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He explains the remainder of chap. iii. from ver. 20. the whole of chap. iv.

and the first two verses of chap. v. 




1.  THOUGH the appointments of God are very much hidden from sight, why it is that in this life it is sometimes ill with the good and well with the wicked, yet they are then still more mysterious when it both goes well with the good here below, and ill with the wicked.   For when it goes ill with the good, and well with the bad, this perhaps is found to be for that both the good, if they have done wrong in any thing, receive punishment here that they may be more completely freed from eternal damnation, and the wicked meet here with the good things, which conduce to this life, that they may he dragged to unmitigated torments hereafter.   And hence these words are spoken to the rich man, when burning in hell, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things.  [Luke 16, 25]  But when it is well with the good here and ill with the wicked, it is very doubtfu1, whether the good for this reason receive good things, that they may be set forward and advance to something better, or whether by a just and secret appointment they receive here the reward of their deeds, that they may prove void of the rewards of the life to come; and whether afflictions for this reason come upon the wicked, in order that by correcting, they may be the means of preserving them from everlasting punishments, or whether their punishment only begins here, that, one day to receive completion, it should lead to the final torments of hell.  Therefore, because in the midst of the divine appointments the human mind is closed in by the great darkness of its uncertainty, holy men, when they see this world's prosperity to be their lot, are disquieted with fearful misgivings.  For they fear lest they should receive here the fruits of their labours.  They fear lest Divine Justice should see in them a secret wound, and in loading them with external blessings should withhold them from the interior.  But when they exactly consider, that they never do good saving that they may please God only, nor triumph in the very exuberance of their prosperity, then indeed they less fear hidden judgments to their hurt in their good fortune, yet they ill endure that good fortune, in that it impedes the interior purpose of the heart, and they reluctantly submit to the caresses of this present life, forasmuch as they are not ignorant that they are in some degree retarded thereby in their interior longing.  For honour in this world is more engrossing than the contempt thereof, and the rise of prosperity weighs upon them more than the pressure of a hard necessity.  For sometimes when a man is outwardly straitened by the latter, he is the more entirely set at liberty to fix his desire upon the interior good; but by the other the mind, while forced to yield to the will of many, is kept back from the race of its own desire.  And hence it is that holy men are in greater dread of prosperity in this world than of adversity.  For they know that while the mind is under soft and beguiling impressions, it is sometimes apt to give itself up to be drawn away after external objects.  They know that oftentimes the secret thought of the heart so beguiles it, that it does not see how it is changed.  And they consider too, what the eternal blessings are which they desire, and they see what a mere nothing all is that courts and smiles upon us after the manner of things temporal, and their mind bears the worse all the prosperity of this world, in proportion as it is pierced with love of heavenly happiness; and it is planted so much the more erect in contempt of the delightfulness of the present life, the more it perceives that this is beguiling it by stealth in the disregard of eternal glory.  Hence when blessed Job, having his eye fixed upon the rest above, had said, The small and great are there; and the servant is free from his master.  He therefore adds,

Ver. 20.  Wherefore is light given to one that is in misery?




2.  In holy Scripture prosperity is sometimes represented by the title of light, and this world's adversity by the name of night.  Hence it is well said by the Psalmist, As is its darkness, so also is its light. [Ps 139, 12. Vulg.] For as holy men thus trample upon the prosperity of this state by contemning it, as also they sustain its adverse fortune by trampling upon it, by an exceeding highmindedness laying under their feet alike the good and the ill of the world, they declare, As its darkness, so also is its light.  As though they said in plain words, ‘as its griefs do not force down the resoluteness of our fixed mind, so neither can its caresses corrupt the same.’  But since these last, as we have said above, though they fail to lift up the mind of the righteous, do yet cause them disquietude; holy men, who know themselves to be in misery in this wearisome exile, shrink from shining in its prosperity.  Hence it is well said at this time, Wherefore is light given to one that is in misery?  for ‘light is given to those in misery,’ when they, who, by contemplating things above, see themselves to be in misery in this our pilgrimage, have the brightness of transitory prosperity bestowed upon them; and when they are deploring grievously, that they are slow in returning to their country, they are over and above constrained to bear the burthen of honours.  The love of eternal things is crushing them, and at the same time the glory of temporal things smiles upon them.  When these reflect what the things are, which keep them down below, and what those are that they see not of the things above, what those are that set them up on earth, and what they have lost of heavenly blessings, they are stung with regret of their prosperity.  For though they see that they are never wholly overwhelmed thereby, yet they anxiously consider that their thoughts are divided between the love of God, and the gifts of His hand; and hence when he says, Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery?  he subjoins forthwith,

And life unto the bitter in soul?




3.  For all the Elect are bitter in soul, in that either they never cease to punish themselves by weeping for the transgressions they have committed, or they afflict themselves with regrets, that banished here far from the face of their Creator, they are not yet admitted to the bliss of the eternal country; and of their hearts it is well said by Solomon, The heart knoweth its own bitterness, and a stranger shall not intermeddle with his joy.  For the hearts of the reprobate are likewise in bitterness, for that they are afflicted even by their very bad passions themselves.  Yet they know not of this very bitterness, because having voluntarily blinded their own eyes, they cannot estimate what they are undergoing; but on the contrary the heart of a good man knoweth its own bitterness, for it knows the hard condition of this place of exile, wherein it is cast forth to be torn in pieces; and it sees how tranquil is all that it has lost, how troubled the condition it has fallen into.  Yet this embittered heart is one day brought back to its own joy, and a stranger shall not intermeddle therewith, in that he, who now casts himself forth without, away from this sorrow of the heart, in his aims, will then remain shut out from its interior festival.


4.  They then that are in bitterness of soul, long to be wholly dead to the world, that, as they themselves aim at nothing in this present world, so they may not henceforth be fettered by the world with any ties; and it very often happens that a person has already ceased to retain the world in his affections, but the world still ties down that person by its business, and he indeed is already dead to the world, but the world is not yet dead to him.  For in a certain sense the world, still alive, regards [D. ‘desires him’ (as below)] him, so long as it strives to carry him away in its actions, when he is bent another way.   Hence, since Paul both himself utterly contemned the world, and saw that he was become such an one as this world could not possibly desire, having burst the bonds of this life, and being henceforth at liberty, he rightly exclaims, The world is crucified to me, and I unto the world.  For ‘the world was crucified to him,’ because being now dead to his affections it was no longer an object of love to him; and he had likewise ‘crucified himself to the world,’ in that he studied to shew himself thereto in such a light, that, as though dead, he might never be coveted by it.  For if there be a dead person, and one alive in the same place, though the dead sees not the living, yet the living person does see the dead, but if both are dead, neither can possibly see the other.  Thus he, who no longer loves the world, but yet even against his will is loved by the world, though he himself being as it were dead sees nothing of the world, yet the world not being dead sees him; but if he neither himself retains the world in his affections, nor again is retained in the affections of the world, then both are mutually dead to one another; in that whereas neither seeks the other, it is as if the dead heeded not the dead.  Therefore, because Paul neither sought the glory of the world, nor was himself sought out by the same, he glories both in being himself crucified to the world, and in the world being crucified to him.  Now because there are many that desire this, who yet do not altogether rise up to the very extreme point of such a state of deadness, they may well lament and say; Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery, and life unto the bitter in soul.  For ‘life is given to those in bitterness,’ when the glory of this world is bestowed upon the sad and sorrowful, in which same life they do not spare themselves the chastening of most urgent fear; for though they do not themselves hold to the world, yet they still dread being such as the world holds to; and except they were living to it in some slight degree, it would never surely love them for their serviceableness to its interests; just as the sea keeps living bodies in her own bosom, but dead ones she forthwith casts out from herself.  It proceeds;

Ver. 21.  Which long for death, but it cometh not.




5.  For they desire to mortify themselves wholly, and to be entirely extinct of the life of temporal glory, but by the secret appointments of God they are often forced either to take the lead in command, or to busy themselves with dignities imposed on them, and in these circumstances they unceasingly look for a perfect mortification, but this expected death cometh not; in that the use of them is still alive to temporal glory even against their will, though they submit to that glory from the fear of God, and while they inwardly retain their aim after piety, they outwardly discharge the functions of their station, that they should neither quit their perfection in their inward purpose, nor set themselves against the dispensations of their Creator in a spirit of pride.  For by a marvellous pitifulness of the Divine Nature it comes to pass, that, when he, who aims at contemplation with a perfect heart, is busied with human affairs, his perfect mind at once profits many that are weaker, and in whatever degree he sees himself to be imperfect, he rises therefrom more perfect to the crowning point of humility.  For sometimes by the very same means, whereby holy men suffer loss in their own longings, they bear off the larger profits by the conversion of others, for, while it is not permitted them to give themselves thereto as they desire, it is their grateful office to carry off along with themselves others, whom they are associated with.  And so it is effected by a wonderful dispensation of pity, that by the same means, whereby they seem to themselves to be the more undone [destructiores], they rise with richer resources to the building up [constructionem] of their heavenly Country.


6.  Now sometimes they fail to attain the desires, that they have conceived, for this reason, that by the very interposing of the delay, they may be made to expand to the same objects with an enlarged embrace of the mind, and by a striking dispensation it is effected that that, which if fulfilled might perhaps become thin and poor, being kept back, gains growth.  For they desire so to mortify themselves that, if it may be vouchsafed, they may already perfectly behold the face of their Creator, but their desire is delayed that it may gain increase, and it is fostered in the bosom of its slow advancement that it may grow larger.  Hence the Bride, panting with desire of her Bridegroom, justly cries out, By night on my bed I sought him, whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not. [Cant. 3, 1]  The Spouse hides himself when He is sought, that not being found He may be sought for with the more ardent affection, and she in seeking is withheld, that she cannot find Him, in order that being rendered of larger capacity by the delay she undergoes, she may one day find a thousandfold what she sought.  Hence when blessed Job said, Which long for death, but it cometh not; that he might the more minutely particularize this very desire of those seekers, he thereupon adds;

And dig for it as for hid treasures.




7.  For all men that seek for a treasure by digging, the deeper they have begun to go, kindle to the work with the greater energy; for in the same proportion that they reckon themselves to be now, at this moment, approaching the buried treasure, they strive with increased efforts in digging for it.  They, then, that perfectly desire the mortification of themselves, seek it as they that dig for hid treasures, for the nearer they are brought to their object, the more ardent they shew themselves in the work.  Therefore they never flag in their labour, but increase the more in the exercise thereof; for that in the degree, that they reckon on their reward as now nearer at hand, they spend themselves the more gladly in the work.  Hence Paul says well to some, that were seeking the hid treasure of the eternal inheritance, Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some is; but consoling [V. consolantes] one another, and so much the more as ye see the day approaching. [Heb. 10, 25]  For to give consolation to the labourer, is to continue labouring in like manner to him, the sight of a fellow labourer being the alleviation of our own labour, as, when a companion joins us in a journey, the way itself is not shortened, yet the toilsomeness of the way is alleviated by the society of a companion.  Therefore, whereas Paul looked for their consoling one another in their labours, he added these words, and so much the more as ye see the day approaching.  As though he said, ‘let your labour increase the more, that now the reward of your labour itself is nigh at hand.’  As if he expressed himself in plain words, ‘Do ye seek a treasure?  Then ye should dig for it with the greater ardour, that ye have by digging reached by this time close to the gold ye were in quest of.’


8.  Though this, that he says, Which long for death and it cometh not; and dig for it as for hid treasures, may be taken in another sense also.  For in that we cannot perfectly die to the world, unless we bury ourselves within the invisible depths of our own heart from all things visible, they that long for the mortifying of themselves, are well compared to those that dig for a treasure.  For we die to the world by means of an unseen wisdom, of which it is said by Solomon, If thou seekest her as silver, and diggest for her as for hid treasures. [Prov. 2, 4]  Since wisdom lieth not on the surface of things, for it is deep in the unseen.  And we then lay hold on the mortification of ourselves, in attaining wisdom, if, relinquishing visible things, we bury ourselves in the invisible; if we so seek for her in the digging of the heart, that every imagination, which the mind conceives, of an earthly nature, she puts from her with the hand of holy discernment, and acquaints herself with the treasure of virtue which was hidden from her.  For she soon finds a treasure in herself, if she thrust from her that heap of earthly thoughts, which lay as a wretched load upon her.  Now because he describes death coveted as a treasure, he rightly subjoins;

Ver. 22.  Which rejoice exceedingly and are glad, when they can find the grave.




9.  For as the grave is that place wherein the body is buried, so heavenly contemplation is a kind of spiritual grave wherein the soul is buried.  For in a certain sense we still live to this world, when in spirit we roam abroad therein.  But we are buried in the grave as dead, when being mortified in things without, we secrete ourselves in the depths of interior contemplation.  And therefore holy men never cease to mortify themselves with the sword of the sacred Word to the importunate calls of earthly desires, to the throng of unprofitable cares, and to the din of obstreperous tumults, and they bury themselves within before God's presence in the bosom of the mind.  Hence it is well said by the Psalmist, And Thou shalt hide them in the secret of Thy presence from the strife of tongues. [Ps. 31, 20]  Which though it be not until afterwards fully brought to pass, is yet even now in a great measure accomplished, when with the feeling of delight they are caught away into the inward parts from the strife of temporal desires, so that, whilst their mind wholly expands in every part to the love of God, it is not rent and torn by any useless anxiety.  Hence it is that Paul had seen those disciples as dead, and as it were buried in the grave by contemplation, to whom he said, Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. [Col. 3, 3]  He, then, that seeks for death rejoices when he finds the grave; for whoso desires to mortify himself, is exceeding joyful on finding the rest of contemplation; that being dead to the world he may lie hid, and bury himself in the bosom of interior love from all the disquietudes of external things.


10.  But since in addition to this, that he speaks of a treasure being dug up, the finding of a grave is further introduced, it is needful that our mind's eye should keep this in view, that the ancients buried their dead with their wealth.  He, then, that seeks for a treasure, ‘rejoices when he has found the grave,’ in that when we, in quest of wisdom, turn the pages of Holy Writ, when we trace out the examples of those that have gone before us, we as it were derive joy from the grave, for we find the mind's wealth among the dead, who, because they [several Mss. ‘for they who.’] are perfectly dead to this world, rest in secret with their riches beside them.  And so he is made rich by the grave, who, following the example of the righteous, is raised up in the excellency of contemplation.  But when he asks, saying, Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery? he intimates the reason for which he ventures to put such a question, by saying,

Ver. 23.  Why is light given to a man whose way is hid, and whom God hath encompassed with darkness?




11.  For ‘man's way is hid to him,’ in that though he already takes cognizance of the kind [qualitate] of life that he is leading, he does not yet know to what issue it tends.  Though his affections are now fixed on things above, though he seeks them with all his longings, he is yet ignorant whether he shall persevere in the same longings.  For forsaking our sins we strive after righteousness, and we know whence we are come, but we know nothing whereunto we may arrive.  We know what we were yesterday, but we cannot tell what we may chance to be to-morrow.  ‘Man's way then is hid to him,’ in that he so sets the foot of his labour, that, this notwithstanding, he can never foresee the issue of the accomplishment thereof.


12.  Now there is also another ‘hiding of our way.’  For there are times when we are ignorant, whether the very things which we believe we do aright, are rightly done in the strict Judge's eye.  For, as we have also said a long way above, it often happens that an action of ours, which is cause for our condemnation, passes with us for the aggrandizement of virtue.  Often by the same act, whereby we think to appease the Judge, He is urged to anger, when favourable.  As Solomon bears witness, saying, There is a way which seemeth right unto a man; but the end thereof are the ways of death. [Prov. 14, 12]  Hence, whilst holy men are getting the mastery over their evil habits, their very good practices even become an object of dread to them, lest, when they desire to do a good action, they be decoyed by a semblance of the thing, lest the baleful canker of corruption lurk under the fair appearance of a goodly colour.  For they know that they are still charged with the burthen of corruption, and cannot exactly discern the things that be good.  And when they bring before their eyes the standard of the final Judgment, there are times when they fear the very things which they approve in themselves; and indeed they are in mind wholly intent on the concerns of the interior, yet alarmed from uncertainty about their doings, they know not whither they are going.  Hence after he had said, Wherefore is light given to one that is in misery?  it is with propriety added, to a man whose way is hid?  As though the words were, ‘Why has that man this life's success for his portion, who knows not of his course of conduct, in what esteem it is held by his Judge.  And it is rightly subjoined, And whom God hath encompassed with darkness.  For man is ‘encompassed with darkness,’ since howsoever he may burn with heavenly longings, he is ignorant how it goes with him in the interior.  And he is in great fear lest aught concerning himself should meet him in the Judgment, which is now hidden from himself in the aspirations of holy fervour.  ‘Man is encompassed with darkness,’ in that he is closed in by the clouds of his own ignorance.  Is not that man ‘encompassed with darkness,’ who most often neither remembers the past, nor finds out the future, and scarce knows the present?  That wise man had seen himself to be encompassed with darkness, when he said, And with labour do we find the things that are before us; but the things that are in heaven who shall search out? [Wisd. 9, 16]


The Prophet beheld himself ‘encompassed with’ such ‘darkness,’ when he was unable to discover the interior springs of His inmost economy, saying, He made darkness His secret place. [Ps. 18, 11]  For the Author of our being, in that, when we were cast out into this place of exile, He took from us the light of His vision, buried Himself from our eyes as it were ‘in the secret place of darkness.’


