfect purity of heart, with the food of truth which we have sought after.


40.  And we shall have three thousand camels likewise in our possession, if all that is high and crooked in us be subdued to the order [rationi] of faith, and when of our own free will, and in our longing after humility, it is made to bow down itself under a knowledge of the Trinity.  For we possess camels, whensoever we put down in humility all the high notions that we entertain.  Surely we are in possession of camels, when we bend our thoughts to sympathy with a brother's weakness, that bearing our burthens by turns, we may by lowering ourselves thereto know how to compassionate the weakness of another man.  By camels, too, which do not cleave the hoof, but chew the cud, may be understood the good stewardships of earthly things, which, in that they have something of the world, and something of God, must needs be represented by a common animal.  For though earthly stewardship may be subservient to our eternal welfare, yet we cannot acquit ourselves of it without inward disquietude.  Therefore because both at the present time the mind is disturbed thereby, and also a reward laid up for ever, like a common animal, it both has something of the Law, and something it has not.  For it does not cleave the hoof, in that the soul does not wholly sever itself from all earthly doings, but yet it ruminates, in that by the right dispensation of temporal things, it gains a hope of heavenly blessings with an assured confidence.  Thus earthly stewardships agree with the law in the head, disagree therewith in the foot; forasmuch as while the objects which they desire to obtain by living righteously are of heaven, the concerns with which they are busied by their performances are of this world.  When then we submit these earthly stewardships to the knowledge of the Trinity, we have camels in possession, as it were, by faith.  The account goes on;

And five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses.




41.  There are yokes of oxen for us in our possession, when the virtues in harmony plough up the hardness of our mind.  We also possess five hundred she asses, when we restrain wanton inclinations, and when whatever of a carnal nature seeks to rise up in us, we curb in the spiritual mastery of the heart.  Or indeed to possess she asses is to govern the simple thoughts within us, which, while they have no power to run in a more refined intelligence, by how much more lowly they walk, bear with so much the more meekness their brother's burthens.  For there are some who not understanding deep things constrain themselves the more humbly to the outward works of duty.  Well then do we understand the simple thoughts by she asses, which are an animal slow indeed, yet devoted to carrying burthens, in that very often when made acquainted with our own ignorance, we bear the more lightly the burthens of others; and whereas we are not elevated as by any special height of wisdom, our mind bends itself in patience to submit to the dulness of another's soul.  Now it is well done, whether it be the yokes of oxen or the she asses, that they are mentioned as five hundred, in that, whether in the case that through prudence we are wise, or in the case that we remain in humble ignorance, so long as we are in search of the rest of eternal peace, we are as it were kept within the number of the Jubilee.  It goes on;

And a very great household,




42.  We possess a very great household, when we restrain our host of thoughts under the mastery of the mind, that they may not by their very number get the better of the soul, nor in disordered array tread under the authority which belongs to our faculty of discernment.  And the multitude of our thoughts is well marked out by the designation of a very great household.  For we know that when the mistress is away the tongues of the handmaids wax clamorous, that they cease from silence, neglect the duties of their allotted task, and disarrange the whole ordered method of their life.  But if the mistress suddenly appear, in a moment their noisy tongues are still, they renew the duties of their several tasks, and return to their own work as though they had never left it.  Thus if reason for a moment leave the house of the mind, as if the mistress were absent, the den of our thoughts redoubles itself, like a bevy of talkative maids.  But so soon as reason has returned to the mind, the confused tumult quiets itself at once, and the maids as it were betake themselves in silence to the task enjoined, whilst the thoughts forthwith submit themselves to their appropriate occasions for usefulness.  We possess, then, a great household, when with righteous authority we rule our innumerable thoughts by a discerning use of reason; and assuredly when we do this wisely, we are aiming to unite ourselves to the Angels by that very exercise of discernment: and hence it is rightly subjoined;

So that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east.




