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He explains the whole of the sixth chapter, except the three last verses, part allegorically and in part morally.





1.  Some men's minds are more tormented by scourges than reproaches, but some are more wounded by reproaches than by scourges.  For oftentimes the tortures of speech assail us worse than any pains, and while they make us rise up in our vindication, they lay us low in impatience.  Whence, that no temptation whatever might be lacking to blessed Job, not only scourges strike him from above, but the sayings of his friends in talk gall him, being sorer than scourges, that the soul of the holy man, being driven hither and thither, might, burst forth in the emotion of wrath and haughtiness, and that all the purity he had lived in might be defiled by head-strong pride of speech.  But when touched by the scourges, he gave thanks, when galled with words, he answered aright, and being smitten he makes it appear how little he esteemed the well-being of the body.  In speaking too he shews how, wisely he held his peace.  But there were a few things mixed with his words, which, in the judgment of men, might seem to transgress the limits of patience; of which we shall take a true view, if in the examination of them we weigh well the sentence of the Most High Judge.  For it was He, Who both in the first instance gave blessed Job the first place in opposition to the adversary, saying, Hast thou considered My servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God and escheweth evil? [Job 1, 8]  It was He, Who after the trial rebuked his friends, saying, For ye have not spoken before Me the thing that is right, as My servant Job hath.  It remains then, that when the mind wavers with uncertainty in the discoursings of blessed Job, it estimate their weight from the beginning, and ending of that same account.  For one who was to fall could never have been commended by the Eternal Judge, nor could one who had fallen be awarded the first place.  If then, when we be caught in the tempest of embarrasment, we have regard to the first and last points in this history, the vessel of the soul is as it were held fast at prow and stern by the rope of its reflections, that it be not forced on the rocks of error, and so we are not overwhelmed by any storms arising from our ignorance, if we hold to the tranquil shore of the sentence of the Most High.  For, mark, he says a thing which might urge the reader's mind with no slight questioning.  Yet who could dare to pronounce that not right, which sounds right in God's ears?

Chap. vi. 2, 3.  Oh that my sins [so Vulg.] were throughly weighed, whereby I have deserted wrath, and the calamity that I suffer laid in the balances.  It should be found heavier even as the sand of the sea.




2.  Who else is set forth by the title of ‘the balances,’ but the Mediator between God and man, Who came to weigh the merit of our life, and brought down with Him both justice and loving-kindness together?  But putting the greater weight in the scale of mercy, He lightened our transgressions in pardoning them.  For in the hand of the Father having been made like scales of a marvellous balancing, in the one scale He hung our woe in His own Person, and in the other our sins.  Now by dying He proved the woe to be of heavy weight, and by releasing it shewed the sin to be light in mercy's scale [a], Who vouchsafed this instance of grace first, that He made our punishment to be known to us.  For man, being created for the contemplation of his Maker, but banished from the interior joys in justice to his deserts, gone headlong into the wofulness of a corrupt condition, undergoing the darkness of his exile, was at once subject to the punishment of his sin, and knew it not; so that he imagined his place of exile to be his home, and so rejoiced under the weight of his corrupt condition as in the liberty of a state of salvation.  But He Whom man had forsaken within, having assumed a fleshly nature, came forth God without; and when He presented Himself outwardly, He restored man, who was cast forth without, to the interior life, that He might henceforth perceive his losses, that he might henceforth lament the sorrows of his blind state.  Man’s woe then was found to be heavy in the balance, in that the ill, which he was laid under, he only knew in his Redeemer's appearing presence.  For not knowing the right, he bore with delight the darkness of his state of condemnation.  But after he saw a thing for him to delight in, he likewise perceived a thing to grieve over, and what he underwent he felt was grievous, in that what he had lost was made known as sweet.  Let then the holy man, thrown out of the barriers of silence by the sayings of his friend in discourse, and filled with the overflowing of the prophetic spirit, exclaim with his own voice, yea, with the voice of mankind, Oh that my sins were thoroughly weighed, whereby I have deserved wrath, and the calamity that I suffer laid in the balances together!  It should be found heavier even as the sand of the sea.  As if it were in plain words, ‘The evil of our condition under the curse is thought light, in that it is weighed without the Redeemer's equity [aequitate] being as yet known, but oh that He would come, and hang in the scale of His Mercy the wofulness of this dismal exile, and instruct us what to seek back for after that exile.  For if He makes known what we have lost, He shews that to be grievous which we endure.’  But this same misery of our pilgrimage is fitly compared to the sand of the sea, (for the sand of the sea is forced without by the chafing of the waters,) in that man too in transgressing, because he bore the billows of temptation unsteadily, was carried out of himself from within.  Now of great weight is the sand of the sea, but the calamity of man is said to be ‘heavier than the sand of the sea,’ for his punishment is shewn to have been hard, at the time when the sin is lightened by the  merciful Judge.  And because every man that owns the grace of the Redeemer, everyone that longs for a return to his Country, now that he is instructed, groans beneath the burthen of his pilgrimage; after the longing for the balances, the words are rightly subjoined;