13.  Now as often as we attentively regard this same darkness of our blind estate, we stir up the mind to lamentation.  For it weeps for the state of blindness, which it is under without, if it remember in humility that it is bereft of light in the interior, and when it looks to the darkness which surrounds it, it is wrung with ardent longing for the inward brightness, and rent with thought's whole effort, and that light above, which as soon as created it relinquished, now debarred, it makes the object of its search.  Whence it very often happens that that radiance of inward joy bursts out amidst those very tears of piety; and that the mind, which had lain torpid in a state of blindness, being fed with sighs, receives strength to gaze at the interior brightness.  Whence it rightly proceeds,

Ver. 24.  For my sighing cometh before I eat.




14.  For the soul's ‘eating’ is its being fed with the contemplations of the light above, and thus it sighs before it eats, in that it first travails with the groanings of sorrow, and afterwards is replenished with the cheer of contemplation.  For except it sigh, it eats not, in that he that refuses to humble himself, in this exile we are in, by the groanings of heavenly desires, never tastes the delights of the eternal inheritance.  For all they are starved of the food of truth, that take joy in the emptiness of this scene of our pilgrimage, but he ‘sighs,’ that ‘eats,’ because all who are touched with the love of truth, are at the same time fed with the refreshments of contemplation.  The Prophet ‘ate sighing,’ when he said, My tears have been my bread. [Ps. 42, 3]  For the soul is fed by its own grief, when it is lifted up to the joys above by the tears, which it sheds, and indeed it bears within its sorrowful sighings, but it receives food for its refreshing, the more the force of its love gushes out in weeping.  And hence blessed Job still goes on with the violence of that weeping, adding,

And my roarings are poured out like overflowing waters.




15.  Waters, that overflow, advance with a rush, and swell with billows evermore increasing.  Now whilst the Elect set the judgments of God before the eyes of their mind, whilst they dread the secret sentence concerning them, whilst they trust to attain to God, but yet are in fear lest they should not attain, while they call to mind their past doings, which they weep over, whilst they shrink from the events that still await them, in that they are unknown, there are gathered in them as it were a kind of billows, as of water, which spend themselves in the roarings of grief, as upon a shore beneath them.  The holy man then saw how great are the billows of our thoughts in our penitential mourning, and he called the very waves of our grief overflowing waters, saying, And my roarings are like overflowing waters.  Now there are times when the righteous, as we likewise said a little above, even in the midst of their very good works, are affrighted and give themselves to continual mourning, lest they should offend by some secret misdemeanour therein.  And when God's scourges suddenly take hold of them, they imagine that they have done despite to the grace of their Maker, in that being either impeded by infirmities, or weighed down with sadness, they are not ready to perform works of mercy to their neighbours; and their heart turns to mourning, for that the body is become slack to its devout ministration.  And whereas they see that they are not adding to their reward, they fear that their past deeds also have been displeasing.  Hence when blessed Job described his roaring like overflowing waters, he thereupon added,

Ver. 25.  For the thing that I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I am afraid of is come unto me.




16.  The righteous therefore lament and fear, and torment themselves with bitter lamentations, because they dread to be given over, and though they rejoice in their own correction [correptio], the correction itself disturbs their fearful spirits, lest the evil, which they are undergoing should not be the merciful stroke of discipline, but the righteous visitation of vengeance.  And the Psalmist reflecting thereupon says with justice, Who knoweth the power of Thine anger? [Ps. 90, 11]  For the power of God's anger cannot be conceived by our faculties, in that His dispensation, by its undiscerned provisions concerning us, often takes us up in that very point where it is counted to abandon us, and in the very thing wherein it is supposed to take us up, it forsakes us.  So that very often that is rendered grace to us, which we call wrath, and that is sometimes wrath, which we account to be grace.  For strokes of affliction are the correction of some men, but others they lead to a frenzy of impatience, and there are some whom prosperity, in that it soothes them, calms from a state of madness, while there are others whom, seeing that it uplifts them, it wholly turns adrift from every hope of conversion.  Now vice forces all men down beneath, but some the more easily return from thence, that they take the greater shame to themselves to have fallen thereunto.  And attainments in virtue in every case raise men on high, yet sometimes some men, in that swelling thoughts are engendered from their virtues, fall down by the very pathway of their rise.  And so forasmuch as the power of God's wrath is little known, under all circumstances it must needs be unceasingly feared.  It proceeds;

Ver. 26.  Did I not dissemble it?  Did I not hold my peace?  Did I not rest quiet?  Yet wrath came upon me.




17.   Though in every situation of life, we sin in thought, word, and deed, the mind is then hurried along in all these three ways with the greater freedom from control, when it is lifted up with this world's good fortune.  For when it sees that it surpasses other men in power, feeling proudly, it thinks high things of itself, and when no opposition is offered by any to the authority of its word, the tongue has the more uncontrolled range along precipitous paths; and while it is permitted to do all that it likes, it reckons all that it likes to be lawfully permitted it.  But good men, when supported by this world's power, bring themselves under severer discipline of the mind, in proportion as they know that, from the intolerance of power, they are persuaded to unlicensed acts, as if they were more licensed to do them [vid. b. xx.c.73.].  Thus they refrain their hearts from surveying their own glory, they check their tongues from unrestrained talk, they guard their actions from restless roaming.  For it often happens that they that are in power lose the good things that they do, because they entertain high conceits, and while they reckon themselves to be of use for every purpose, they blast the merit even of the usefulness they have laid out.  For in order that a man's deeds may be rendered of greater worth, they must needs always appear worthless in his own esteem, lest the same good action elevate the heart of the doer, and in elevating overthrow  its author by self elation, more effectually than it helps the very persons for whom it may chance to be rendered.  For it is hence that the King of Babylon, while he was secretly revolving in his own mind, in the pride of his heart, saying, Is not this great Babylon which I have builded? was suddenly turned into an irrational beast.  For he lost all that he had been made, because he would not humbly keep back what he had done; and because in the Pride of his heart he lifted himself up above men, he lost that very human faculty, which he had in common with man.  And often they that are in power burst out at random into insulting language towards their dependants, and this merit, viz. that they serve their office of authority with vigilance, they lose by reason of their forwardness of speech, plainly considering with overlittle dread the words of the Judge, that he who shall say to his brother without cause Thou fool, [Matt. 5, 22] makes himself obnoxious to hell fire.  Often they that are in power, whereas they know not how to refrain lawful actions, slide into such as are unlawful, and unquiet.  For he alone is never brought down in things unlawful, who is careful to restrain himself at times even from things lawful.  It is with the bands of this selfsame restraint that Paul shewed himself to be bound for good, when he says, All things are lawful to me, but all things are not expedient [1 Cor. 6, 12]; and in order to shew in what exceeding freedom of mind he was set at large by reason of this very restraint, he thereupon added, All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.  For when the mind pursues after the desires that it entertains, it is convicted of being enslaved to the things, by the love of which it is subdued.  But Paul, ‘to whom all things are lawful,’ is ‘brought under the power of none;’ in that by restraining himself even from things lawful, those very objects, which, if enjoyed, would weigh him down, being contemned, he rises above.


18.  Let blessed Job then declare for our better instruction what he was when in power, in these words, Did I not dissemble?  For when we are in possession of power, it is both to be taken account of for purposes of utility, and to be kept out of sight because of Pride, in order that he that uses it, on the one hand, that he may render service therewith, may be aware that he has the power, and on the other, that he may not be elated, may not be aware that he has the power.  Now what he was in word of mouth, let him add in these words, Was I not silent?  What in respect of forbidden deeds, let him further subjoin, Did I not rest quiet?  But the being silent and quiet admit of being yet more minutely examined into.  Thus, to be silent is to withhold the mind from the cry of earthly desires, For all tumult of the breast is a strong and mighty clamouring.


19.  Moreover they rest, that bear themselves well in power, in that they prefer to lay aside, at intervals, the din of earthly business for the love of God, lest whilst the lowest objects incessantly occupy the mind, it should altogether fall away from the highest.  For they know that it can never be lifted up to things above, if it be continually busied in those below with tumultuous care and concern; for what should that mind gain concerning God in the midst of business, which, even when at liberty, strives with difficulty to apprehend aught that concerns Him?  And it is well said by the Psalmist, Keep yourselves aloof, and know that I am God. [Ps. 46, 10]  For he that neglects to keep himself aloof to God, by his own judgment upon himself hides the light of God's vision from his eyes.  Hence moreover it is declared by Moses, that those fish that have no fins should not be eaten. [Lev. 11, 10. 12.]  For the fish, that have fins, are wont to make leaps above the water.  Thus they only pass into the body of the Elect in the manner of food, who, whilst they yield themselves to the lowest charges, can sometimes by the mind's leaps mount up to things on high, that they may not always be buried in the deeps of care, and be reached by no breath of the highest love as of the free air.  They, then, who are busied in temporal affairs, then only manage external things aright, when they betake them with solicitude to those of the interior, when they take no delight in the clamours of disquietudes without, but repose within themselves in the bosom of tranquil rest.


20.  For men of depraved minds never cease to keep on the tumult of earthly business within their own breasts, even when they are unemployed.  For they retain pictured in imagination the things, which their love is fixed on, and though they be employed in no outward work, yet within themselves they are toiling and labouring under the weight of an unquiet quiet.  And if the management of these same things be accorded to them, they wholly go forth from themselves, and follow after these temporal and transient concerns by the path of their purpose of mind, with the unintermitted steps of the thoughts.  But pious minds, on the one hand,.  seek not such things when lacking, and on the other, they bear them with difficulty, when present, for they fear lest by the care of external things they be made to go out of themselves.  Which same is well represented in the life of those two brothers, concerning whom it is written, And Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man dwelling in tents. [Gen. 25, 27. Vulg.]  Or it is said in the other translation [so lxx.], he dwelt at home.  For what is represented by Esau's hunting but the life of those, who, giving a loose to themselves in external pleasures, follow the flesh?  and, moreover, he is described to be a man of the field, for the lovers of this world cultivate the external in the same proportion, that they leave uncultivated their internal parts.  But Jacob is recorded to be a plain man, dwelling in tents, or dwelling at home, in that, truly, all, that seek to avoid being dissipated in external cares, abide plain men in the interior, and in the dwelling place of their conscience; for to ‘dwell in tents,’ or ‘in the house,’ is to restrain one's self within the secrets of the heart, nor ever to let themselves run loose without in their desires, lest, while men gape after a multitude of objects without, they be led away from themselves by the alienation of their thoughts.  So let him, who was tried and trained in prosperity, say, Did I not dissemble it?  Did I not hold my peace?  Did I not rest quiet?  For, as we have said above, when holy men receive the smiles of transitory prosperity, they ‘dissemble’ the favour of the world, as though they were ignorant of it, and with a resolute step they inwardly trample upon that, whereby they are outwardly lifted up.  And they ‘hold their peace,’ in that they never clamour with the uproar of wicked doings.  For all iniquity has its voice belonging to it in the secret judgments of God.  Hence it is written, The cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great.  And they ‘rest quiet,’ when they are not only hurried away by no unruly appetite of temporal desires, but over and above eschew the busying themselves out of due measure with the necessary concerns of this present life.


21.  But while they do this, they are still made to feel the strokes of a Father's hand, that they may come to their inheritance the more perfect, in proportion as the rod, striking in pity, is daily purifying them even from the very least sins.  Thus they are unceasingly doing righteous acts, yet are perpetually undergoing severe troubles.  For often our very righteousness itself, when brought to the test of God's righteous eye, proves unrighteousness, and that which is bright in the estimate of the doer, is foul in the Judge's searching sight.  Hence when Paul said, For I know nothing by myself; he forthwith added, Yet am I not hereby justified; [1 Cor. 4, 4] and immediately implying the reason wherefore he was not justified, he says, But he that judgeth me is the Lord.  As though he said, ‘For this reason I say that I am not justified herein, viz. that I know nothing by myself because I know that I am tested with greater exactness by Him, That judgeth me.’  Therefore we must keep out of sight all that favours us outwardly, we must keep under control whatsoever is clamorous within, we must eschew the things that twine themselves about us as necessary, and yet in all of these we must still fear the chastisements of a strict inquisition; since even our very perfection itself does not lack sin, did not the severe Judge weigh the same with mercy in the exact balance of His examination.


22.  And it is well added, Yet indignation came upon me.  For with wonderful skilfulness of instruction, when about to tell of the chastisements, he premised the good deeds, that each man might hence be led to consider what punishments await sinners hereafter, if the righteous even are chastised here with strokes so strong.  For it is hence that Peter says, For the time is come that Judgment must begin at the house of God, And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? [1 Peter 4, 17. 18.]  Hence Paul, after he said many things in commendation of the Thessalonians, straightway added, So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God, for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure; Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God. [2 Thess. 1, 4. 5.]  As if he said, ‘Whilst you, that act so uprightly, undergo so many hardships, what else is it than that ye are giving examples of the righteous judgment of God, since from your punishment it is to be inferred in what sort He smites those with whom He is wroth, if He suffers you to be thus afflicted, in whom He delights; or how He will strike those towards whom He shews righteous judgment, if He thus torments your own selves, whom with pitifulness He cherishes in reproving.


23.  The first words, then, of blessed Job being ended, his friends that had come in pity to comfort him, set themselves by turns to the upbraiding of him; and while they launch out to words of strife, they drop the purpose of pity, which they had come for.  And indeed they do this with no bad intent, but, though they manifest feeling for the stricken man, they supposed him to be no otherwise stricken than for his wickedness; and whereas guarded speech does not follow that good intention, the very purpose of mercy is turned into the sin of an offence.  For it was their duty to consider to whom and on what occasion they spake; in that he, to whom they had come, was a righteous man, and besieged with the strokes of God's hand; and so they should from his past life have estimated those words of his mouth, which they were unable to understand, and not have convicted him from present strokes, but have entertained fear for their own lives, and not as it were by reasoning have lifted themselves above, but by lamenting joined themselves to that stricken Saint, so that their knowledge might in no wise display itself in words, but that great teacher, grief, might instruct the tongue of the comforters to speak aright.  And though they perchance might in any thing be of a different mind, assuredly it was meet that they should express these feelings with humility, lest by words without restraint they should accumulate wounds upon the smitten soul.