43.  For we are then rendered great amongst all them of the east, when the cloud of carnal corruption being kept down by the rays of our discernment, we are, as far as the possibility of the thing admits, made the associates of those Spirits, which abide in the eastern light: and hence Paul says, Our conversation is in heaven [Phil. 3, 20].  For he that follows after temporal things, which are subject to decay, seeks the west [occasum], but whoso fixes his desires upon things above, proves that he dwells in the east.  He then is great not among them of the west but among them of the east, who aims to excel not amid wicked men's scenes of action, who seek low and fleeting things, but amongst the choirs of the citizens above.  It proceeds;

Ver. 4.  And his sons went and feasted in their houses, every one his day.




44.  ‘The sons feast in their houses,’ when the several virtues feed the mind after their proper sort; and it is well said, Everyone his day, for each son's day is the shining of each virtue.  Briefly to unfold then these same gifts of sevenfold grace, wisdom has one day, understanding another day, counsel another, fortitude another, knowledge another, piety another, fear another, for it is not the same thing to be wise that it is to understand; for many indeed are wise [sapiunt] in the things of eternity, but cannot in any sort understand them.  Wisdom therefore gives a feast in its day in that it refreshes the mind with the hope and assurance of eternal things. Understanding spreads a feast in its day, forasmuch as, in that it penetrates the truths heard, refreshing the heart, it lights up its darkness.  Counsel gives a feast in its day, in that while it stays us from acting precipitately, it makes the mind to be full of reason.  Fortitude gives a feast in its day, in that whereas it has no fear of adversity, it sets the viands of confidence before the alarmed soul.  Knowledge prepares a feast in her day, in that in the mind's belly, she overcomes the emptiness of ignorance.  Piety sets forth a feast in its day, in that it satisfies the bowels of the heart with deeds of mercy.  Fear makes a feast in its day, in that whereas it keeps down the mind, that it may not pride itself in the present things, it strengthens it with the meat of hope for the future.


45.  But I see that this point requires searching into in this feasting of the sons, viz. that by turns they feed one another.  For each particular virtue is to the last degree destitute, unless one virtue lends its support to another.  For wisdom is less worth if it lacks understanding, and understanding is wholly useless if it be not based upon wisdom, in that whilst it penetrates the higher mysteries without the counterpoise of wisdom, its own lightness is only lifting it up to meet with the heavier fall.  Counsel is worthless, when the strength of fortitude is lacking thereto, since what it finds out by turning the thing over, from want of strength it never carries on so far as to the perfecting in deed; and fortitude is very much broken down, if it be not supported by counsel, since the greater the power which it perceives itself to have, so much the more miserably does this virtue rush headlong into ruin, without the governance of reason.  Knowledge is nought if it hath not its use for piety; for whereas it neglects to put in practice the good that it knows, it binds itself the more closely to the Judgment: and piety is very useless, if it lacks the discernment of knowledge, in that while there is no knowledge to enlighten it, it knows not the way to shew mercy.  And assuredly unless it has these virtues with it, fear itself rises up to the doing of no good action, forasmuch as while it is agitated about every thing, its own alarms renders it inactive and void of all good works.  Since then by reciprocal ministrations virtue is refreshed by virtue, it is truly said that the sons feast with one another by turns; and as one aids to relieve another, it is as if the numerous offspring to be fed were to prepare a banquet each his day.  It follows;

And sent and called for their three sisters, to eat and to drink with them.




46.  When our virtues invite faith, hope, and charity into every thing they do, they do, as sons employed in labour, call their three sisters to a feast; that faith, hope, and charity may rejoice in the good work, which each virtue provides; and they as it were gain strength from that meat, whilst they are rendered more confident by good works, and whereas after meat they long to imbibe the dew of contemplation, they are as it were from the cup inebriated.