Therefore my words are full of grief.




3.  He that loves sojourn abroad instead of his own country, knows not how to grieve even in the midst of griefs.  But the words of the righteous man are full of grief, for so long as he is subject to present ills, he sighs after something else in his speech; all that he brought upon himself by sinning is set before his eyes, and that he may return to the state of blessedness, he weighs carefully the judgments whereby he is afflicted.  Whence it is added,

Ver.4.  For the arrows of the Almighty are in me.




4.  For by the epithet of ‘arrows’ sometimes the utterances of preaching, sometimes the arrows of visitation are denoted.  Now the utterances of preaching are represented by ‘arrows;’ for in this, that they smite men's vices, they pierce the hearts of evil doers.  Concerning which arrows it is said to the Redeemer at His coming, Thine arrows are sharp, O Thou Most Mighty; the people shall fall under Thee in the heart. [Ps. 45, 5. lxx.] Of Him Isaiah saith, I will send those that escape of them to the nations, into the sea, into Africa, and into Lydia, holding the arrow, into Italy, and into Greece. [Is. 66, 19]  Again by ‘arrows’ is represented the stroke of visitation, as where Elisha bids king Joash, ‘shoot an arrow,’ and when he shoots, says, For thou shalt smite the Syrians, till thou hast consumed them. [2 Kings 13, 17]  Whereas then the holy man surveys the sorrows of his pilgrimage, because he groans under the strokes of the visitation of the Lord, let him say, Therefore my words are filled with grief.  For the arrows of the Almighty are within me.  As though he said in plain words, ‘I being under curse of exile have no joy, but as laid under the Judgment, I am full of pain, for I see and know the force of the stroke.’  But there are a great number that are chastised with tortures, but not amended.  Contrary to which it is fitly subjoined,

The indignation whereof drinketh up my spirit. 




5.  For what else is the ‘spirit of man,’ but the spirit of pride?  Now ‘the arrows of the Lord drink up the spirit of man,’ when the awards of heavenly visitation keep back the chastened soul from self-elation.  ‘The arrows of the Lord drink up the spirit of man,’ in that, when he is intent upon outward things, they draw him within.  For the spirit of David was drunk up when he said, When my spirit failed within me, Thou knewest my ways. [Ps. 142, 3]  And again, My soul refused to be comforted, I remembered God and was troubled, I complained and my spirit failed.  Therefore ‘the indignation of the arrows drinketh up the spirit’ of the righteous, for the decrees from above, in wounding, work a change in the Elect, whom they find in any sins; so that the soul being pierced, quits its hardness or heart, and the blood of confession runs down from the wound that brings health.  For they consider whence and whereunto they have been cast down, they consider from how high bliss they have fallen, and to what miseries of their corrupt condition, and they not only groan in the midst of the things which they are suffering, but furthermore dread that which the strict Judge threatens sinners with concerning the fires of hell.  Whence the words are rightly subjoined;

And the terrors of God do set themselves in array against me.