24.  For it often happens that, because they cannot be understood, either the doings or the sayings of the better men are displeasing to the worse; but they are not to be rashly censured by them, inasmuch as they cannot be apprehended in their true sense.  Often that is done in pursuance of policy [‘dispensatorie,’ in economy] by greater men, which is accounted an error by their inferiors.  Often many things are said by the strong, which the weak only decide upon, because they know nothing about them.  And this is well represented by that Ark of the Testament being inclined on one side by the kine kicking, which the Levite desiring to set upright, because he thought it would fall, he immediately received sentence of death. [2 Sam. 6, 7]  For what is the mind of the just man but the Ark of the Testament?  which, as it is being carried, is inclined by the kicking of the kine; in that it sometimes happens that even he, who rules well, being shaken by the disorder of the people subject to him, is moved by nought else than love to a condescension in policy.  But in this, which is done in policy, that very bending, that is, of strength is accounted a fall by the inexperienced; and hence there are some of those that are in subjection, who put out the hand of censure against it, yet by that very rashness of theirs they forthwith drop from life.  Thus the Levite stretched forth his hand as it were in aid, but he lost his life in being guilty of offence, in that while the weak sort censure the deeds of the strong, they are themselves made outcasts from the lot of the living.  Sometimes too holy men say some things condescending to the meanest subjects, while some things they deliver contemplating the highest; and foolish men, because they know nothing of the meaning either of such condescension or elevation, presumptuously censure them.  And what is it to desire to set a good man right for his condescension, but to lift up the ark that is inclined with the presuming hand of rebuke?  what is it to censure a righteous man for unapprehended words, but to take the move he makes in his strength for the downfall of error?  But he loses his life, who lifts up the ark of God with a high mind; in that no man would ever dare to correct the upright acts of the Saints, unless he first thought better things of himself.  And hence this Levite is rightly called Oza, which same is by interpretation ‘the strong one of the Lord,’ in that the presumptuous severally, did they not audaciously conclude themselves ‘strong in the Lord,’ would never condemn as weak the saying and doings of their betters.  Therefore while the friends of blessed Job leap forth against him, as if in God's defence, they transgress the rule of God's ordinance in behaving proudly.


25.  But when any of the doings of better men are displeasing to the less good, they are by no means to hold their peace about the considerations which influence their minds, but to give utterance thereto with a great degree of humility, so that the purpose of him, whose feelings are pious, may, in a genuine manner, keep the form of uprightness, in proportion as he goes by the pathway of lowliness.  Thus both all that we feel is to be freely expressed, and all that we express is to be uttered with the deepest humility, lest even what we intend aright we make other than right, by putting it forth in a spirit of pride.  Paul had spoken many things to his hearers with humility, but it was with still more humility that he busied himself to appease them about that humble exhortation itself, saying, And I beseech you, brethren, suffer the word of exhortation: for I have written a letter unto you in few words. [Heb. 13, 22]  And likewise bidding farewell to the Ephesians at Miletus, who were deeply grieved and loudly lamenting, he recalls his humility to their remembrance, in these words, Therefore watch, and remember that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn everyone night and day with tears. [Acts 20, 31]  Again he says to the same persons by letter, I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation, wherewith ye are called. [Eph. 4, 1]  Therefore let him infer from hence, if he ever thinks rightly at all, with what humility the disciple ought to address the Master, if the Master of the Gentiles himself, in the very things which he proclaims with authority, beseeches the disciples so submissively.  Let everyone collect from hence in what a spirit of humility he should communicate to those, from whom he has received examples of good living, all that he perceives aright, if Paul submitted himself in a humble strain to those, whom he himself raised up to life.


26.  But Eliphaz, who is the first of the friends to speak, though he came with pity to console, yet in that he departs from meekness of speech, is ignorant of the rules of consoling; and while he neglects the guarding of his lips, he is guilty of excess, even to offering insult to the afflicted man, saying, The tiger hath perished for lack of prey, the roaring of the lion, and the voice of the fierce lioness [V. thus], and the teeth of the young lions are broken [Job 4, 10. 11.]:  i.e. by the teeth of a tiger marking out blessed Job, as it were, with the fault of variedness; by the roaring of the lion, denoting that man's terribleness; by the voice of the lioness, the loquacity of his wife; and by the broken teeth of the young lions, signifying the gluttony of his sons brought to ruin.  And hence the sentence of God rightly reproves the feeling of the friends, which had lifted itself up in swelling reproach, saying, Ye have not spoken of Me the thing that is right, as My servant Job hath. [Job 42, 7]


27.  But I see that we must enquire, wherefore Paul makes use of their sentiments with so much weight of authority, if these sentiments of theirs be nullified by the Lord's rebuke?  For they are the words of Eliphaz which he brought before the Corinthians, saying, For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. [1 Cor. 3, 19. Job 5, 13]  How then do we reject as evil what Paul establishes by authority? or how shall we account that to be right by the testimony of Paul, which the Lord by His own lips determined not to be right?  But we speedily learn how little the two are at variance together, if we more exactly consider the words of that same Divine sentence, which assuredly having declared, Ye have not spoken of Me the thing that is right; thereupon added, as My servant Job.  It is clear then that some things contained in their sayings were right, but they are overcome by comparison with one who was better; for among other things, which they say without reason, there are many forcible sentences they utter in addressing blessed Job; but when compared with his more forcible sayings they lose the power of their forcibleness.  And many things that they say are admirable, were they not spoken against the afflicted condition of the holy man.  So that in themselves they are great, but because they aim to pierce that righteous person, that greatness loses its weight, for with whatever degree of strength, it is in vain that the javelin is sent to strike the hard stones, since it glances off the further with blunted point, the more it comes hurled with strength.  Therefore, though the sayings of Job's friends be very forcible in some points, yet, since they strike the Saint's well-fenced life, they turn back all the point of their sharpness.  And therefore because they are both great in themselves, and yet ought never to have been taken up against blessed Job, on the one hand let Paul, weighing them by their intrinsic excellence, deliver them as authoritative, and on the other let the Judge, forasmuch as they were delivered without caution, censure them in respect of the quality of the individual.


28.  But, as we have said above that these same friends of blessed Job contain a figure of heretics, let us now search out how their words agree with heretics; for some of the opinions which they hold are very right, but in the midst of these they fall away to corrupt notions; for heretics have this especial peculiarity, that they mix good and evil, that so they may easily delude the sense of the hearer.  For if they always said wrong, soon discovered in their wrongheadedness, they would be the less able to win a way for that, which they desire.  Again, if they always thought right, then, surely, they would never have been heretics.  But whilst with artfulness of deceiving they engage themselves with either, both by the evil they vitiate the good, and by the good they conceal the evil, to the end that it may be readily admitted; just as he that presents a cup of poison, touches the brim of the cup with honied sweets, and while this that has a sweet flavour is tasted at the first sip, that too which brings death is unhesitatingly swallowed.  Thus heretics mix right with wrong, that by making a shew of good things, they may draw hearers to themselves, and by setting forth evil they may corrupt them with a secret pestilence.  Yet it sometimes happens that being collected by the preaching and admonitions of Holy Church, they are healed from such a contradiction in views, and hence the friends of blessed Job offer the sacrifice of their reconciliation by the hands of the same holy man, and even under attainder they are restored to the favour of the Supreme Judge.  Of whom we have a fitting representation in that cleansing of the ten lepers. [Luke 14, 15]  For in leprosy both a portion of the skin is brought to a bright hue, and a portion remains of a healthy colour.  Lepers therefore are a figure of heretics, for in that they blend evil with good, they cover the complexion of health with spots.  And hence that they may be healed, they rightly cry out, Jesus, Master [Preceptor, Vulg.].  For whereas they notify that they have gone wrong in His words, they humbly call Him Master when they are to be healed, and so soon as they return to acknowledge the Master, they are at once brought back to the right state of health.  But as on the sayings of his friends we have carried the preface to our interpretation somewhat far, let us now consider minutely the very words themselves which they spake, The account goes on ;

C. iv. 1, 2.  Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said, If we assay to commune with thee, wilt thou be grieved?




29.  It has been a1ready declared above, what there is set forth in the interpretation of these names.  Therefore, because we are in haste to reach the unexamined parts, we forbear to unfold again what has been already delivered.  According1y this is to be heedfully observed, that they, that bear the semblance of heretics, begin to speak softly, saying, If we assay to commune with thee, wilt thou, be grieved?  For heretics dread to incense their hearers at the outset of their communing with them, lest they be listened to with ears on the watch, and they carefully shun the paining of them, that they may catch their unguardedness, and what they put forward is almost always mild, while that is harsh which they cunningly introduce in going on.  And hence at this time the friends of Job begin with the reverence of a gentle address, but they burst forth even to launching the darts of the bitterest invectives; for the roots of thorns themselves are soft, yet from that very softness of their own they put forth that whereby they pierce, It goes on;

But who can hold in [thus V.] the discourse conceived?


30.  There be three kinds of men, which differ from one another by qualities carried forward in gradation.  For there are some, who at the same time that they conceive evil sentiments to speak, restrain themselves in their speech by none of the graveness of silence; and there are others, who, whereas they conceive evil things, withhold themselves with a strong control of silence.  And there are some, who being made strong by the exercise of virtue, are advanced even to so great a height, that, as to speaking, they do not even conceive any evil thoughts in the heart, which they should have to restrain by keeping silence.  It is shewn then to which class Eliphaz belongs, who bears witness that he cannot ‘withhold his conceived discourse.’  Wherein too he made known this, that he knew that he would give offence by speaking.  For he would never be anxious to withhold words that he cannot, unless he were assured beforehand that he would be inflicting wounds by the same; for good men check precipitancy of speech with the reins of counsel, and they take heedful thought, lest, by giving a loose to the wantonness of the tongue, they should by heedlessness of speech pierce their hearer’s spirits [conscientiam]; hence it is well said by Solomon, He that letteth out water is a head of strife. [Prov. 17, 14]  For ‘the water is let out,’ when the flowing of the tongue is let loose.  And he that ‘letteth out water,’ is made the ‘beginning of strife,’ in that by the incontinency of the lips, the commencement of discord is afforded.  Thus, as the wicked are light in mind, so they are precipitate in speech, and neglect to keep silence, thoroughly considering what they should say.  And what a light spirit [conscientia] conceives, a lighter tongue delivers apace.  Hence on this occasion Eliphaz infers from his own experience a thing, which in a feeling of hopelessness he believes concerning all men; saying, But who can withhold his conceived discourse?  It proceeds;

Ver. 3, 4.  Behold, thou hast instructed many, and thou hast strengthened the weak hands.  Thy words have upholden him that was falling, and thou hast strengthened the feeble knees.




31.  If the text of the historical account be regarded in itself, it is of great service to the reader, that in blessed Job, instead of the ripping up of vices, proclaim is made of his virtues by his reviling friends; for the testimony to our manner of life is never so strong, as when commendable things are told by him, who aims to fasten guilt upon our head.  But let us consider of what a lofty height that man was, who by instructing the ignorant, strengthening the weak, upholding the faltering, amid the cares of his household, amidst the charge of countless concerns, amidst anxious feelings for his children, amidst the pursuit of so many laborious occupations, devoted himself to putting others in the right way.  And being busied indeed, he executed these offices, yet being free, he did service in the master's office of instruction.  By exercising superintendence, he disposed of temporal things, by preaching, he announced eternal truths; uprightness of life, both by practice he shewed to all beholders, and by speech he conveyed to all that heard him.  But all that are either heretics or bad men, in recording the excellencies of the good, turn them into grounds of accusation.  Hence Eliphaz deduces occasion of reviling against blessed Job from the same quarter, whence he related commendable things of him; for it goes on,

Ver. 5.  But now it is come upon thee, and thou faintest: it toucheth thee, and thou art troubled.




32.  All men of froward mind assail the life of the righteous in two ways; for either they assert that what they say is wrong, or that what they say aright they never observe; and hence blessed Job is reproved by his friends further on for his mode of speech, whereas now he is torn in pieces for having spoken right things, but not having observed them.  And so at one time the speech, and at another time the practice of the good meets with the disapproval of the wicked, in order that either the tongue being rebuked may hold its peace, or the life, being convicted by the testimony of that same tongue of theirs, may give way under the charge.  And mark that first they bring forward commendations of the tongue, and afterwards complain of the weakness of the life.  For the wicked, that they may not openly shew themselves to be evil, sometimes say such good things of the just, as they know to be already received concerning them by others also.  But as we have said above, these very points they forthwith strain to the increase of guilt, and from hence, that they spoke favourable things also, they point out that credit is to be given them in the reverse, and with more seeming truth they intimate evil things, in proportion as they commended the good with seeming zeal.  Thus they wrest words of favourable import to the service of accusation, in that they afterwards more deeply wound the life of the righteous from the same source, whence a little before in semblance they vindicated it.  But it often happens that their good qualities, which they first condemn when possessed, they afterwards admire, as if departed.  And hence Eliphaz, as he declares them to be departed, subjoins the virtues of the holy man, enumerating them, and saying,

Ver. 6.  Where is thy fear, thy strength, thy patience, and the perfectness of thy ways? [thus V.]




33.  All which same he makes to succeed that sentence which he set before, saying, But now a stroke is come upon thee, and thou faintest; it toucheth thee, and thou art troubled.  Thus he declares that they were brought to nought all of them together, in this, that he blames blessed Job's being troubled by the scourge.  Yet it is to be well taken notice of, that though he chides unbefittingly, yet the ranks of virtues he fitly describes; for in enumerating the virtues of blessed Job, he marked out his life in four stages, in that he both added strength to fear, and patience to strength, and to patience, perfection.  Since one sets out in the way of the Lord with fear, that he may go on to strength; for as in the world boldness begets strength, so in the way of God boldness engenders weakness; and as in the way of the world fear gives rise to weakness, so in the way of God fear produces strength; as Solomon witnesses, who says, In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence. [Prov. 14, 26]  For ‘strong confidence’ is said ‘to be in the fear of the Lord,’ in that, in truth, our mind so much the more valorously sets at nought all the tenors of temporal vicissitudes, the more thoroughly that it submits itself in fear to the Author of those same temporal things.  And being stablished in the fear of the Lord, it encounters nothing without to fill it with alarm, in that whereas it is united to the Creator of all things by a righteous fear, it is by a certain powerful influence raised high above them all.  For strength is never shewn saving in adversity, and hence patience is immediately made to succeed to strength.  For every man proves himself in a much truer sense to have advanced in ‘strength,’ in proportion as he bears with the bolder heart the wrongs of other men.  For he was little strong in himself, who is brought to the ground by the wickedness of another.  He, in that he cannot bear to face opposition, lies pierced with the sword of his cowardice.  But forasmuch as perfection springs out of patience, immediately after patience we have the perfectness of his ways introduced.  For he is really perfect, who feels no impatience towards the imperfection of his neighbour; since he that goes off, not being able to bear the imperfection of another, is his own witness against himself, that he is not yet perfectly advanced.  Hence Truth says in the Gospel, In your patience possess ye your souls. [Luke 21, 19]  For what is it to possess our souls, but to live by the rule of perfection in all things, to command all the motions of the mind from the citadel of virtue?  He then that maintains patience possesses his soul, in that from hence he is endued with strength to encounter all adversities, whence even by overcoming himself he is made master of himself; and as he quells himself in a manner worthy of all praise, he comes forth unquelled with dauntless front, because by conquering himself in his pleasures, he makes himself invincible to reverses.  But as Eliphaz rebuked him with reviling, so now he adds a few words, as if in exhortation, saying,

Ver.7.  Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished being innocent? or where were the righteous cut off?




34.  Whether it be heretics, of whom we have said that the friends of blessed Job bore an image, or whether any of the froward ones, they are as blameable in their admonitions, as they are immoderate in their condemnation.  For he says, Who ever perished being innocent? or where were the righteous cut off?   Since it often happens that in this life both ‘the innocent perish,’ and ‘the righteous are ‘utterly cut off,’ yet in perishing they are reserved to glory eternal.  For if none that is innocent perished, the Prophet would not say, The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart. [Is. 51, 1]  If God in His providential dealings did not carry off the righteous, Wisdom would never have said of the righteous man, Yea, speedily was he taken away, lest that wickedness should alter his understanding. [Wisd. 4, 11]  If no visitation ever smote the righteous, Peter would never foretell it, saying, For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God. [1 Pet. 4, 17]  They then are really righteous, who are furnished forth by the love of the Country above to meet all the ills of the present life.  For all that fear to endure ills here, for the sake of eternal blessings, clearly are not righteous men.  But Eliphaz does not take account either that the righteous are cut off, or that the innocent perish here, in that oftentimes they that serve God, not in the hope of heavenly glory, but for an earthly recompense, make a fiction in their own head of that which they are seeking after, and, taking upon themselves to be instructors, in preaching earthly immunity, they shew by all their pains what is the thing they love.  It goes on ;

Ver. 8, 9.  Even, as I have seen, they that plough iniquity, and [V. so] sow sorrows, and reap the same, by the blast of God do they perish, and by the breath of His nostrils are they consumed.