47.  But what is there that we do, in this life, without some stain of defilement, howsoever slight?  For sometimes by the very good things we do we draw near to the worse part, since while they beget much in the mind, they at the same time engender a certain security, and when the mind enjoys security, it unlooses itself in sloth; and sometimes they defile us with some self-elation, and set us so much the lower with God, as they make us bigger in our own eyes.  Hence it is well added,

Ver.  5.  And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them.




47.  For, when the round of the days of feasting is gone about, to send to his sons and to sanctify them, is after the perception [sensum] of the virtues to direct the inward intention, and to purify all that we do with the exact sifting of a reexamination, lest things be counted good which are evil, or at least such as are truly good be thought enough when they are imperfect.  For thus it very often happens that the mind is taken in, so that it is deceived either in the quality of what is evil or the quantity of what is good.  But these senses of the virtues are much better ascertained by prayers than by examinings.  For the things which we endeavour to search out more completely in ourselves, we oftener obtain a true insight into by praying than by investigating.  For when the mind is lifted up on high by the kind of machine of compunction, all that may have been presented to it concerning itself, it surveys the more surely by passing judgment upon it beneath its feet.  Hence it is well subjoined,

And rose up early in the morning and offered burnt offerings, according to the number of them all. 




48.  For we rise up early in the morning, when being penetrated with the light of compunction we leave the night of our human state, and open the eyes of the mind to the beams of the true light, and we offer a burnt offering for each son, when we offer up the sacrifice of prayer for each virtue, lest wisdom may uplift; or understanding, while it runs nimbly, deviate from the right path; or counsel, while it multiplies itself, grow into confusion; that fortitude, while it gives confidence, may not lead to precipitation, lest knowledge, while it knows and yet has no love, may swell the mind; lest piety, while it bends itself out of the right line, may become distorted; and lest fear, while it is unduly alarmed, may plunge one into the pit of despair.  When then we pour out our prayers to the Lord in behalf of each several virtue, that it be free from alloy, what else do we but according to the number of our sons offer a burnt offering [holocaustum] for each?  for an holocaust is rendered ‘the whole burnt.’ Therefore to pay a ' holocaust' is to light up the whole soul with the fire of compunction, that the heart may burn on the altar of love, and consume the defilements of our thoughts, like the sins of our own offspring,


49.  But none know how to do this saving those, who, before their thoughts proceed to deeds, restrain with anxious circumspection the inward motions of their hearts.  None know how to do this saving they who have learnt to fortify their soul with a manly guard.  Hence Ishbosheth is rightly said to have perished by a sudden death, whom holy Scripture at the same time testifies to have had not a man for his doorkeeper but a woman, in these words; And the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, Rechab and Baanah, went and came about the heat of the day to the house of Ishbosheth, who lay on a bed at noon; and they came thither into the midst of the house:, and the portress of the house was fallen asleep, winnowing wheat.  And they came privily into the house fetching ears of wheat, and they smote him in the groin. [2 Sam. 4, 5-7. Vulg.]  The portress winnows the wheat, when the wardkeeping of the mind distinguishes and separates the virtues from the vices; but if she falls asleep, she lets in conspirators to her master's destruction, in that when the cautiousness of discernment is at an end, a way is set open for evil spirits to slay the soul.  They enter in and carry off the ears, in that they at once bear off the germs of good thoughts; and they smite in the groin, in that they cut off the virtue of the soul by the delights of the flesh.  For to smite in the groin is to pierce the life of the mind with the delights of the flesh.  But this Ishbosheth would never have perished by such a death, if he had not set a woman at the entrance to his house, i.e. set an easy guard at the way of access to the mind.  For a strong and manly activity should be set over the doors of the heart, such as is never surprised by sleep of neglect, and never deceived by the errors of ignorance; and hence he is rightly named Ishbosheth, who is exposed by a female guard to the swords of his enemies, for Ishbosheth is rendered ‘a man of confusion.’  And he is ‘a man of confusion,’ who is not provided with a strong guard over his mind, in that while he reckons himself to be practising virtues, vices stealing in kill him [al. ‘kill his soul’] unawares.  The entrance to the mind then must be fortified with the whole sum of virtue, lest at any time enemies with insidious intent penetrate into it by the opening of heedless thought.  Hence Solomon says, Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life [Prov. 4, 23].  It is meet then that we form a most careful estimate of the virtues that we practise, beginning with the original intent, lest the acts which they put forth, even though they be right, may proceed from a bad origin: and hence it is rightly subjoined in this place;

For Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.