6.  The mind of the righteous not only considers well what it is now undergoing, but also dreads what is in store.  It sees all that it suffers in this life, and fears lest hereafter it suffer still worse things.  It mourns that it has fallen into the exile of this blind state away from the joys of Paradise; it fears, lest, when this exile is quitted, eternal death succeed.  And thus it already undergoes sentence in suffering chastisement, yet still dreads the threats of the Judge to come as the consequence of sin.  Hence the Psalmist says, Thy fierce wrath goeth over me; Thy terrors cut me off. [Ps. 88, 16]  For after that ‘the fierce wrath of the Internal Judge goeth over, His terrors still do cut us off,’ in that we already suffer one evil by condemnation, and still dread another from everlasting vengeance.  Let the holy man then, weighing well the ills that he is subject to, exclaim, The arrows of the Lord are within me, the indignation whereof drinketh up my spirit.  But being in dread of worse things to last for ever, let him add, The terrors of God do set themselves in array against me.  As if he said in plain words, ‘Being stricken indeed I feel grief for my present circumstances, but this is the worst feature in my grief, that even in the midst of punishment I still fear eternal woes.’  But forasmuch as he already longs for the bringing in of the balances, he already weighs the evils into which the human race has fallen, though he was placed among a Gentile people, yet because he was full of the gift of prophetic inspiration, in the following words he shews with what ardent desire the coming of the Redeemer is thirsted for, whether by the Gentile world or by Judaea, saying,

Ver. 5.  Doth the wild ass bray when he hath grass?  or loweth the ox at his full manger?




7.  For what is denoted by ‘the onager,’ that is, the wild ass, saving the Gentile people, which, as nature has produced it without the stalls of training, so has continued roaming abroad in the field of its pleasures?  What is represented by ‘the ox,’ saving the Jewish people, which being bowed down to the yoke of the dominion above, in gathering together proselytes unto hope, drew the ploughshare of the Law through all the hearts that it was able?  But we learn from the witness of blessed Job's life to believe, that many even of the Gentiles looked for the coming of the Redeemer.  And at the birth of the Lord, we have learnt by Simeon's coming in the spirit into the Temple, with what longing desire holy men of the Israelitish people coveted to behold the mystery of His Incarnation.  Whence too the same Redeemer saith to His Disciples, For I tell you that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them. [Luke 10, 24]  The ‘grass’ of the wild ass then, and the ox's ‘fodder,’ is this very Incarnation of the Mediator, by which both the Gentile world and Judaea are together filled to the full.  For because it is said by the Prophet, All flesh is grass [Is. 40, 6]; the Creator of the universe taking flesh of our substance, willed to be made ‘grass,’ that our flesh might not remain grass for ever; and so ‘the wild ass’ then found ‘grass,’ when the Gentile people received the grace of the Divine Incarnation.  Then ‘the ox’ had not an empty manger, when to the Jewish people, looking for His Flesh, the Law shewed Him forth, Whom it prophesied to them whilst long kept in expectation of Him.  Whence too the Lord, when He was born, is placed in a manger, that it might be signified, that the holy animals, which under the Law had long been found an hungred, are filled with ‘the fodder’ of His Incarnation.  For at His birth He filled a manger, Who gave Himself for food to the souls of mortal beings, saying, He that eateth My Flesh, and drinketh My Blood, dwelleth in Me, and I in him. [John 5, 56]  But because both the longings of the Elect from among the Gentiles were for long deferred, and the holy men severally of the Hebrew people groaned long while in expectation of their redemption, blessed Job, in giving forth the mysteries of prophecy, rightly implies the causes of distress in the case of either people, by saying, Will the wild ass bray while he hath grass?  Or will the ox low over his full manger?  As though it were in plain speech, ‘The Gentile world for this reason groans, because the grace of the Redeemer does not yet yield it refreshment, and Judaea on this account draws out her lowings, for that in holding the Law, but not seeing the author of the Law, standing before the manger she goes hungering.  And because this same Law, before the coming of our Mediator, was held not in a spiritual but in a carnal manner, it is rightly added,

Ver. 6.  Can that which is unsavoury be eaten without salt?