35.  To ‘sow griefs’ is to utter deceits, but to ‘reap griefs’ is to prevail by so speaking.  Or, surely, they ‘sow griefs,’ who do froward actions, they ‘reap griefs,’ when they ate punished for this forwardness.  For the harvest of grief is the recompense of condemnation, and whereas it is immediately introduced that they that ‘sow and reap griefs,’ ‘perish by the blast of God,’ and are ‘consumed by the breath of His nostrils,’ in this passage the ‘reaping of grief’ is shewn to be not punishment as yet, but the still further perfecting of wickedness, for in ‘the breath of His nostrils’ the punishment of that ‘reaping’ is made to follow.  Here then they ‘sow and reap griefs,’ in that all that they do is wicked, and they thrive in that very wickedness, as is said of the wicked man by the Psalmist, His ways are always grievous; Thy judgments are far above out of his sight: as for all his enemies, he puffeth at them. [Ps. 10, 5]  And it is soon after added concerning him, under his tongue is labour and grief.  So then he ‘sows griefs,’ when he does wicked things, he ‘reaps griefs,’ when from the same wickednesses he grows to temporal greatness.  How then is it that they ‘perish by the blast of God,’ who are for the most part permitted to abide long here below, and in greater prosperity than the righteous?  For hence it is said of them again by the Psalmist, They are not in trouble as other men, neither are they plagued like other folk. [Ps. 73, 5]  Hence Jeremiah saith, Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? [Jer. 12, 1]  For because, as it is written, For the Lord is [Vulg.] a long-suffering rewarder [Ecclus. 5, 4], He oftentimes for long bears with those, whom He condemns for all eternity.  Yet sometimes He strikes quickly, in that He hastens to the succour of the pusillanimity of the innocent.  Therefore Almighty God sometimes permits the wicked to have their own way for long, that the ways of the righteous may be more purely cleansed.  Yet sometimes He slays the unrighteous with speedy destruction, and by their ruin He strengthens the hearts of the innocent.  For if He were now to smite all that do evil, on whom would He yet have to shew forth the final Judgment?  And if He never at any time smote any man, who would ever have believed that God regarded human affairs?  Sometimes then He strikes the bad, that He may shew that He does not leave wickedness unpunished.  But sometimes He bears with the wicked for long, that He may teach the heedful what judgment they are reserved for.


36.  Thus this sentence of the cutting off of the wicked, if it be not spoken of all men in general at the end of this present state of being, is undoubtedly to a great degree made void of the force of truth; but it will then be true, when iniquity shall no longer have reprieve.  And perchance it may be more lightly taken in this sense, since neither ‘the innocent perishes’ nor ‘the upright is cut off,’ in that though here he is worn out in the flesh, yet in the sight of the eternal Judge he is renewed with true health.  And they that ‘sow and reap griefs,’ ‘perish by the blast of God,’ in that in proportion as they go on here deeper in doing wickedly, they are the more severely stricken with the damnation to follow.  But whereas he premises this sentence with the word, Remember, it is clearly evident that something past is recalled to mind, and not any thing future proclaimed.  Then therefore Eliphaz would have spoken more truly, if he had believed that these things were wrought on the head of the wicked in general by final vengeance.


37.  But this point, that God is said to ‘breathe,’ claims to be more particularly made out.  For we, when we ‘breathe,’ draw the air from the outside within us, and, thus drawn within, we give it forth without.  God then is said to ‘breathe’ in recompensing vengeance, in that from occasions without He conceives the purpose of judgment within Him, and from the internal purpose sends forth the sentence without.  When God ‘breathes’ as it were, somewhat is drawn in from things without, when He sees our evil ways without, and ordains judgment within.  And again as if by God ‘breathing,’ the breath is sent forth from within, when from the internal conception of the purpose, the outward decree of condemnation is delivered.  And so it is rightly said that they, that ‘sow griefs,’ perish ‘by the breath of God,’ for wherein they execute wicked deeds outwardly, they are deservedly stricken from within.  Or, surely, when God is said to  ‘breathe,’ in that the breath of His wrath is immediately introduced, by the designation of His ‘breathing’ may be denoted that very visitation of His.  For when we are wroth, we kindle [d] with the breath of rage.  To shew the Lord then meditating vengeance, He is said to ‘breathe’ in His indignation, not that in His own Nature He is capable of turning or change, but that after long endurance, when He executes vengeance upon the sinner, He, Who continueth tranquil in Himself, seems in commotion to them that perish.  For whereas the condemned soul sees the Judge arrayed against its doings, He is exhibited to it as troubled, in that it is itself troubled by its own guiltiness before His eyes.  But after he had in appearance exhorted him with clemency, he openly subjoins language of reproach, saying,

Ver. 10.  The roaring of the lion, and the voice of the lioness, and the teeth of the young lions are broken.




38.  For what does he call the roaring of the lion but, as we have said a little above, the severe character of that man?  what the voice of the lioness, but his wife's loquacity?  what the teeth of the young lions, but the greediness of his children?  For because his sons had perished when feasting, they are denoted by the term of ‘teeth;’ and while unsparing Eliphaz rejoices that they are all ‘broken,’ he denounces them as deservedly condemned.  And he yet further doubles the cruelty of his reproaches, when he adds;

Ver. 11.  The tiger perisheth for lack of prey, and the stout lions' whelps are scattered abroad. [Vulg. thus]




39.  For whom does he denote by the name of ‘tiger’ but blessed Job, marked with the stamp of changeableness or covered with the spots of dissimulation?  For every dissembler, in that he desires to appear righteous, can never shew himself pure in all things; for while he assumes some virtues in hypocrisy, and secretly gives way to vicious habits, some concealed vices speedily break out upon the surface, and exhibit the hide of overlaid hypocrisy, like a coat for sight, varied with their admixture, so that it is very often a marvel how one, who is seen to be master of such great virtues, should be at the same time stained with such damnable deeds.  But truly every hypocrite is a tiger, in that while he derives a pure colour from pretence, it is striped with the intermediate blackness of vicious habits.  For it often happens that while he is extolled for pureness of chastity, he renders himself foul by the stain of avarice.  Often while he makes a fair shew by the good quality of bountifulness, he is stained with spots of lust.  Often while he is clad in the bright array of bountifulness and chastity, he is blackened by ferociousness in cruelty, as if from a zealous sense of justice.  Often he is arrayed in bounty, chastity, pitifulness, in a fair outside, but is marked with the interspersed darkness of pride.  And thus it comes to pass, that whereas by the intermixture of vicious habits, the hypocrite does not present an unstained appearance in himself, the tiger, as it were, cannot be of one colour.  And this same ‘tiger’ seizes the prey, in that he usurps to himself the glory of human applause.  For he, that is lifted up by usurped praise, is as it were glutted with the prey.  And it is well that the applause that hypocrites have is called ‘prey.’  For it is nought else than a prey, when the things of another are taken away by violence.  Now every hypocrite, in that by counterfeiting the life of righteousness he seizes for himself the praise that belongs to the righteous, does in truth carry off what is another's.  Thus Eliphaz, who knew that blessed Job had walked in ways worthy to be praised in the period of his wellbeing, concluded from the stroke that came after that he had maintained these in hypocrisy, saying, The tiger perisheth for lack of prey.  As if he had said plainly, ‘The shifting of thine hypocrisy is at end, because the homage of applause is also taken from thee, and thine hypocrisy is in ‘lack of prey,’ in that being stricken by the hand of God, it lacks the favourable regards of man.’


40.  But in the translation of the Septuagint, it is not said ‘the tiger,’ but ‘the Myrmicoleon perisheth for lack of prey.’  For the Myrmicoleon is a very little creature, a foe to ants, which hides itself under the dust, and kills the ants laden with grains, and devours them thus destroyed.  Now ‘Myrmicoleon’ is rendered in the Latin tongue either ‘the ants' lion,’ or indeed more exactly ‘an ant and lion at once.’  Now it is lightly called ‘an ant and lion;’ in that with reference to winged creatures, or to any other small-sized animals, it is an ant, but with reference to the ants themselves it is a lion.  For it devours these like a lion, yet by the other sort it is devoured like an ant.  When then Eliphaz says, the Ant-lion perisheth, what does he censure in blessed Job under the title of ‘Ant-lion’ but his fearfulness and audacity?  As if he said to him in plain words, ‘Thou art not unjustly stricken, in that thou hast shewn thyself a coward towards the lofty, a bully towards those beneath thee.’  As though he had said in plain terms, ‘Fear made thee crouch towards the crafty sort, hardihood swelled thee full towards the simple folk, but ‘the Ant-lion’ no longer hath prey,’ in that thy cowardly self elation, being beaten down with blows, is stayed from doing injury to others.’  But forasmuch as we have said that the friends of blessed Job contain a figure of Heretics, there is a pressing necessity to shew how these same words of Eliphaz are to be understood in a typical sense likewise.




Ver. 10.  The roaring of the lion, and the voice of the lioness, and the teeth of the young lions, are broken.




41.  Forasmuch as the nature of every thing is compounded of different elements, in Holy Writ different things are allowably represented by anyone thing.  For the lion has magnanimity, it has also ferocity: by its magnanimity then it represents the Lord, by its ferocity the devil.  Hence it is declared of the Lord, Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David hath prevailed. [Rev. 5, 5]  Hence it is written of the devil, Your adversary, the devil, like a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour. [1 Pet. 5, 8]  But by the title of a ‘lioness’ sometimes Holy Church, sometimes Babylon is represented to us.  For on this account, that she is bold to encounter all that withstand, the Church is called a ‘lioness,’ as is proved by the words of blessed Job, who in pointing out Judaea forsaken by the Church, says, The sons of the traders have not trodden, nor the lioness passed by it. [Job 28, 8. Vulg.]  And sometimes under the title of a lioness is set forth the city of this world, which is Babylon, which ravins against the life of the innocent with terribleness of ferocity, which being wedded to our old enemy like the fiercest lion, conceives the seeds of his froward counsel, and produces from her own body reprobate sons, as cruel whelps, after his likeness.  But the ‘lion's whelps’ are reprobate persons, engendered to a life of sin by the misleading of evil spirits, who both all of them together constitute that great city of the world which we have declared before, even Babylon; and yet these same sons of Babylon severally are called not ‘a lioness’ but ‘a lioness's whelps.’  For as the whole Church together is denominated Sion, but the several individual Saints the sons of Sion, so both the several individuals among the reprobate are called the children of Babylon, and all the reprobate together are designated the same Babylon.


42.  But so long as good men remain in this life, they keep watch over themselves with anxious heed, lest the lion that goeth about surprise them by guile, i.e. lest our old enemy slay them under some shew of virtue; lest the voice of the lioness stun their ears, i.e. lest the glory of Babylon catch away their minds from the love of the heavenly country; lest ‘the teeth of the young lions’ bite them, i.e. lest the promptings of the reprobate gain power in their heart.  But, on the other hand, heretics are already as if secured touching holiness, because they fancy that they have surmounted all obstacles by the preeminent merit of their life.  And hence it is said here, The roaring of the lion, and the voice of the lioness, and the teeth if the young lions are broken.  As though it were expressed in plain words; ‘We for this reason are never beaten and bruised with any strokes, for that we tread under at once the might of the old enemy, and the lust of earthly glory, and the promptings of all the reprobate, overcoming them by the preeminence of our life.’  Hence it is further added;

Ver. 11.  The tiger perisheth for lack of prey, and the lions' whelps are scattered abroad.




43.  By the title of a ‘tiger’ he again represents him, whom he formerly designated by the name of a ‘lion.’  For Satan both for his cruelty is called ‘a lion,’ and for the variousness of his manifold cunning he is not unsuitably designated ‘a tiger.’  For one while he presents himself to man's senses lost as he is, one while he exhibits himself as an Angel of light, Now by caressing he works upon the minds of the foolish sort, now by striking terror he forces them to commit sin.  At one time he labours to win men to evil ways without disguise, at another time he cloaks himself in his promptings under the garb of virtue.  This beast, then, which is so variously spotted, is rightly called ‘a tiger,’ being with the LXX called an ‘Ant-lion,’ as we have said above.  Which same creature, as we have before shewn, hiding itself in the dust kills the ants carrying their corn, in that the Apostate Angel, being cast out of heaven upon the earth, in the very pathway of their practice besets the minds of the righteous, providing for themselves the provender of good works, and whilst he overcomes them by his snares, he as it were kills by surprise the ants carrying their grains.  And he is rightly called ‘Ant-lion,’ i.e. ‘a lion and ant.’  For as we have said, to the ants he is ‘a lion,’ but to the birds of the air, ‘an ant,’ in that our old enemy, as he is strong to encounter those that yield to him, is weak against such as resist him.  For if consent be yielded to his persuasions, like a lion he can never be sustained, but if resistance be offered, like an ant he is ground in the dust.  Therefore to some he is ‘a lion,’ to others ‘an ant,’ in that carnal minds sustain his cruel assaults with difficulty, but spiritual minds trample upon his weakness with virtue's foot.  Heretics then, because they are full of pride by pretension to sanctity, say as it were in exultation, The Ant-lion, or probably, the tiger perisheth for lack of prey.  As though the words were plainly expressed, ‘The old foe has no prey in us, in that, as far as regards our purposes, he already lies defeated.’  Now it is for this reason that he is again mentioned under the title of ‘an Ant lion,’ or of ‘a tiger,’ who had been already set forth by the ‘roaring of the lion broken,’ because whatever is said in joy, is repeated over and over.  For when the mind is full of exultation, it redoubles the expressions.  And hence the Psalmist, from true joy, frequently repeats this, that he was assured that he had been heard, saying, the Lord hath heard the voice of my weepingThe Lord hath heard my supplications.  The Lord hath received my prayer. [Ps. 6, 8. 9.]


44.  But when holy men are glad of heart that they have been rescued from some evil habits, they possess [Lit. ‘shake’] themselves with great fear even in that very gladness.  For though they be now rescued from the commotion of any single storm, yet they call to mind that they are still tossing in the treacherous waves of an uncertain sea, and they so exult in hope that they tremble in fear, and so tremble in fear that they exult in confidence of hope.  Whence it is said by the same Psalmist, Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. [Ps. 2, 11]  But on the other hand, they, whom a specious shew of sanctity fills with big thoughts, when they get the better of any one evil habit, immediately erect their heart in pride, and as it were glory in the perfection of their lives, and for this, that perchance they have been once snatched from the perils of the storm, they already forget that they are still at sea, they look upon themselves as great in all things, and imagine that they have wholly overcome their old adversary; they regard all men below them, in that they believe that their wisdom places them above all.  Whence it is added;

Now a secret word was spoken to me.




45.  ‘A secret word,’ heretics pretend to hear, that they may bring a certain reverence for their preaching over their hearers' minds.  And hence they preach with a secret meaning, that their preaching may seem to be holy, in proportion as it is at the same time hidden.  Now they are loath to have a common sort of knowledge, lest they should be placed on a par with the rest of their fellow-creatures, and they are ever making out new things, which whilst others know nothing of, they plume their own selves on the preeminence of their knowledge before inexperienced minds.  And this knowledge, as we have said, they teach is occult; for, that they may be able to shew it to be wonderful, they affirm that they obtained it by secret means.  Hence with Solomon the woman, bearing the semblance of heretics, says, Stolen waters are [Vulg.] sweeter, and bread eaten in secret is more pleasant. [Prov. 9, 17]  Whence in this place too it is added;

And mine ear as it were by stealth received the veins [Vulg.] of the whispering thereof.


They ‘receive the veins of whispers by stealth,’ in that abandoning the grace of knowledge in fellowship, they do not enter thereinto by the door, as the Lord witnesses, Who saith, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber; But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. [John 10, 1. 2.]  Therefore he ‘receives the veins of divine whispers by stealth,’ who, whilst the door of public preaching for receiving the knowledge of His excellency is forsaken, searches out the gaps and chinks of a froward understanding.  But because the thief and robber, who enters by another way, both loves the darkness, and abhors the clearness of the light, it is properly added;

Ver. 13.  In the horror of a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth on men.