50.  Our sons curse God in their hearts, when our righteous deeds proceed from unrighteous thoughts; when they put forth good things in public, but in secret devise mischief.  Thus they curse God, when our minds reckon that they get from themselves that which they are.  They curse God when they can understand that it is from Him that they have received their powers, and yet seek their own praise for His gifts.  But be it known that our old enemy proceeds against our good actions in three ways, with this view, namely, that the thing which is done aright before the eyes of men, may be spoiled in the sight of the Judge within.  For sometimes in a good work he pollutes the intention, that all that follows in the doing may come forth impure and unclean, because it is hereby made to rise troubled from its source.  But sometimes he has no power to spoil the intention of a good deed, but he presents himself in the action itself as it were in the pathway; that whereas the person goes forth the more secure in the purpose of his heart, evil being secretly there laid, he may as it were be slain from ambush.  And sometimes he neither corrupts the intention, nor overthrows it in the way, but he ensnares the good deed at the end of the action; and in proportion as he feigns himself to have gone further off, whether from the house of the heart or from the path of the deed, with the greater craftiness he watches to catch the end of the good action; and the more he has put a man off his guard by seeming to retire, so much the more incurably does he at times pierce him with an unexpected wound.


51.  For he defiles the intention in a good work, in that when he sees men's hearts ready to be deceived, he presents to their ambition the breath of passing applause, that wherein they do aright, they may swerve by crookedness in the intention to make the lowest things their aim; and hence under the image of Judaea, it is well said by the Prophet of every soul that is caught in the snare of mal-intention, Her adversaries are the chief [Lament. 1, 5].  As though it were said in plain words, ‘when a good work is taken in hand with no good intent, the spirits that are against us have dominion over her from the commencement of the conception, and the more completely possess themselves of her, even that they hold her under their power by the very beginning.'