8.  In the Law, the virtue of the hidden meaning is the salt of the letter.  Whosoever, then, being intent upon carnal observances, refused to understand it in a spiritual sense, what else did he but eat ‘unsavoury food?’ But this ‘salt,’ ‘Truth,’ on being known, put into the food, when He taught that the savour of a hidden sense lay at the bottom of the Law, saying, For had ye believed Moses, ye might [Vulg. forsitan] have believed Me, for he wrote of Me. [John 5, 46]  And again, Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another. [Mark 9, 50]  But because before our Redeemer's coming, Judaea held the Law in a carnal way, the Gentile world refused to bend themselves to its precepts, which enjoined hard things.  Thus it would not eat unsavoury meat.  For before that it got the relish of the Spirit, it shrunk from keeping the force of the letter.  For which of the Gentiles would bear this, which is therein enjoined, to cut their children's flesh for a religious service? to cut off the sins of speech by death?  And hence it is well added yet further;

Or can anyone taste, what by being tasted brings death?  [Vulg.]




9.  For the Law, if tasted in a carnal way, ‘brought death,’ in that it seized the misdeeds of transgressors with a severe visitation; it ‘brought death,’ in that both by the injunction it made known the sin, and did not by grace put it away, as Paul testifies, saying, The Law made nothing perfect.  And again, Wherefore the Law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.  And soon after, But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good.  But the Gentile world, when turned to Christ, in that it understands Him to be sounding in the words of the Law, being straitened by its desires looks for Him, Whom it ardently loves, in a spiritual way amongst carnal precepts.  And hence in the voice of the Church it is immediately added by the Prophetic Spirit,

Ver. 7.  The things which my soul refused to touch are for straitness become my meat.




10.  For he goes very far wrong, who imagines that the words of blessed Job were delivered with an eye to the historical fact alone.  For what would the holy man, and one too borne up by the proclaim of His Maker, have said, that was great, or rather what that was true, if he had said that ‘unsavoury meat could not be eaten?’ or who had offered deadly food for him to eat, that he should subjoin, Or who can taste, what by being tasted brings death?  And if we imagine that was said of his friends’ discourse, we are withheld from this view by the sentence that is subjoined, in which he says, The things that my soul refused to touch are for straitness become my meat.  For never let it be thought that the holy man, when established in soundness of state, at any time looked down upon the words of his friends; who, as we learn afterwards by himself attesting it, was humble even to his servants, His words then are not void of mystica1 senses, which, as we gather from the end of the history, the internal Arbiter Himself commends.  And these would never have gone on commanding such deep veneration even to the very ends of the world, if they had not been pregnant with mystical meaning.


11.  Let blessed Job then, in that he is a member of holy Church, speak in her voice also, saying, The things which my soul refused to touch are for my straitness become my meat.  For the Gentile world, after conversion, made eager by the fever of her love, hungers for the food of Holy Scripture, which being filled with pride it disdained for long.  And yet these words agree with the voice of Judaea also, if they be a little more attentively made out.  For from the training of the Law, and from the knowledge of the One God, she herself had salt, and looked down upon all the Gentiles as brute creatures.  But because, when instructed by the precepts of the Law, she disdained to admit to herself the communion of the Gentiles, what did she but loath to take ‘unsavoury food?’  For the Divine decree had forbidden, on the menace of death, that the Israelitish people should join in a league with strangers, and pollute the way of life in holy religion.  Whence too it is added, Or can anyone taste, what, by being tasted, brings death?  But because this same Judaea, in the portion of the Elect, was converted to the faith of the Redeemer, the light which she had become acquainted with she laboured by the Holy Apostles to deliver to the faithless of her offspring.  But the pride of the Hebrew people rejected the ministry of her preaching, whence she immediately turned aside her words of exhortation for the gathering together of the Gentiles, as it is said also by the same Apostles, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you; but seeing that ye have put it from you, and have judged yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. [Acts 13, 46]  Whence too in this place it is fitly subjoined, The things which my soul refused to touch are now for my straitness become my meat.  For Judaea, having disdained the life of the Gentiles, refused as it were for long to touch her, whose society she scorned to admit; but on coming to the grace of the Redeemer, being rejected by the unbelieving Israelites, while by the Holy Apostles she stretches out herself for the gathering together of the Gentiles, she as it were takes that for food with a hungry appetite, which before with loathing she disdained as unworthy.  For she underwent ‘straitness’ in her preaching, who saw that what she spoke was despised among the Hebrew people.  But for her ‘straitness’ she ate the food which she had for long despised, in that being rejected by the obduracy of the Jews, she yearns to take to her the Gentile folk, whom she had contemned.  Seeing then that we have delivered these points in a figurative sense, it remains that we go into them in their moral import.