46.  It often happens, that while heretics are bent to discourse of things above them, they become their own witnesses against themselves, that what they deliver is not true.  For in a vision of the night the sight is uncertain.  Therefore they declare that they received ‘the inklings [rimas] of whispers’ in ‘the tenor of a vision of the night,’ for, that the things, which they teach, may be made to appear sublime to others, they declare that they themselves can scarcely comprehend them.  But it may be inferred from hence how far that can be rendered certain to their hearers, which they themselves beheld but dubiously.  And so is it marvellously ordered, that while they run on speaking of sublime things, in the exposure of folly, they are entangled in the very words of their sublimity.  Now to what height they rear themselves for singularity of wisdom, is shewn, when he adds in the same breath, when deep sleep falleth upon men.  As if it were openly said by heretics, ‘When men are asleep beneath, we wake to receive heavenly truths, in that to us all that is known, to the knowledge whereof the dull hearts of men cannot arise.’  As if they said in plain words, ‘In things, wherein our understanding rises erect, the faculties of the rest of the world lie asleep.’  But sometimes, when they see that this is disregarded by the hearer, they feign that they are themselves in fear of what they say.  Whence it is added;

Ver. 14.  Fear came upon me and trembling, which made all my bones to shake.




47.  For because they desire to appear objects of wonder for the loftiness of their instructions, they affect to be awed at the accounts which they make up.  And whilst it is a less difficulty to hear than to speak, they are bold enough to put forth that, which, forsooth, they feign that they the very same persons were scarcely able to hear.  Whence it is added yet further;

Ver. 15, 16.  And when a spirit passed before my face, the hair of my flesh stood up.  There stood one, but I knew not the face of him.


48.  That they may shew that they have been made acquainted with incomprehensible mysteries, they relate, not that ‘a spirit’ stood still, but that it ‘passed by before their face.’  And they pretend that they beheld a countenance they knew not, that they may prove themselves to be known to Him, Whom the human mind is not equal to know.  And here it is further added;

An image was before mine eyes, and I heard the voice as it were of a light breath of air.




49.  Heretics often picture God to themselves by a sensible form [imaginaliter], seeing that they are unable to behold Him spiritually.  And they tell that they hear His ‘voice as of a light breath of air,’ in that for the obtaining the knowledge of His secret things, they delight to have as if a particular freedom of intercourse with Him.  For they never teach the things, which God reveals openly, but such as are breathed into their ears in a secret manner.  All this, then, we have said, to indicate what we are to look for in the words of Eliphaz, as he bears the semblance of heretics.  But forasmuch as the friends of blessed Job would never have been the friends of one so great, unless they had evidently learned something of truth, which same, while they go wrong in uttering sentences of rebuke, yet do not altogether totter in the knowledge of the truth, let us return upon these same words a little way back, that we may make out more exactly how the things which are said concerning the perception of truth, may be delivered in a true sense by persons viewing things aright.  Now sometimes heretics utter things both true and lofty, not that they themselves receive them from above, but because they have learnt them in the controversy of Holy Church, nor do they apply them to the furtherance of conscientious living, but to the display of scientific skill.  Whence it very commonly happens, that by knowing they tell high truths, yet in living they know nothing what they tell.  Therefore, whether as they represent heretics, who hold, not the life, but the words of knowledge, or whether in the person of the friends of blessed Job, who, doubtless, with regard to their knowledge of the truth, might in seeing realize what they aimed in teaching to give utterance to, let us more minutely examine these sayings which we have gone through, that, while the words of Eliphaz are carefully gone into, it may be shewn what knowledge he possessed, though in that knowledge he failed to retain humility, who appropriated to himself peculiarly a benefit common to all.  For he says,

Ver. 12.  Now a hidden word was spoken to me.




50.  For the invisible Son is called ‘the hidden Word,’ concerning Whom John saith, In the beginning was the Word. [John 1, 1]  Which he the same person teaches to be ‘hidden’ in that he adds, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  But this ‘hidden Word’ is delivered to the minds of the Elect, when the power of the Only-Begotten Son is made manifest to believers.  By ‘the hidden word’ we may also understand the communication of inward Inspiration, concerning which it is said by John, His anointing teacheth you of all things. [1 John 2, 27]  Which same inspiration on being communicated to the mind of man lifts it up, and putting down all temporal interests inflames it with eternal desires, that nothing may any longer yield it satisfaction but the things that are above, and that it may look down upon all, that, from human corruption, is in a state of uproar below.  And so to hear ‘the hidden word’ is to receive in the heart the utterance of the Holy Spirit.  Which same indeed can never be known save by him, by whom it may be possessed.  And hence it is said by the voice of Truth concerning this hidden utterance, And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with, you for ever; even The Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive. [John 14, 16. 17.]  For as that ‘Comforter,’ after the Ascension of the Mediator, being another Consoler of mankind, is in Himself invisible, so He inflames each one that He has filled to long after the invisible things.  And because worldly hearts are set upon the things that are seen alone, the world receiveth Him not, because it doth not rise up to the love of the things that are unseen.  For worldly minds, in proportion as they spread themselves out in interests without, contract the bosom of the heart against the admission of Him.  And because out of mankind there are few indeed, who, being purified from the pollution of earthly desires, are opened by that purification to the receiving of the Holy Spirit, this word is called ‘a hidden word,’ since, surely, there are particular persons that receive that in the heart, which the generality of men know nothing of.  Or truly this same inspiration of the Holy Spirit is ‘a hidden word,’ in that it may be felt, but cannot be expressed by the noise of speech.  When, then, the inspiration of God lifts up the soul without noise, ‘a hidden word’ is heard, in that the utterance of the Spirit sounds silently in the ear of the heart.  And hence it is added;

And mine ear as it were stealthily received the veins of the whispering thereof.




51.  The ear of the heart ‘receives stealthily the veins of heavenly whispering,’ in that both in a moment and in secret the inspired soul is made to know the subtle quality of the inward utterance.  For except it bury itself from external objects of desire, it fails to enter into the internal things.  It is both hidden that it may hear, and it hears that it may be hidden; in that at one and the same time being withdrawn from the visible world its eyes are upon the invisible, and being replenished with the unseen, it entertains a perfect contempt for what is visible.  But it is to be observed that he does not say, Mine ear received as it were by stealth the whispering thereof; but the veins of the whispering thereof; for ‘the whispering of the hidden word’ is the very utterance of inward Inspiration itself; but ‘the veins of the whispering’ is the name for the sources of the occasions whereby that inspiration itself is conveyed to the mind.  For it is as if It opened ‘the veins of its whispering,’ when God secretly communicates to us in what ways He enters into the ear of our understandings.  Thus at one time He pierces us with love, at another time with terror.  Sometimes He shews us how little the present scene of things is, and lifts up our hearts to desire the eternal world, sometimes He first points to the things of eternity, that these of time may after that grow worthless in our eyes.  Sometimes He discloses to us our own evil deeds, and thence draws us on even to the point of feeling sorrow for the evil deeds of others also.  Sometimes He presents to our eyes the evil deeds of others, and reforms us from our own wickedness, pierced with a wonderful feeling of compunction.  And so to ‘hear the veins of Divine whispering by stealth,’ is to be made to know the secret methods of divine Inspiration, at once gently and secretly.


52.  Though we may interpret whether ‘the whispering’ or ‘the veins of whispering’ in another way yet.  For he that ‘whispers’ is speaking in secret, and he does not give out, but imitates a voice.  We, therefore, so long as we are beset by the corruptions of the flesh, in no wise behold the brightness of the Divine Power, as it abides unchangeable in itself, in that the eye of our weakness cannot endure that which shines above us with intolerable lustre from the ray of His Eternal Being.  And so when the Almighty shews Himself to us by the chinks of contemplation, He does not speak to us, but whispers, in that though He does not fully develope Himself, yet something of Himself He does reveal to the mind of man.  But then He no longer whispers at all, but speaks, when His appearance is manifested to us in certainty.  It is hence that Truth saith in the Gospel, I shall shew you plainly of the Father. [John 16, 25]  Hence John saith, For we shall see Him as He is. [1 John 3, 2] Hence Paul saith, Then shall I know even as also I am known. [1 Cor. 13, 12.]  Now in this present time, the Divine whispering has as many veins for our ears as the works of creation, which the Divine Being Himself is Lord of; for while we view all things that are created, we are lifted up in admiration of the Creator.  For as water that flows in a slender stream is sought by being bored for through veins, with a view to increase it, and as it pours forth the more copiously, in proportion as it finds the veins more open, so we, whilst we heedfully gather the knowledge of the Divine Being from the contemplation of His creation, as it were open to ourselves the ‘veins of His whispering,’ in that by the things that we see have been made, we are led to marvel at the excellency of the Maker, and by the objects that are in public view, that issues forth to us, which is hidden in concealment.  For He bursts out to us in a kind of sound as it were, whilst He displays His works to be considered by us, wherein He betokens Himself in a measure, in that He shews how Incomprehensible He is.  Therefore, because we cannot take thought of Him as He deserves, we hear not His voice, yea, scarcely His whispering.  For because we are not equal to form a full and perfect estimate of the very things that are created, it is rightly said, Mine ear as it were by stealth received the veins of whispering; in that being cast forth from the delights of paradise, and visited with the punishment of blindness, we scarcely take in ‘the veins of whispering;’ since His very marvellous works themselves we consider but hastily and slightly.  But we must bear in mind, that in proportion as the soul being lifted up contemplates His excellency, so being held back it shrinks from His righteous perfectness [rectitudinem].  And hence it is rightly added;

Ver.13.  In the horror of a vision of the night.




53.  The horror of a vision of the night is the shuddering of secret contemplation.  For the higher the elevation, whereat the mind of man contemplates the things that are eternal, so much the more, terror-struck at her temporal deeds, she shrinks with dread, in that she thoroughly discovers herself guilty, in proportion as she sees herself to have been out of harmony with that light, which shines in the midst of darkness [intermicat] above her, and then it happens that the mind being enlightened entertains the greater fear, as it more clearly sees by how much it is at variance with the rule of truth.  And she, that before seemed as it were more secure in seeing nothing, trembles with sore affright from her very own proficiency itself.  Though, whatever her progress in virtue, she does not as yet compass any clear insight into eternity, but still sees with the indistinctness of a certain shadowy imagining.  And hence this same is called a vision of the night.  For as we have also said above, in the night we see doubtfully, but in the day we see steadily.  Therefore because, as regards the contemplating the ray of the interior Sun, the cloud of our corruption interposes itself, nor does the unchangeable Light burst forth such as It is to the weak eyes of our mind, we as it were still behold God ‘in a vision of the night,’ since most surely we go darkling under a doubtful sight.  Yet though the mind may have conceived but a distant idea concerning Him, yet in contemplation of His Greatness, she recoils with dread, and is filled with a greater awe, in that she feels herself unequal even to the very skirts of the view of Him.  And falling back upon herself, she is drawn to Him with closer bonds of love, Whose marvellous sweetness, being unable to bear, she has but just tasted of under an indistinct vision.  But, because she never attains to such an height of elevation, unless the importunate and clamorous throng of carnal desires be first brought under governance, it is rightly added,

When deep sleep falleth upon men.




54.  Whoever is bent to do the things which are of the world, is, as it were, awake, but he, that seeking inward rest eschews the riot of this world, sleeps as it were.  But first we must know that, in holy Scripture, sleep, when put figuratively, is understood in three senses.  For sometimes we have expressed by sleep the death of the flesh, sometimes the stupefaction of neglect, and sometimes tranquillity of life, upon the earthly desires being trodden underfoot.  Thus, by the designation of sleep or slumbering the death of the flesh is implied; as when Paul says, And I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep. [1 Thess. 4, 13] And soon after, Even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him. [ver. 14]  Again, by sleep is designated the stupefaction of neglect; as where it is said by that same Paul, Now it is high time to awake out of sleep. [Rom. 13, 11]  And again, Awake, ye righteous [Vulg.], and sin not. [1 Cor. 15, 34]  By sleep too is represented tranquillity of life, when the carnal desires are trodden down; as where these words are uttered by the voice of the spouse in the Song of Songs, I sleep, but my heart waketh. [Cant. 5, 2]  For, in truth, in proportion as the holy mind withholds itself from the turmoil of temporal desire, the more thoroughly it attains to know the things of the interior, and is the more quick and awake to inward concerns, the more it withdraws itself out of sight from external disquietude.  And this is well represented by Jacob sleeping on his journey.  He put a stone to his head and slept.  He beheld a ladder from the earth fixed in heaven, the Lord resting upon the ladder, Angels also ascending and descending.  For to ‘sleep on a journey’ is, in the passage of this present life, to rest from the love of things temporal.  To sleep on a journey is, in the course of our passing days, to close those eyes of the mind to the desire of visible objects, which the seducer opened to the first of mankind, saying, For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened. [Gen. 3, 5]  And hence it is soon afterwards added, She took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat.  And the eyes of them both were opened. [ver. 6, 7.]  For sin opened the eyes of concupiscence, which innocence kept shut.  But to ‘see Angels ascending and descending,’ is to mark the citizens of the land above, either with what love they cleave to their Creator above them, or with what fellow-feeling in charity they condescend to aid our infirmities.


55.  And it is very deserving of observation, that he that ‘lays his head upon a stone,’ is he who sees the Angels in his sleep, surely because that same person by resting from external works penetrates internal truths, who with mind intent, which is the governing Principle of man, looks to the imitating of his Redeemer.  For to ‘lay the head upon a stone’ is to cleave to Christ in mind.  Since they that are withdrawn from this life's sphere of action, yet whom no love transports above, may have sleep, but can never see the Angels, because they despise to keep their head upon a stone.  For there are some, who fly indeed the business of the world, but exercise themselves in no virtues.  These, indeed, sleep from stupefaction, not from serious design, and therefore they never behold the things of the interior, because they have laid their head, not upon a stone, but upon the earth.  Whose lot it most frequently is, that in proportion as they rest more secure from outward actions, the more amply they are gathering in themselves from idleness an uproar of unclean thoughts.  And thus under the likeness of Judaea the Prophet bewails the soul stupefied by indolence, where he says, The adversaries saw her, and did mock at her sabbaths. [Lam. 1, 7]  For by the precept of the Law there is a cessation from outward work upon the Sabbath Day.  Thus her ‘enemies looking on mock at her sabbaths,’ when evil spirits pervert the very waste hours of vacancy to unlawful thoughts.  So that every soul, in proportion as it is supposed to be devoted to the service of God, by being removed from external action, the more it drudges to their tyranny, by entertaining unlawful thoughts.  But good men, who sleep to the works of the world, not from inertness, but from virtue, are more laborious in their sleep than they would be awake.  For herein, that by abandoning they are made superior to this world's doings, they daily fight against themselves, maintaining a brave conflict, that the mind be not rendered dull by neglect, nor, subdued by indolence, cool down to the harbouring of impure desires, nor in good desires themselves be more full of fervour than is right, nor by sparing itself under the pretext of discretion, may slacken its endeavour after perfection.  These are the things she is employed withal: she both wholly withdraws herself from the restless appetite of this world, and gives over the turmoil of earthly actions, and in pursuit of tranquillity, bent on virtuous attainments, she sleeps waking.  For she is never led on to contemplate internal things, unless she be heedfully withdrawn from those, which entwine themselves about her without.  And it is hence that Truth declares by His own mouth, No man can serve two Masters. [Matt. 6, 20]  Hence Paul saith, No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him that hath chosen him to be a soldier. [2 Tim. 2, 4]  Hence the Lord charges us by the Prophet, saying, Be still [Vacate, be at leisure], and know that I am the Lord. [Ps. 46, 10]  Therefore, because inward knowledge is not cognisable by us, except there be a rest from outward embarrasments, the season of the hidden word, and of the whisperings of God, is in this place rightly set forth, when it is said, In the horror of a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in that truly our mind is never caught away after the force and power of inward contemplation, unless it be first carefully lulled to rest from all agitation of earthly desires.  But the human mind, lifted on high by the engine as it were of its contemplation, in proportion as it sees things higher above itself, the more terribly it trembles in itself.  And hence it is fitly added,

Ver. 14.  Fear came upon me and trembling, which made all my bones to shake.