52.  But when they are unable to corrupt the intention, they conceal snares which they set in the way, that the heart, lifting itself up in that which is done well, may be impelled from one side to do evil; so that what at the outset it had set before itself in one way, it may go through in act far otherwise than it had begun.  For often whilst human praise falls to the lot of a good deed, it alters the mind of the doer, and though not sought after, yet when offered it pleases; and whereas the mind of the well-doer is melted by the delight thereof, it is set loose from all vigorousness of the inward intention.  Often when our sense of justice has begun to act aright, anger joins it from the side; and whereas it troubles the mind out of measure, by the quickness of our sense of uprightness, it wounds all the healthiness of our inward tranquillity.  It often happens that sadness, attaching itself from the side, as it were, becomes the attendant of seriousness of mind, and that every deed which the mind commences with a good intention, this quality overcasts with a veil of sadness, and we are sometimes the slower in driving it away even in that it waits as it were in solemn attendance on the depressed mind.  Often immoderate joy attaches itself to a good deed, and while it calls upon the mind for more mirth than is meet, it discards all the weight of gravity from our good action.  For because the Psalmist had seen that even those that set out well are met by snares on the way, being filled with the prophetic spirit, he rightly delivered it; In this way that I walked they hid it snare for me [Ps. 142, 3].  Which Jeremiah well and subtilly insinuates, who, while busied with telling of outward events, points out what things were done inwardly in ourselves, There came certain from Shechem, from Shiloh, and from Samaria, even fourscore men, having their beards shaven, and their clothes rent, and having cut themselves, with offerings and incense in their hand, to bring them to the house of the Lord.  And Ishmael the son of Nethaniah went forth from Mizpah to meet them, weeping all along as he went; and it came to pass, as he met them, he said unto them, Come unto Gedaliah the son of Ahikam.  And it was so, when they came into the midst of the city, that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah slew them. [Jer. 41, 5-7]  For those shave their beard, who remove from them confidence in their own powers.  They rend their clothes, that spare not themselves in tearing in pieces outward appearance.  They come to offer up in the house of the Lord frankincense and gifts, who engage to set forth prayer in union with works in sacrifice to God.  But if in the very path of holy devotion they skill not to keep a wary eye on every side, Ishmael the son of Nethaniah goes forth to meet them; in that assuredly every evil spirit, after the example of its chief, even Satan, begotten in the erring principle of pride, presents itself as a snare to deceive, And it is likewise well said concerning him; weeping all along as he went; forasmuch as in order that he may cut off devout souls by smiting them, he hides himself as it were under the guise of virtue, and whereas he feigns to agree with those that really mourn, being thus with greater security admitted to the interior of the heart, he destroys whatsoever of virtue is there hidden within.  And most often he engages to guide to higher things; and hence he is related to have said, Come unto Gedaliah the son of Ahikam; and while he promises greater things he robs us even of the very little that we have; and hence it is rightly said, And it was so, when they came into the midst of the city, that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah slew them.  So then he slays in the midst of the city the men that are come to offer gifts to God, in that those souls which are devoted to works of God, unless they watch over themselves with great circumspection, lose their life on the very way, through the enemy intercepting them unawares, as they go bearing the sacrifice of devotion; and from the hands of this enemy there is no escape, unless they speedily hasten back to repentance.  Hence it is fitly added there, But ten men were found among them, that said unto Ishmael, Slay us not for we have treasures in the field, of wheat, of barley, and of oil, and of honey.  So he slew them not. [Jer. 41, 8]  For the treasure in the field is hope in repentance, which, in that it is not discernible, is kept buried closely in the earth of the heart.  They then that had treasures in the field were saved, in that they who after the fault of their unwariness return to the lamentation of repentance, do not likewise perish when taken captive


53.  But when our old adversary neither deals a blow at the outset of the intention, nor intercepts us in the path of the execution, he sets the more mischievous snares at the end, which he so much the more wickedly besets, as he sees that it is all that is left to him to make a prey of.  Now the Prophet had seen these snares set at the end of his course, when he said, They will mark my heel. [Ps. 56, 6]  For because the end of the body is in the heel, what is signified thereby but the end of an action?  Whether then it be evil spirits, or all wicked men that follow in the steps of their pride, they ‘mark the heel’ when they aim at spoiling the end of a good action; and hence it is said to that serpent, it shall mark thy head, and thou shalt mark his heel. [Gen. 3, 15. Vulg. thus]  For to mark the serpent's head is to keep an eye upon the beginnings of his suggestions, and with the hand of needful consideration wholly to eradicate them from the avenues of the heart; yet when he is caught at the commencement, he busies himself to smite the heel, in that though he does not strike the intention with his suggestion at the first, he strives to ensnare at the end.  Now if the heart be once corrupted in the intention, the middle and the end of the action that follows is held in secure possession by the cunning adversary, since he sees that that whole tree bears fruit to himself, which he has poisoned at the root with his baleful tooth.  Therefore because we have to watch with the greatest care, that the mind even in the service of good works be not polluted by a wicked intention, it is rightly said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.  As if it were said in plain words, that is no good work which is performed outwardly, unless the sacrifice of innocency be inwardly offered for it upon the altar of the heart in the presence of God.  The stream of our work then is to be looked through, all we can, if it flows out pure from the well-spring of thought.  With all care must the eye of the heart be guarded from the dust of wickedness, lest that which in action it shews upright to man, be within set awry by the fault of a crooked intention.