12.  The holy Man, longing for the coming of the Redeemer under the name of a ‘balance,’ whilst he opens his mind in discourse, instructs us to earnestness of life; whilst he tells his own tale, marks some things that belong to us; whilst he brings forward what we are to acknowledge concerning himself, strengthens unto life us that be trembling and weak.  For now indeed we live by the faith of our Mediator, and yet still, for the cleansing out of our faults, endure heavy scourges of inward visitation; whence also, after longing for the balance, he adds,

Ver. 4.  For the arrows of the Lord are within me, the indignation whereof drinketh up my spirit.




13.  Now see, as has been remarked above, we are at the same time pierced by the stroke of Divine correction, and yet that is still worse, which we apprehend of the terribleness of the Judge to come, and of His everlasting visitation.  Whence the words are thereupon introduced, And the terrors of God do set themselves in array against me.  But the mind ought to be dispossessed of fear and sadness, and be drawn out in aspirations after the eternal land alone.  For we then shew forth the noble birth of our Regeneration, if we love Him as a Father, Whom with slavish soul we now dread as a Master.  And hence it is spoken by Paul, For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but ye have received the spirit of the adoption of sons, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. [Rom. 8, 15]  Therefore let the soul of the Elect lay aside the weight of fear, exercise itself in the virtue of love, long for the worthiness of its renewal, pant after the likeness or its Maker; whom so long as it is unable to behold, it must needs await hungering after His eternal Being, i.e. after its own internal meat.  Whence it is also justly added,

Ver. 5.  Doth the wild ass bray when he hath grass?  Or loweth the ox over his full manger?




14.  Who else are denoted by the term of ‘the wild ass,’ saving they who being set in the field of faith, are not bound by the reins of any ministration?  Or whom does the designation of ‘the ox’ set forth, saving those, whom within the bounds of Holy Church, the yoke of Orders taken upon them constrains to the ministry of preaching?  Now the ‘grass’ of the wild ass, and the ox's ‘fodder,’ is the inward refreshing of the faithful folk.  For some within the pale of Holy Church are held after the manner of an ox by the bands of the employment taken upon them, others after the manner of a ‘wild ass’ know nothing of the stalls of Holy Orders, and pass their time in the field of their own will.  But when any one in the secular life glows with aspirations after the interior vision, when he yearns for the food of the inward refreshing, when seeing himself starved in the darkness of this pilgrim state, he refreshes himself with what tears he may, it is as if ‘the wild ass brayed,’ not finding ‘grass.’  Another one too is subject to the obligation of the Order he has taken upon him, he spends himself in the labour of preaching, and longs to be henceforth refreshed by eternal contemplation; but forasmuch as he does not see the likeness of His Redeemer, it is as if the chained ox lowed at the empty manger.  For because being set at the widest distance from the interior wisdom, we see nothing of the verdure of the eternal inheritance, like brute animals we go hungering after the longed for grass.  Of which same grass it is said by the voice of our Redeemer, By Me if any man enter in, he shall be sated, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. [John 10, 9]  But most often, which is wont to be a grievous woe to those that love, the life of the wicked is arrayed against the holy aims of the good, and when the soul is transported in heavenly aspirations, the purpose of mind, which we have began with well, is dashed to the ground, being crossed by the words and practices of the foolish; so that the soul, which had already soared up to things above in the efforts of contemplation, for the defeating of the foolishness of the froward, girds itself for the encounter down below.  Whence also it is added,

Ver. 6.  Or can that which is unsavoury be eaten, not seasoned with salt?  Or can anyone taste, what by being tasted brings death?