56.  What is denoted by ‘bones’ but strong deeds?  Of which also it is said by the Prophet, He keepeth all their bones. [Ps. 34, 20]  And it often happens that the things which men do, they reckon to be of some account, because they know not, how keen is the discernment of His inward sifting; but when, transported on the wings of contemplation, they behold things above, in some sort they melt away from the security they felt in their presumption, and quake in sight of God the more, in proportion as they do not even reckon their excellences fit for the searching eye of Him, Whom they behold.  For it is hence that he, who had gained ground in doing strong deeds, being lifted up by the Spirit, exclaimed, All my hones shall say, Lord, who is like unto Thee? [Ps. 35, 10]  As though he said, ‘My flesh is without words, in that my infirmities are wholly silent before Thee, but my bones sing the praises of Thy greatness.  In that the very things, which I thought to be strong in me, tremble at the view of Thee.’  It is hence that Manoah shrinking at the vision of the Angel, says, We shall surely die, for we have seen The Lord. [Judg. 13, 22. 23.]  Whom his wife immediately comforts, with these words, If the Lord were pleased to kill us, He would not have received a burnt-offering, and a meat-offering at our hand.  But how is it that the man becomes fearful at the vision of the Angel, and the woman bold; but that as often as heavenly things are shewn us, the spirit indeed is shaken with affright, yet hope has confidence?  For hope lifts itself to dare greater feats from the same cause, whereby the spirit is troubled, in that it sees the first the things that are above.  Therefore because, when the mind, being lifted on high, beholds the higher depths of the secrets of heaven, all that is most solid of human strength trembles, it is well said here, Fear came upon me and trembling, which made all my bones to shake.  As though it were expressed in plain words; ‘When I perceived the secrets of inmost subtlety, in that quarter where I thought myself in my own eyes strong, I faltered in the sight of the Judge.’  For contemplating the strictness of Divine Justice, we justly fear even for the very works themselves, which we flattered ourselves we had so done that they were strong.  For our uprightness, when drawn parallel to the inward rule, if it meets with strict judgment, comes cross, with many sinuosities of its windings, to the inward uprightness.  And hence, when Paul both perceived that he had the bones of the several virtues, and yet that these same bones trembled under the searching scrutiny, he saith, But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment; yea, I judge not mine own self; for I know nothing against myself: [1 Cor. 4, 3. 4.]  Yet because, when the ‘veins’ of the divine ‘whispering’ were heard, these same bones quaked, he thereupon added, For I am not hereby justified; but he that judgeth me is the Lord.  As though be were to say, ‘I remember that I have done light things, yet I presume not on my merits; for our life is brought to the scrutiny of Him, under Whom even the bones of our strength are dismayed.


57.  But when the mind is suspended in contemplation, when, exceeding the narrow limits of the flesh, with all the power of her ken, she strains to find something of the freedom of interior security, she cannot for long rest standing above herself, because though the spirit carries her on high, yet the flesh sinks her down below by the yet remaining weight of her corruption.  And hence it is added,

Ver. 15.  And as a spirit passed before my face, the hair of my flesh stood up.




58.  ‘A spirit passes before our face,’ when we are brought to the knowledge of invisible things, and yet see these same not stedfastly, but with a hasty glance.  For not even in the sweetness of inward contemplation does the mind remain fixed for long, in that being made to recoil by the very immensity of the light it is called back to itself.  And when it tastes that inward sweetness, it is on fire with love, it longs to mount above itself, yet it falls back in broken state to the darkness of its frailty.  And advancing in high perfection, it sees that it cannot yet see that which it ardently loves, which yet it would not love ardently did it not in some sort see the same.  Thus the spirit is not stationary, but ‘passes by;’ because our contemplation both discloses to us, that pant thereafter, the heavenly light, and forthwith conceals the same from us failing from weakness.  And because in this life, whatever degree of virtue a man may have advanced to, he still feels the sting of corruption, For the corruptible body presseth down the soul, and the earthy tabernacle weigheth down the mind that museth upon many things [Wisd. 9, 15]; therefore it is rightly added,

The hair of my flesh stood up.


59.  For ‘the hairs of the flesh’ are all the superfluities of human corruption.  ‘The hairs of the flesh’ are the imaginations of the former life, which we so cut away from the mind, that we let no grief for the loss of them disturb our peace.  And it is well said by Moses, Let the Levites shave [Vulg. thus] all the hairs of their flesh. [Numb. 8, 7]  For a ‘Levite’ is rendered ‘taken.’  And thus it behoves the ‘Levites’ to shave all ‘the hairs of the flesh,’ in that he who is ‘taken’ into the divine ministrations, ought to shew himself clear of all imaginations of the flesh before the eyes of God, that the mind never put forth unlawful thoughts, and so deform the fair appearance of the soul as it were by sprouting hairs.  But whatever perfection of holy living may have raised the condition of any man, yet there still springs up to him from his old state of life somewhat to bear.  And hence the same hairs of the Levites are commanded to be shaven, not to be plucked out, for the roots still remain in the flesh to the shaven hairs, and grow again to be again cut off, in that while we are to use great diligence in cutting off all rank thoughts, yet they never can be wholly and entirely cut off.  For the flesh is ever engendering a rank produce, which the spirit should ever be cutting away with the knife of heedfulness.  Yet it is then that we see these things with more exactness, when we penetrate into the heights of contemplation; and hence it is rightly said, Whilst a Spirit passed before my face, the hair of my flesh stood up.


60.  For when the human mind is lifted up on the tower of contemplation, it the more cruelly torments itself for its superfluities, in proportion as it perceives that which it loves to be infinitely refined; and when it beholds that beautiful Being, which it longs for, above its own height, it severely judges every thing infirm in itself, which it bore with tranquillity before.  Therefore when ‘the Spirit passeth by,’ ‘the hairs quake,’ in that before the power of compunction, all rank thoughts flee away, that nought that is loose, nought that is dissipated, any longer gives pleasure, for severity of inward visitings kindles the inspired soul even against its own self; and when that which riseth up in the heart of an unlawful kind, is cut away with unintermitted strictness, it very often happens that the invigorated soul enters into its ray of contemplation with a somewhat larger range, and almost arrests the spirit which was ‘passing by.’  Yet does not this same lingering of contemplation fully discover the force of the Divine nature, for its vastness transcends all human powers thus enlarged and elevated.  And hence it is well added;

Ver. 16.  There stood a certain one, but I could not discern the form thereof.  [V. thus]




61.  For we do not speak of a certain one, saving surely in the case of him, whom we are either unwilling or unable to express.  Now with what feeling it is here said a certain one, is clearly set forth, in that it immediately comes in, but I could not discern the form thereof.  For the human soul, being by the sin of the first of mankind banished from the joys of paradise, lost the light of the invisible, and poured itself out entire in the love of the visible, and was darkened in the interior sight, in proportion as it was dissipated without, to the deformment of itself.  Whence it comes to pass that it knows nothing, saving the things that it acquaints itself with by the palpable touch, so to say, of the bodily eyes.  For man, who, had he been willing to have kept the commandment, would even in his flesh have been a spiritual being, by sinning was rendered even in soul carnal, so as to imagine such things only as he derives to the soul through the images of bodily substances.  For body is the property of heaven, earth, water, animals, and all the visible things; which he unceasingly beholds; and while the delighted mind wholly precipitates itself into these, it waxes gross, loses the fineness of the inward sense; and whereas it is now no longer able to erect itself to things on high, it willingly lies prostrate in its weakness in things below.  But when with marvellous efforts it strives to rise up from the same, it is great indeed, if the soul, thrusting aside the bodily form, be brought to the knowledge of itself, so as to think of itself without a bodily figure, and by thus thinking of itself to prepare itself a pathway to contemplate the substance of Eternity.


62.  Now in this way it shews itself to its own eyes as a kind of ladder, whereby in ascending from outward things to pass into itself, and from itself to tend unto its Maker.  For when the mind quits bodily images, entering into itself, it mounts up to no mean height; for though the soul be incorporeal, yet because she is incorporate with the body, she is known by that property of hers, which is confined within the local bounds of the flesh.  And whereas she forgets things known, acquaints herself with such as are unknown, remembers what has been consigned to oblivion, entertains mirth after sadness, is adjudged to punishment [addicitur] after joy; she herself shews by her own diversity in herself, how widely she is removed from the Substance of eternal Unchangeableness.  Which is always the same, even as It Is; Which every where present, every where invisible, every where whole and entire, every where incomprehensible, is by the longing mind discerned without seeing, heard without uncertainty, taken in without motion, touched without bodily substance, held without locality.  Now when the mind that is used to corporeal objects represents to itself this same Substance, it is loaded with the phantasms of divers images.  And whilst it banishes these from the eyes of its attention with the hand of discernment, making every thing give place thereto, it at last beholds It in some degree.  And if it does not as yet apprehend what It is, it has surely learnt what It is not.  And so because the mind is carried away into unaccustomed ground, when it pries into the Essence of the Deity, it is rightly said here, A certain one stood, but I could not discern the form thereof.


63.  And it is well said, it stood still; for every created thing, in that it is made out of nothing, and of itself tends to nothing, has not the property to stand, but to run to an end.  But a creature endowed with reason, by this very circumstance, that it is created after the image of its Maker, is fixed

that it should not pass into nothing.  Now no irrational creature is ever fixed, but only, so long as, by the service of its appearing, it is completing the form and fashion of the universe, it is delayed in passing away.  For though heaven and earth abide henceforth and for ever, still they are at this present time of themselves hastening on to nought; yet for the use of those, whom they serve, they remain to be changed for the better.  To ‘stand’ then is the attribute of the Creator alone, through Whom all thing's pass away, Himself never passing away, and in Whom some things are held fast, that they should not pass away.  Hence our Redeemer, because the fixed state of His Divine Nature could not be comprehended by the human mind, shewed this to us as it were in passing, by coming to us, by being created, born, dead, buried, by rising again, and returning to the heavenly realms.  Which He well shadowed out in the Gospel by the enlightening the blind man, to whom when passing on He vouchsafed a hearing, but it was standing still that He healed his eyes.  For by the economy of His Human Nature He had His passing on, but the standing by the power of His Divine Nature, in that He is every where present.  Thus the Lord is said to hear the complaints of our blind condition in passing, in that being made Man He has compassion on human misery; but He restores light to the eyes standing still, in that He enlightens the darkness of our frail state by the efficacy of His Divine Nature.  It is well then that, after it has been said, Then a spirit passed before my face, it should be added, but I could not discern the form thereof.  As if it were in plain words, ‘Him, Whom I perceived in passing, I discovered never to pass.’  He then that ‘passes’ is the same as He that ‘stands still.’  He ‘passes,’ in that when known He cannot be detained, He ‘stands still,’ in that, so far as He is known, He is seen to be unchangeable.  Therefore, because He, That is ever the Same, is seen by a hasty glance, God at the same time appears both passing and standing still.  Or surely His ‘standing’ is His never varying with any change; as it is said to Moses, I AM THAT I AM.  And as James represents Him, saying, With Whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. [Jam. 1, 17]  Now whereas every man, that apprehends something of the Eternal Being by contemplation, beholds the Same through His coeternal Image, it is rightly subjoined;

An image was before mine eyes.




64.  For the Image of the Father is the Son, as Moses teaches in the case of man at his creation; So God created man in His own Image; in the Image of God created He him. [Gen. 1, 27]  And as the Wise Man, in the setting forth of Wisdom, saith concerning the same Son, For She is the brightness of the everlasting light. [Wisd. 7, 26]  And as Paul hath it, Who being the brightness of His glory, and the express Image of His Person. [Heb. 1, 3] When then His Eternity is perceived as far as the capability of our frail nature admits, His Image is set before the eyes of the mind, in that when we really strain towards the Father, as far as we receive Him we see Him by His Image, i.e. by His Son, And by That Image, Which was born of Himself without beginning, we strive in some sort to obtain a glimpse of Him, Who hath neither beginning nor ending.  And hence this same Truth saith in the Gospel, No man cometh to the Father but by Me. [John 14, 6]  And it is well added,

And I heard the voice as it were of a light breath.




65.  For what is signified by ‘the voice of a light breath,’ but the knowledge of the Holy Spirit, Which proceeding from the Father, and receiving of that which belongeth to the Son, is gently imparted to the knowledge of our frail nature?  Yet when It came upon the Apostles, It is demonstrated by an outward sound, like a vehement blast, where it is said, And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind. [Acts 2, 2]  For when the Holy Spirit imparts Itself to the knowledge of frail humanity, It is both represented by ‘the sound of a rushing mighty wind,’ and also by the ‘voice of a gentle breath,’ clearly, in that when It comes, It is both ‘vehement’ and ‘gentle;’ ‘gentle,’ in that It tempers the knowledge of Itself to our perceptions, so as to be in some sort brought under our cognizance; ‘vehement,’ in that however It may temper that same, yet by Its coming, It confounds while It illumines the darkness of our frail condition.  For It touches us but lightly by Its enlightening influence, yet it shakes our emptiness with fearful might.


66.  So God's voice is heard as if of ‘a light breath,’ in that the Divine Being never imparts Himself as He is to those that contemplate Him while still in this life, but to the purblind eyes of our mind He discovers His brightness but scantily.  Which is well represented by the very receiving of the Law itself, when it is said that Moses ascended, and God descended upon the Mount.  For ‘the Mount’ is our very contemplation itself, whereinto we ascend, that we may be elevated to see those things which are beyond our frail nature; but the Lord descends thereupon, in that, when we advance much, He discloses some little concerning Himself to our perceptions, if either ‘little’ or ‘somewhat’ can be said to be in Him, Who, being always One and abiding the Same, cannot be understood by parts, and yet is said to be participated by His faithful servants, whereas ‘part’ is nowise admissible in His Substance.  But because we are unable to express Him with perfect speech, being hindered by the scanty measure of our human nature, as by the impotency of the infant state, we give back an echo of Him in some sort with stammering utterance.  But that when we are lifted up in high contemplation, it is somewhat refined that we attain unto in the knowledge of the Eternal One, is shewn by the words of Sacred Story, when the illustrious Prophet Elijah is instructed in the knowledge of God.  For when the Lord promised him that He would pass by before him, saying, And, behold, the Lord passeth by, a great and strong wind rending the mountains, and breaking in pieces the rocks before the Lord;  He thereupon added, But the Lord is not in the wind: and after the wind a quaking, but the Lord is not in the quaking: and after the quaking a fire, but the Lord is not in the fire: and after the fire, a still small voice. [1 Kings 19, 11. 12.] [V. the whisper of a gentle air]  For the wind before the Lord overturns the mountains, and shatters the rocks, in that the affright, which rushes in upon us from His coming, both casts down the exaltation of our hearts, and melts their hardness.  But the Lord is said not to be in the ‘wind of quaking’ and in the fire, but it is not denied that He is ‘in the still small voice,’ in that verily when the mind is hung aloft in the height of contemplation, whatever it has power to see perfectly and completely is not God, but when it sees something of great fineness, this is the same as that he hears belonging to the incomprehensible substance of the Deity.  For we as it were perceive a still small voice, when by a moment's contemplation we taste with finest sense the savour of incomprehensible truth.  Accordingly then only is there truth in what we know concerning God, when we are made sensible that we cannot know any thing fully concerning Him.  Hence it is well added in that place, And it was so when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out and stood at the entering in of the cave.  After the still small voice, the Prophet covers his face with his mantle, because in that very refined contemplation he learns in what a cloak of ignorance man is shrouded; for to draw the mantle over the face is to veil the mind by the consideration of its own infirmity, that it may never presume to seek things above it, that it never rashly open the eyes of the understanding beyond itself, but close them with a feeling of awe to that which it cannot apprehend.  And he, in doing such things, is described to have stood at the entering in of the cave.  For what is our cave but this dwelling-place of our corrupt nature, wherein we are still held fast from remaining oldness?  But when we begin to take in something of the knowledge of the Divine Being, we as it were already stand ‘in the entering in of our cave;’ for whereas we cannot make perfect progress, yet panting after the knowledge of the truth, we already catch something of the breath of liberty.  So to ‘stand at the entering in of the cave,’ is, forcing aside the obstruction of our corrupt nature, to begin to issue forth to the knowledge of the truth.  And hence upon the cloud descending on the Tabernacle, the Israelites seeing it afar off are related to have stood at the entering in of their tents, [Ex. 33, 9] in that they, who in some sort behold the coming of the Deity, as it were already issue forth from the habitation of the flesh.  Therefore because with whatever amplitude of virtue the human mind may have enlarged its compass, yet it scarcely knows the very outermost extremes that belong to the interior things, it is rightly said here, And I heard the voice as of a light breath; but as at the time that the knowledge of the Deity shews us after all but little concerning Itself, It is perfectly instructing the ignorance of our infirmness; let him that ‘heard the voice of a light breath,’ declare all that he learnt by that same hearing.  It goes on;

Ver. 17.  Shall mortal man be more just than God?  Shall a man be more pure than his Maker?