54.  We must take heed, then, that our good works be not too few, take heed too that they be not unexamined, lest by doing too few works we be found barren, or by leaving them unexamined we be found foolish; for each several virtue is not really such, if it be not blended with other virtues; and hence it is well said to Moses, Take unto thee sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum, of good scent, with pure frankincense; of each shall there be a like weight.  And thou shalt make it a perfume, a confection after the art of the apothecary, well tempered together, and pure. [Exod. 30, 34. 35.]  For we make a perfume compounded of spices, when we yield a smell upon the altar of good works with the multitude of our virtues; and this is ‘tempered together and pure,’ in that the more we join virtue to virtue, the purer is the incense of good works we set forth.  Hence it is well added, And thou shalt beat them all very small, and put of it before the Tabernacle of the Testimony.  We ‘beat all the spices very small,’ when we pound our good deeds as it were in the mortar of the heart, by an inward sifting, and go over them minutely, to see if they be really and truly good: and thus to reduce the spices to a powder, is to rub fine our virtues by consideration, and to call them back to the utmost exactitude of a secret reviewal; and observe that it is said of that powder, and thou shalt put of it before the Tabernacle of the Testimony: for this reason, in that our good works are then truly pleasing in the sight of our Judge, when the mind bruises them small by a more particular reexamination, and as it were makes a powder of the spices, that the good that is done be not coarse [grossum] and hard, lest if the close hand of reexamination do not bruise it fine, it scatter not from itself the more refined odour.  For it is hence that the virtue of the Spouse is commended by the voice of the Bridegroom, where it is said, Who is this, that cometh out of the wilderness like a rod of smoke of the perfume of myrrh and frankincense, with all powders of the merchant? [Cant. 3, 6]  For holy Church rises up like a rod of smoke from spices, in that by the virtues of her life she duly advances to the uprightness of inward incense, nor lets herself run out into dissipated thought, but restrains herself in the recesses of the heart in the rod of severity: and while she never ceases to reconsider and go over anew the things that she does, she has in the deed myrrh and frankincense, but in the thought she has powder.  Hence it is that it is said again to Moses of those who offer a victim, And he shall flay the burnt offering, and cut it into his pieces. [Lev. 1, 6]  For we strip the skin of the victim, when we remove from the eyes of the mind the overcast of virtue; and we ‘cut it in his pieces,’ when we minutely dissect its interior, and contemplate it piecemeal.  We must therefore be careful, that when we overcome our evil habits, we are not overthrown by our good ones running riot, lest they chance to run out loosely, lest being unheeded they be taken captive, lest from error they forsake the path, lest broken down by weariness they lose the meed of past labours.  For the mind ought in all things to keep a wary eye about it, aye and in this very forethought of circumspection to be persevering; and hence it is rightly added,

Thus did Job all the days.




55.  For vain is the good that we do, if it be given over before the end of life, in that it is vain too for him to run fast, who fails before he reaches the goal.  For it is hence that it is said of the reprobate, Woe unto you that have lost patience. [Ecclus. 2, 14]  Hence Truth says to His elect, Ye are they that have continued with life in My temptations [Luke 22, 28].  Hence Joseph, who is described to have remained righteous among his brethren until the very end, is the only one related to have had ‘a coat reaching to the ancles.’ [Gen. 37, 23. Vulg.]  For what is a coat that reaches to the ancles but action finished?  For it is as if the extended coat covered the ancle of the body, when well doing covers us in God's sight even to the end of life.  Hence it is that it is enjoined by Moses to offer upon the altar the tail of the sacrifice, namely, that every good action that we begin we may also complete with perseverance to the end.  Therefore what is begun well is to be done every day, that whereas evil is driven away by our opposition, the very victory that goodness gains may be held fast in the hand of constancy.


56.  These things then we have delivered under a threefold sense, that by setting a variety of viands before the delicate [fastidienti] sense of the soul, we may offer it something to choose by preference.  But this we most earnestly entreat, that he that lifts up his mind to the spiritual signification, do not desist from his reverence for the history.