15.  For the words and the practices of the carnal introduce themselves like food into our minds, so as to be swallowed up in the belly of complacence.  But any of the Elect eateth not that which is ‘unsavory,’ for setting apart in judgment the words and the deeds of the froward, he puts them away from the mouth of his heart.  Paul forbade unsavoury meat to be offered for the food of souls, when he said to his disciples, Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt. [Col. 4, 6]  And to the Psalmist also the words of the children of perdition tasted unsavoury in the mouth of the heart, when he said, The wicked have related tales to [so V.] me which are not after Thy Law. [Ps. 119, 85]  But often, when the words of the wicked press themselves with importunity into our ears, they beget in the heart a war of temptation.  And though both reason reject and the tongue censure them, yet that is with difficulty mastered within, which without is sentenced with authority.  Whence it is necessary that that should never even reach the ears, which the mind must keep off from the avenue of the imagination by exercising watchfulness.  Holy men, then, whereas their hearts pant with aspirations after Eternity, lift themselves to such an exalted elevation of life, that to hear any longer the things that are of the world they account to be a grievous burthen bearing them down.  For they reckon that to be impertinent and insufferable, which does not tell of what their hearts are full of.


16.  Now it often happens that the mind is already transported to the realms on high in desire, is already entirely parted asunder from the foolish converse of earthly men, but is not yet braced to prefer the crosses of the present life for the love of God; already it seeks the things on high, already it contemns the grovelling follies below, but it does not yet turn itself to the endurance of the adversity which it has to bear.  And hence it is added,

Or can anyone taste that, which by being tasted brings death?


17.  For it is hard to seek after that which torments, to follow that which makes life depart.  But very often the life of the righteous stretches itself up to such a height of virtue, that both within it rules in the citadel of interior reason, and without, by bearing with it, brings the folly of some to conversion; for we must needs bear with the weaknesses of those, whom we are striving to draw on to strong things.  For neither does any man lift up one that is fallen, save he, who in compassion bends the uprightness of his position.  But when we compassionate the weakness of another, we are the more strongly nerved as to our own; so that, from love of the things of futurity, the soul prepares itself to meet the ills of the present time, and looks out for the hurts of the body, which it used to fear.  For its heavenly aspirations being enlarged, it is more and more straitened, and when it sees how great is the sweetness of the eternal land, it fervently loves for the sake of that the bitter tastes of the present life.  Whence after the disdain of ‘unsavoury meat,’ after the impossibility of the tasting of death, it is with propriety subjoined,

Ver.7.  The things which my soul refused to touch are for my straitness become my meat.




18.  For the soul of the righteous, going on in its progress, whereas before, when it cared for its own interests alone, it loathed to bear the burthens of another, and, too little sympathizing with others, could not stand against adversities, now that it constrains itself to bear with the weakness of its neighbour, acquires strength to overcome adversity, so that for the love of truth it seeks the hurts of the present life with so much the more courage afterwards, that before it fled from them in its weakness.  For by its bending it is made erect, by its drawing towards another it is stretched out, by its fellow-feeling it is strengthened, and when it opens itself out in the love of our neighbour, it as it were gathers from reflection, with what resoluteness to lift itself up to its Maker.  For charity, which lowers us according to the force of our sympathy, lifts us the higher upon the height of contemplation, and enlarged manifold it already burns with bigger desires, already beats high to attain to the life of the Spirit, even though through the torments of the body.  What then aforetime he refused to touch, this same for straitness he afterwards eateth, who scarce containing his desires, now for love of his heavenly Country loves even the very pains, which for long he had feared.  For if the mind is bent towards God with a strong purpose, whatever bitter betides it in this present life it accounts sweet, all that annoys it reckons rest, and it longs to pass even through death, that it may more completely possess itself of life.  It desires to be utterly annihilated below, that it may more truly mount on high.  But all this I may be falsely representing to be the case with the mind of a righteous man in general, and with the mind of blessed Job, if he do not himself subjoin the words,

Ver. 8-10.  Oh that I might have my request, and that God would grant me the thing that I long for!  Even that He That hath begun would destroy me.  Let him let loose His hand, and cut me off!  Let this be my comfort; that He should afflict me with sorrow, and not spare.