67.  Human righteousness compared with the righteousness of God is unrighteousness, for even a candle is seen to shine bright in the dark, but being set in the ray of the sun its light is darkened.  What then did Eliphaz learn when he was transported in contemplation, saving that man cannot be justified in comparison with God?  For we believe that what we do outwardly is righteous, but when we never at all acquaint ourselves with the things of the interior, we are as it were blind whilst set in the ray of the sun.  But when we, little as we can, discern the one, it is not a little [non utcunque] that we judge the others, in that a man judges the darkness more exactly, in proportion as the brightness [A.B.C.D. ‘reality’] of light is more truly manifested to him.  For he, that seeth light, knoweth what to account of the darkness, as he, that is ignorant of the whiteness of light, lets pass even dark objects for light ones.  And it is rightly added, Shall a man be more pure than his Maker?  For whoso murmurs at the stroke, what does he, but charge the justice of the striker?  Thus a man accounts himself more pure than his Maker, if he stirs complaint against the scourge, and without doubt he makes Him give place to himself, Whose judgment he blames in the case of his own affliction.  Thus, that man may never dare charge his Judge with offence, let him humbly bethink himself that He is the Author of Nature; for He, That with marvellous skill made man out of nothing, does not pitilessly afflict him that He has made; which Eliphaz then learnt when he ‘heard the voice as it were of a light breath.’  For by the contemplation of the greatness of God we learn, how humbly we should abase ourselves with fear under His visitation.  And he, that hath a taste of things above, bears with resignation all events below, in that he perfectly sees within, whereat he should reckon that which he does without.  For he miscounts himself righteous, who knows not the rule of the Supreme Righteousness.  And it often happens that a piece of wood is counted straight, if it be not applied to the rule; but so soon as it is put thereto, we discover the degree of distortion wherewith it swells out, in that, truly, the straight line cuts off and condemns that, which the cheated eye approved as good.  Thus Eliphaz, in that he beheld things above, delivered a strict judgment on all below, and though it was not rightly he reproved blessed Job, yet by comparison with the Creator of all things he rightly describes the measure of the creature, saying,

Ver.  18, 19.  Behold, His servants are not stedfast, and in His Angels He found folly: How much more in them that dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust, which shall be consumed as by the moth?




68.  Though the Angelical nature, by being fixed in contemplation of the Creator, remains unchangeable in its own state, yet hereby, that it is a created being, it admits in itself the variableness of change.  Now to be changed is to go from one thing into another, and to be without stability in one's self.  For every single being tends to some other thing by steps, as many in number as it is subject to motions of change.  And it is only the Incomprehensible Nature, which knows not to be moved from its fixed state, in that It knows not to be changed from this, that It is always the Same.  For if the essence of the Angels had been strange to the motion of change, being created well by its Maker, it would never have fallen in the case of reprobate spirits from the tower of its blessed estate.  But Almighty God in a marvellous manner framed the nature of the highest spiritual existences good, yet at the same time capable of change; that both they, that refused to remain, might meet with ruin, and they, that continued in their own state of creation, might henceforth be stablished therein more worthily in proportion as it was owing to their own choice, and become so much the more meritorious in God's sight, as they had staid the motion of their mutability by the stablishing of the will.  Whereas then this very Angelical nature too is in itself mutable, which same mutability it has hereby overcome, in that it is bound by the chains of love to Him, Who is ever the Same, it is now rightly said, Behold, His servants are not stedfast.  And there is forthwith added a proof of this same mutability, in that it is brought in from the case of the apostate spirits, And in His Angels He found folly.  And from the fall of these He rightly draws the consideration of human frailty, when he appends thereto; How much more in them that dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation, is earthly, which shall be consumed as by the moth.  For we inhabit houses of clay, in that we subsist in earthly bodies.  Which Paul considering saith well; But we have this treasure in earthen vessels. [2 Cor. 4, 7]  And again, For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands. [5, 1]  ‘The earthly foundation’ too is the substance of the flesh; which the Psalmist had earnestly contemplated in himself, when he said, My bones are not hid from Thee, which Thou madest in secret, and my substance in the lower parts of the earth. [Ps. 139, 15]  Now the moth springs from the garment, and in its production destroys that very garment, whereupon it is produced.  And the flesh is as a kind of garment to the soul, but this same garment has withal its moth, in that from itself there arises carnal temptation, whereby it is rent and torn.  For our garment is as it were consumed by a kind of moth of its own, in that the corruptible flesh engendereth temptation, and by this is brought to destruction.  Man is consumed as if by a moth, in that he has arising from himself that, whereby he is to be broken in pieces.  As though it were in plain words, 'If those spirits cannot be of themselves unchangeable, which are kept down by no infirmity of the flesh, by what inconceivable temerity do men account themselves to hold on stedfastly in good, who, wherein they have their understanding elevating them on high, have the clog of carnal frailty acting as an impediment to them, so that through the evil, of a corrupting tendency they contain a cause in themselves, whence they turn old from the interior newness?


69.  The holy Doctors may likewise be understood by ‘the Angels,’ according as it is said by the Prophet, For the Priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth, far he is the Angel [Angelus] of the Lord of hosts.  With whatever degree of virtue these may shine, they can never be altogether without sin, so long as they are engaged in the journey of this life, in that their step is doubtless brought into contact either with the mire of unlawful practice, or with the dust of the thought of the heart.  Now they ‘dwell in houses of clay,’ who rejoice in this ensnaring life of the flesh.  Paul had been brought to contemn the inhabiting this house of clay, when he said, But our conversation is in heaven. [Phil. 3, 20]  Let him say then, Behold, His servants are not stedfast, and in His Angels He hath found folly: how much more in them that dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust, which are consumed as by the moth?  As if he had said in plain words, ‘If the pathway of the present life cannot be passed through without defilement by those, who proclaiming the things of eternity, gird themselves up to encounter those of time, what evils do they undergo, who rejoice to be plunged in the delights of the fleshly habitation?   ‘For His servants are not stedfast,’ for when the mind strains toward things on high, it is dissipated by the conceits of its own flesh, so that oftentimes whilst the mind pants after the things of the interior, while it looks at heavenly objects alone, smitten by a momentary carnal delight, it lies low severed from itself, and he that felt joy that he had surmounted the hindrances of his frailty, prostrated by an unexpected wound, is only filled with woe.  Perverseness then is found even in His Angels, so long as those very men, who proclaim His truth, the surprisals of a deceitful life do at times lie heavy on.  So then if even those are smitten by the wickedness of this world, whom a holy purpose presents erect against the same, with what strokes are not they pierced, whom nothing less than [ipsa] delight in their frailty brings to the ground before its darts?  And these are well described to be ‘consumed,’ as it were, ‘with a moth.’  For a moth does mischief, and makes no sound.  So the minds of the wicked, in that they neglect to take account of their own losses, lose their soundness, as it were, without knowing it.  For they are losing innocency from the heart, truth from the lips, continency from the flesh, and in the course of time, life from the sum of their age.  But they see not one whit that they are unceasingly letting go these same, in that they are busied with all their heart in temporal concerns.  Thus they are ‘consumed as it were with a moth,’ in that they suffer the canker of sin without sound, whilst they remain ignorant what losses in life and innocency of heart they are undergoing.  Hence it is well added,

Ver. 20.  They shall be cut off from morning to evening.




70.  For the sinner is ‘cut off from morning to evening,’ in that from the beginning of his life to the end thereof he is ever getting wounded by the commission of sin.  For the reprobate by increase in wickedness are at all times redoubling blows upon themselves, cut off by which, they may fall headlong into the pit.  And it is well said of them by the Psalmist, Bloody and deceitful men shall not halve their days. [Ps. 55, 23]  For to ‘halve our days’ is to part off the time of our life misspent in pleasure, for the purpose of penitential mourning, and in parting off to recover the same to a good use.  But the wicked never ‘halve their days,’ in that not even in the end of their time do they change their frowardness of heart.  Contrary whereunto Paul rightly exhorts, saying, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. [Eph. 5, 16]  For we ‘redeem the time,’ when by tears we recover our past life, which by rioting we had lost.  It goes on,

And because none understandeth, they perish for ever.




71.  That is to say, ‘none’ of those, who ‘shall be cut off from morning unto evening.’  ‘None understandeth,’ whether of those that perish, or of those who follow the lost ways of the perishing.  Whence it is elsewhere written, The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering. [Is. 57, 1]  Thus, whereas the wicked are set upon temporal things alone, and are unconcerned to learn what blessings are in store for the Elect for everlasting, while they look to the affliction of the just, but never learn what is the recompense of that affliction, they put forth the foot of their conversation into the pit, for they willingly shut their eyes to the light of understanding.  For being decoyed by foolish pleasures, whilst for objects, which they see, they entertain an affection, which belongs to time, being meanwhile strangers to themselves, they never see whereunto they are hurrying for all eternity.  It is possible too that by the morning may be denoted the prosperous fortune of this world, and by the evening the adverse fortune thereof.  So then ‘the wicked are cut off from morning to evening,’ in that by running riot through prosperity they are brought to ruin, and being made impatient by adversity they are lifted up to madness.  These would never be cut off from morning to evening, by sin, if they either took prosperity for the salve or adversity for the knife to their sore.


72.  But forasmuch as the assemblage of the human race is never so forsaken, that the whole is let to go to destruction, there be some, that look down upon the enjoyments [c] of the present life, even when they are present, consider that they are transient, and in the love of the eternal world tread them underfoot.  And while they set the step of judgment on this first stage, they mount with invigorated soul to a loftier height, so that they not only contemn all temporal things, for that they must be quickly parted with, but have no desire to attach themselves thereto, even if they might last for ever.  And they withdraw their love from the things created in beauty, because they stretch forth by the steps of the heart toward the Father of all Beauty Himself.  And there are some that love the good things of the present life, yet never in any wise attain unto them, who pant after temporal blessings with all their hearts' desire, who covet the glory of the world, yet never can make themselves master thereof.  For these, so to speak, the heart draws them on to seek the world, the world drives them back to search out the heart.  For it often chances that, being bruised by those very adversities which they suffer, they are brought back to reason, and returning back into themselves, they consider how little there is in that, which they were seeking after, and forthwith betake themselves to weeping for the foolishness of their desire, and conceive the stronger yearnings for eternal things, in proportion to the folly in which they grieve that they once spent themselves for those of time.  Hence, the wicked having been described, it is well added,

Ver. 21.  But they that have been left shall be taken away from among them. 




73.  Whom else do we understand by ‘the left,’ but all the despised of this world?  whom whilst the present life chooses not for any use of honour, it ‘leaves’ as being the least and most worthless.  But the Lord is said to ‘take away those that are left’ of the world, in that He condescends to make choice of the despised of this life, as Paul bears witness, saying, Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath, chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty. [1 Cor. 1, 26. 27.]  Which is well represented in the Book of Kings by the Egyptian servant fainting in the way, whom the Amalekite abandons taken sick upon the journey, but David finds, refreshes with food, and makes the guide of his route; he pursues the Amalekite, finds him feasting, and utterly destroys him [1 Sam. 30, 13].  For what does it mean that the Egyptian servant of the Amalekite turns faint upon the journey, but that the lover of this present world, covered with the blackness of his sins, is often abandoned in weakness and contempt by the same world, so that he is no longer able to run therewith, but being broken down by adversity, grows helpless.  But David finds him, in that our Redeemer, Who is in a true sense ‘strong of hand,’ sometimes turns to the love of Himself those, whom He finds despised as to the glory of the world, in that He refreshes them with the knowledge of the Word.  He chose him the guide of his way, in that He makes him even the preacher of Himself.  And he, that had no power to follow the Amalekite, becomes the guide of David, in that he, whom the world forsook as worthless, not only when converted entertains the Lord in his affections [suas mentes, al. su mente], but by preaching Him brings Him home even to the hearts of others also.  And with this same guide David discovers and annihilates the Amalekite as he feasted, in that Christ breaks up the joy of the world by those very men as preachers, whom that world scorned to have for its companions.  Therefore because it very often happens that those, whom the world abandons, are chosen of the Lord, it is rightly said in this place, Those, that may have been left, shall be taken from amongst them.  It proceeds;

They shall die, even without wisdom.




74.  How is it that he set forth above the death of the wicked, saying, Because none understandeth they shall perish for ever; and concerning the Elect of God thereupon subjoined, And they that have been left shall be taken away from among them; yet forthwith adds that which cannot accord with those Elect ones, saying, They shall die even without wisdom?  For if they be taken away from among the wicked by the hand of God, how are they said ‘to die without wisdom?’  Why, doubtless it is the fashion of Holy Writ, in relating any thing, after inserting a sentence that concerns another case, to return straightway to its former subject.  Thus after he had said, And because there is none that understandeth, they shall perish for ever; he immediately brought in the lot of the Elect, saying, But they that have been left shall be taken away from among them.  And again directing the eye of his meaning to that destruction of the wicked, which he had foretold, he suddenly subjoined, they shall die, even without wisdom.  As if he said, Those of whom I said that ‘not understanding, they should perish for ever,’ will assuredly ‘die without wisdom.’  But we shall the better shew that this is at times the way with Holy Writ, if we produce therefrom a similar instance to this.  For when Paul the Apostle was counselling his beloved disciple for the settling the offices of the Church, that he might not by chance without due order promote any to Holy Orders, he said, Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men's sins.  Keep thyself pure. [1 Tim. 5, 22]  And forthwith directing his words to his bodily infirmities, he says, Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake, and thine often infirmities. [ver. 23]  And he immediately subjoins; Some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment, and some men they follow after.  [ver. 24]  What connection then has that, which he added concerning the sins of different men being hidden and manifest, with this, that he forbad him in his weak health to drink water?  but that after the insertion of a clause concerning his weakness of health he came back again at the end to that, which he had said above, Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men's sins.  For in order to shew with what anxious heed these same sins are to be inquired into, after introducing a charge to prudence directed against the annoyance of bad health, he straightway put in, that in some men they lay exposed to view, in some hidden from sight, saying, Some men's sins are open beforehand going before to judgment, and some men they follow after.  As then in this sentence Paul does not chime in with these same words, to which, speaking of the weakness of Timothy's health, he subjoined it, but he has returned to that which he made mention of before after an interruption; so when in this place Eliphaz said concerning the Elect, They that have been left shall be taken from among them, by subjoining thereupon, they die even without wisdom; he forthwith recurs to that, which he delivered concerning the wicked, saying, And because none understandeth, they shall perish for ever.


75.  Now it is for this reason that the wicked look down upon the Elect, because they are going toward a life that is invisible through a death that is visible; of whom it is well said in this place, They die even without wisdom.  As though it were said in plain words, “They equally indeed eschew death and wisdom; and wisdom they wholly get quit of, but they do not escape the snares of death.  And whereas doomed, as they are, to die one day, they might in dying have received life, while they dread the death, which will most surely come, they part both with life and wisdom together.”  But, on the other hand, the righteous die in wisdom, for that death, which they cannot wholly avoid, when it threatens them for the sake of the truth, they refuse to put off to a later day, and whilst they undergo the same with resignation, they turn the punishment of their race into an instrument of virtue; that life may be received back from the same quarter, whence, for the deserts of the first sin, it is forced to its end.  But because Eliphaz delivered these things with a true meaning against the wicked; in accounting blessed Job to be worthy of blame, he puffed himself up in pride of wisdom.  And hence, after declarations so good and righteous, he subjoins words of mocking, and says,

Chap. V. 1.  Call now, if there be any that will answer thee.




76.  For Almighty God often passes by the prayer of that man in his trouble, who slights His precepts in the season of rest.  Hence it is written, He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.  Now for us ‘to call,’ is to beseech God with humble prayer; but for God to ‘answer,’ is to vouchsafe an accomplishment to our prayers; and so he says, Call now, if any will answer thee.  As though he said in plain words, ‘However thou mayest cry out in thy distress, thou hast not God answering thee, in that the voice in tribulation findeth not Him, Whom the mind in tranquillity disregarded.  Where he adds in yet further derision,

And turn thee to some one of the Saints?




77.  As though he said in scorn, ‘The Saints too thou canst never obtain for abettors in thy distress, whom thou wouldest not have for companions in thy mirth.  And after this mocking he forthwith adds the sentence, saying,

Ver. 2.  For wrath killeth the foolish man, and envy slayeth the silly man.




78.  Which same sentence would have been true, had it not been delivered against the patience of so great a man.  But let us weigh well the thing that is said, though it be made to recoil by the virtue of his hearer, that we may shew how right the matter is, which is put forth, if it were not unjustly put forth against blessed Job; since it is written, But Thou, Lord, Judgest with tranquillity. [Wisd. 12, 18]  We must above all things know, that as often as we restrain the turbulent motions of the mind under the virtue of mildness, we are essaying to return to the likeness of our Creator.  For when the peace of the mind is lashed with Anger, torn and rent, as it were, it is thrown into confusion, so that it is not in harmony with itself, and loses the force of the inward likeness.  Let us consider then how great the sin of Anger is, by which, while we part with mildness, the likeness of the image of the Most High is spoilt.  By Anger wisdom is parted with, so that we are left wholly in ignorance what to do, and in what order to do it; as it is written, Anger resteth in the bosom of a fool [Ecc. 7, 9]; in this way, that it withdraws the light of understanding, while by agitating it troubles the mind.  By Anger life is lost, even though wisdom seem to be retained; as it is written, Anger destroyeth even the wise. [Prov. 15, 1. LXX]  For in truth the mind being in a state of confusion never puts it in execution, even if it has power to discern any thing with good judgment.  By Anger righteousness is abandoned, as it is written, The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. [Jam. 1, 20]  For whereas the agitated mind works up to harshness the decision of its reasoning faculty, all that rage suggests, it accounts to be right.  By Anger all the kindliness of social life is lost, as it is written, Be not the companion of an angry man; lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul. [Prov. 22, 24. 25. not V.]  And the same writer, Who can dwell with [not V.] a man whose spirit is ready to wrath [thus V.]? [Prov. 18, 14]  For he that does not regulate his feelings by the reason that is proper to man, must needs live alone like a beast.  By Anger, harmony is interrupted; as it is written, A wrathful man stirreth up strife, and an angry man diggeth up sins. [Prov. 15, 18. not as V. or LXX]  For ‘an angry man diggeth up sins,’ since even bad men, whom he rashly provokes to strife, he makes worse than they were.  By Anger the light of truth is lost; as it is written, Let not the sun go down upon your wrath. [Eph. 4, 26]  For when wrath brings into the mind the darkness of perturbation, God hides therefrom the ray of the knowledge of Himself.  By Anger the brightness of the Holy Spirit is shut out.  Contrary whereunto, it is written according to the old translation, Upon whom shall My Spirit rest, saving upon him that is humble and peaceful, and that trembleth at My words? [Is. 66, 2]  For when He mentioned the humble man, He forthwith subjoined the word ‘peaceful;’ if then Anger steals away peace of mind, it shuts its dwelling place against the Holy Spirit, and the soul being left void by Its departure, is immediately carried into open frenzy, and is scattered away to the very surface from the inmost foundation of the thoughts. 


79.  For the heart that is inflamed with the stings of its own Anger beats quick, the body trembles, the tongue stammers, the countenance takes fire,  the eyes grow fierce, and they that are well known are not recognised.  With the mouth, indeed, he shapes a sound, but the understanding knows nothing what it says.  Wherein, then, is he far removed from brain-struck [arreptitiis] persons, who is not conscious of his own doings?  Whence it very often comes to pass that anger springs forth even to the hands, and as reason is gone the further, it lifts itself the bolder.  And the mind has no strength to keep itself in, for that it is made over into the power of another.  And frenzy employs the limbs without in dealing blows, in proportion as it holds captive within the very mind, that is the mistress of the limbs.  But sometimes it does not put out the hands, but it turns the tongue into a dart of cursing.  For it implores with entreaty for a brother's destruction, and demands of God to do that, which the wicked man himself is either afraid or ashamed to do.  And it comes to pass that both by wish and words he commits a murder, even when he forbears the hurting of his neighbour with the hands.  Sometimes when the mind is disturbed, anger as if in judgment commands silence, and in proportion as it does not vent itself outwardly by the lips, inwardly it burns the worse, so the angry man withholds from converse with his neighbour, and in saying nothing, says how he abhors him.  And sometimes this rigorousness of silence is used in the economy of discipline, yet only if the rule of discretion be diligently retained in the interior.  But sometimes whilst the incensed mind foregoes the wonted converse, in the progress of time it is wholly severed from the love of our neighbour, and sharper stings arise to the mind, and occasions too spring up which aggravate her irritation, and the mote in the eye of the angry man is turned into a beam, whilst anger is changed into hatred.  It often happens that the anger, which is pent up within the heart from silence, burns the more fiercely, and silently frames clamorous speeches, presents to itself words, by which to have its wrath exasperated, and as if set in judgment on the case, answers in exasperation exceeding cruelly: as Solomon implies in few words, saying, But the expectation of the wicked is wrath. [Prov. 11, 23]  And thus it is brought to pass that the troubled Spirit finds louder riot in its silence, and the flame of pent-up anger preys upon it the more grievously.  Hence a certain wise man said well before us, The thoughts of the angry man are a generation of vipers, they devour the mind which is their mother. [d]


80.  But we are to know that there be some, whom anger is somewhat prompt in inflaming, but quickly leaves them; while there are others whom it is slow in exciting, but the longer in retaining possession of.  For some, like kindled reeds, while they clamour with their voices, give out something like a crackle at their kindling: those indeed speedily rise into a flame, but then they forth with cool down into their ashes; while others, like the heavier and harder kinds of wood, are slow in taking fire, but being once kindled, are with difficulty put out; and as they slowly stir themselves into heat of passion, retain the longer the fire of their rage.  Others again, and their conduct is the worst, are both quick in catching the flames of anger, and slow in letting them go; and others both catch them slowly, and part with them quickly.  In which same four sorts, the reader sees clearly that the last rather than the first approaches to the excellence of peace of mind, and in evil the third is worse than the second.  But what good does it do to declare how anger usurps possession of the mind, if we neglect to set forth at the same time, how it should be checked?


81.  For there are two ways whereby anger being broken comes to relax its hold upon the mind.  The first method is that the heedful mind, before it begins to do any thing, set before itself all the insults which it is liable to undergo, so that by thinking on the opprobrious treatment of its Redeemer, it may brace itself to meet with contradiction.  Which same, on coming, it receives with the greater courage, in proportion as by foresight it armed itself the more heedfully.  For he, that is caught by adversity unprovided for it, is as if he were found by his enemy sleeping, and his foe dispatches him the sooner, that he stabs one who offers no resistance.  For he, that forecasts impending ills in a spirit of earnest heedfulness, as it were watching in ambush awaits the assault of his enemy.  And he arrays himself in strength for the victory in the very point wherein he was expected to be caught in entire ignorance.  Therefore, before the outset of any action, the mind ought to forecast all contrarieties, and that with anxious heed, that by taking account of these at all times, and being at all times armed against them with the breastplate of patience, it may both in foresight obtain the mastery, whatever may take place, and whatever may not take place, it may account gain.  But the second method of preserving mildness is that, when we regard the transgression of others, we have an eye to our own offences, by which we have done wrong in the case of others.  For our own frailty, being considered makes excuse for the ills done us by others.  Since that man bears with patience an injury that is offered him, who with right feeling remembers that perchance there may still be somewhat, in which he himself has need to be borne with.  And it is as if fire were extinguished by water, when upon rage rising up in the mind each person recalls his own misdoings to his recollection; for he is ashamed not to spare offences, who recollects that he has himself often committed offences, whether against God or against his neighbour, which need to be spared.


82.  But herein we must bear in mind with nice discernment that the anger, which hastiness of temper stirs is one thing, and that which zeal gives its character to is another.  The first is engendered of evil, the second of good.  For if there was no anger originating in virtue, Phinees would never have allayed the fierceness of God's visitation by his sword.  Because Eli lacked such anger, he quickened against himself the stirrings of the vengeance of the Most High to an implacable force.  For in proportion as he was lukewarm towards the evil practices of those under his charge, the severity of the Eternal Ruler waxed hot against himself.  Of this it is said by the Psalmist, Be ye angry, and sin not. [Ps. 4, 5 Vulg.]  Which doubtless they fail to interpret aright, who would only have us angry with ourselves, and not with others likewise, when they sin.  For if we are bidden to love our neighbours as ourselves, it follows that we should be as angry with their erring ways as with our own evil practices.  Of this it is said by Solomon, Anger [so Vulg.] is better than laughter; for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. [Ecc. 7, 3]  Of this the Psalmist saith again, Mine eye is [V. thus] disturbed because of anger [prae ira. Vulg. a furore]. [Ps. 6, 8]  For anger that comes of evil blinds the eye of the mind, but anger that comes of zeal disturbs it.  Since necessarily in whatever degree he is moved by a jealousy for virtue, the world of contemplation, which cannot be known saving by a heart in tranquillity, is broken up.  For zeal for the cause of virtue in itself, in that it fills the mind with disquietude and agitation, presently bedims the eye thereof, so that in its troubled state it can no longer see those objects far up above, which it aforetime clearly beheld in a state of tranquillity.  But it is brought back on high with a more penetrating ken by the same means, whereby it is thrown back for a while so as to be incapable of seeing.  For the same jealousy in behalf of what is right after a short space opens wider the scenes of eternity in a state of tranquillity, which in the mean season it closes from the effects of perturbation.  And from the same quarter whence the mind is confounded so as to prevent its seeing, it gains ground, so as to be made clear for seeing in a more genuine way; just as when ointment is applied to the diseased eye, light is wholly withheld, but after a little space it recovers this in truth and reality by the same means, by which it lost the same for its healing.  But to perturbation contemplation is never joined, nor is the mind when disturbed enabled to behold that, which even when in a tranquil state it scarcely has power to gaze on; for neither is the sun's ray discerned, when driving clouds cover the face of the heavens; nor does a troubled fountain give back the image of the beholder, which when calm it shews with a proper likeness; for in proportion as the water thereof quivers, it bedims the appearance of a likeness within it.


83.  But when the spirit is stirred by zeal, it is needful to take good heed, that that same anger, which we adopt as an instrument of virtue, never gain dominion over the mind, nor take the lead as mistress, but like a handmaid, prompt to render service, never depart from following in the rear of reason.  For it is then lifted up more vigorously against evil, when it does service in subjection to reason; since how much soever our anger may originate in zeal for the right, if from being in excess it has mastered our minds, it thereupon scorns to pay obedience to reason, and spreads itself the more shamelessly, in proportion as it takes the evil of a hot temper for a good quality; whence it is necessary that he who is influenced by zeal for right should above all things look to this, that his anger should never overleap the mind's control, but, in avenging sin, looking to the time and the manner, should check the rising agitation of his mind by regulating it with nicety of skill, should restrain heat of temper, and control his passionate emotions in subjection to the rule of equity, that the punisher of another man may be made more just, in proportion as he has first proved the conqueror of himself; so that he should correct the faults of transgressors in such away, that he that corrects should himself first make advancement by self-restraint, and pass judgment on his own vehemency, in getting above it, lest by being immoderately stirred by his very zeal for right, he go far astray from the right.  But as we have said, forasmuch as even a commendable jealousy for virtue troubles the eye of the mind, it is rightly said in this place, For wrath killeth the foolish man; as if it were in plain terms, ‘Anger from zeal disturbs the wise, but anger from sin destroys the fool;’ for the first is kept in under the control of reason, but the other lords it over the prostrate mind in opposition to reason.  And it is well added,

And envy slayeth the little I one.




84.  For it is impossible for us to envy any but those, whom we think to be better than ourselves in some respect.  And so he is ‘a little one,’ who is slain by jealousy.  For he bears witness against his very own self, that he is less than him, by envy of whom he is tormented.  It is hence that our crafty foe, in envying of the first man, despoiled him, in that having lost his estate of bliss, he knew himself to be inferior to his immortality.  It is hence that Cain was brought down to commit the murder of his brother; in that when his sacrifice was disregarded, he was maddened that he, whose offering God accepted, was preferred to himself; and him, whose being better than himself was his aversion, he cut off, that he might not be at all.  Hence, Esau was fired to the persecution of his brother; for, the blessing of the firstborn being lost, which, for that matter, he had himself parted with for a mess of pottage, he bewailed his inferiority to him, whom he surpassed by his birth.  Hence his own brethren sold Joseph to Ishmaelites, that were passing by, in that upon the mystery of the revelation being disclosed, they set themselves to resist his advancement, that he might never become superior to themselves.  Hence Saul persecutes his servant David by throwing a lance at him, for he dreaded that man growing beyond his own measure, whom he perceived to be daily waxing bigger by his great achievements in the virtues.  Thus he is a ‘little one,’ who is slain by envy; in that except he himself proved less, he would not grieve for the goodness of another.


85.  But herein we must bear in mind, that though in every evil thing that is done, the venom of our old enemy is infused into the heart of man, yet in this wickedness, the serpent stirs his whole bowels, and discharges the bane of spite fitted to enter deep into the mind.  Of whom also it is written, Nevertheless, through envy of the devil came death into the world.  For when the foul sore of envy corrupts the vanquished heart, the very exterior itself shews, how forcibly the mind is urged by madness.  For paleness seizes the complexion, the eyes are weighed down, the spirit is inflamed, while the limbs are chilled, there is frenzy in the heart, there is gnashing with the teeth, and while the growing hate is buried in the depths of the heart, the pent wound works into the conscience with a blind grief.  Nought of its own that is prosperous gives satisfaction, in that a self-inflicted pain wounds the pining spirit, which is racked by the prosperity of another: and in proportion as the structure of another's works is reared on high, the foundations of the jealous mind are deeper undermined, that in proportion as others hasten onward to better things, his own ruin should be the worse; by which same downfall even that is brought to the ground, which was believed to have been raised in other doings with perfect workmanship.  For when envy has made the mind corrupt, it consumes all that it may have found done aright.  Whence it is well said by Solomon, A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones. [Prov. 14, 30]  For what is denoted by ‘the flesh,’ saving weak and tender things?  and what by the ‘bones,’ saving strong deeds?  And it is most common that some with real innocency of heart should appear to be weak in some points of their practice, whilst some now perform deeds of strength before the eyes of men, but yet towards the excellences of others they are inwardly consumed with the plague of envy; and so it is well said, A sound heart is the life of the flesh.  In that where inward innocency is preserved, even if there be some points weak without, yet they are sometime made strong and fast.  And it is rightly added, But envy the rottenness of the bones.  For by the bad quality of envy even strong deeds of virtue go for nought before the eyes of God.  Since the rotting of the bones from envy is the spoiling of the strong things even.


86.  But why do we say such things concerning envy, unless we likewise point out in what manner it may be rooted out?  For it is a hard thing for one man not to envy another that, which he earnestly desires to obtain; since whatever we receive that is of time becomes less to each in proportion as there are many to divide it amongst.  And for this reason envy wrings the longing mind, because that, which it desires, another man getting either takes away altogether, or curtails in quantity.  Let him, then, who longs to be wholly and entirely void of the bane of envy, set his affections on that inheritance, which no number of fellowheirs serves to stint or shorten, which is both one to all and whole to each, which is shewn so much the larger, as the number of those that are vouchsafed it is enlarged for its reception.  And so the lessening of envy is the feeling of inward sweetness arising, and the utter death of it is the perfect love of Eternity.  For when the mind is withdrawn from the desire of that object, which is divided among a multitude of participators, the love of our neighbour is increased, in proportion as the fear of injury to self from his advancement is lessened.  And if the soul be wholly ravished in love of the heavenly land, it is also thoroughly rooted in the love of our neighbour, and that without any mixture of envy.  For whereas it desires no earthly objects, there is nothing to withstand the love it has for its fellow.  And what else is this same charity but the eye of the mind, which if it be reached by the dust of earthly love, is forthwith beaten back with injury from its gaze at the inward light?  But whereas he is ‘a little one,’ who loves earthly things, and a great one that longs after the things of eternity, it may be suitably enough rendered in this sense likewise, And envy slayeth the foolish one; in that no man perishes by the sickness of this plague, except him that is still unhealthy in his desires.