19.  But perchance he entreats such things through stubbornness, perchance, in that he wishes to be entirely annihilated, he charges the injustice of the smiter.  Far be the thought!  For with what feeling he begs it, he shews in the following words, saying, Nor will I gainsay the speech of the Holy One.  So then he never murmurs against the injustice of Him that dealeth the blow, who even amidst the strokes calls his smiter ‘the Holy One.’  But we ought to know that it is sometimes the adversary, and sometimes God that bruises us with affliction.  Now by the bruising of the adversary, we are made defaulters in virtue; but when we are broken by the bruising of the Lord, from vicious habits we are made strong in virtue.  This bruising the Prophet had foreseen when he said, Thou shalt rule them with a rod of iron, Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel. [Ps. 2, 9]  The Lord ‘rules and breaks us with a rod of iron,’ in that by the strong rule of righteousness in His dispensation, while He reanimates us within, He distresses us without.  For as He abases the power of the flesh, He exalts the purpose of the spirit; and hence this bruising is compared to a potter's vessel, as is also delivered by Paul, But we have this treasure in earthen vessels. [2 Cor. 4, 7]  And describing at the same time the dashing in pieces and the ruling [Vulg. has, Thou shalt rule them, for, Thou shalt break them], he saith, Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.  Let the holy man who is eager to draw near to God even through strokes, exclaim in the spirit of humility,

Ver. 9.  That He That hath begun would bruise me!




20.  For very often the Lord begins to work in us the bruising of our vicious habits, but when the mind is lifted up at the very first step of its progress, and when it already exalts itself as on the ground of its virtuous attainments, it opens an entrance to the adversary, that rages against it, who penetrating into the depths of the heart, dashes in pieces all that he may find therein springing from the earnestness of a good beginning, and shews himself the more violent in the breaking of it in proportion as he is the sorer grieved that it had made progress, though but a little way.  Whence too, as the Gospel is witness, by the voice of ‘Truth,’ the unclean spirit, which went out alone, returns with seven other spirits to the neglected dwelling-place of the conscience.  Lest then, after the beginnings of divine correction, the old adversary snatch him unawares, and drag him along for the breaking in pieces of his virtues, the holy man fitly beseeches, saying, That He That hath begun would bruise me. As if he said in plain words, ‘That which He has begun in me may He not cease to perfect by smiting me, lest He deliver me over forsaken to the adversary to bruise me.’ Hence it is fitly subjoined,

That He would let loose His hand, and cut me off.




21.  For oftentimes being swoln with the confidence of lengthened prosperity, we are lifted up in a certain kind of frame of self-elation, and when our Creator sees that we are lifted up, but does not exercise His love towards us by stripes, He as it were keeps His hand hid, as to the smiting of our evil ways.  Did He not tie the hand of His affection, when He said to the people, when guilty of transgression, I will not any more be wroth with thee; and, My jealousy is departed from thee. [Ezek. 16, 42]  Therefore, ‘That He would let loose His hand,’ means, ‘that He would exercise His affection.’ And it is rightly added, ‘and cut me off.’  For whenever either the sudden pain of the scourge, or the trial of our weakness, falls upon us in a state of security, and elated with the abundance of our virtuous attainments, the pride of our hearts, being cut down, is precipitated from the height of its seat, so that it dares do nothing of itself, but levelled by the blow of its frailty, seeks the hand of one to lift it.  Hence it is that, when holy men are looked upon with admiration on the grounds of the secret dispensation of God's providence towards them, they the more dread their very prosperity itself: they long to be subjected to trial, they covet to be stricken, that fear and pain may discipline the unwary mind, lest when an enemy breaketh out of ambush on this road of our pilgrimage, its self-security cause its greater downfal.  Hence the Psalmist says, Examine me, O Lord, and prove me. [Ps. 26, 2] Hence he says again, For I am ready for the scourges. [Ps. 38, 17]  For because holy men see that the wound of their inward corruption [b] cannot be without putridity, they gladly set them under the hand of the physician for lancing, that the wound being opened, the venom of sin may run out, which, with a whole skin, was inwardly working their destruction.  Hence it is yet further added;

Ver. 10.  And let this be my consolation, that afflicting me with pain He spare not.


22.  The Elect, when they know that they have done unlawful things, but find upon careful examination that they have met with no afflictions in return for those unlawful deeds, with the immense force of their fear, are in a ferment with alarm, and labour and travail with dark misgivings, lest grace should have forsaken them for ever, seeing that no recompensing of their ill-doing keeps them safe in the present life; they fear lest the vengeance which is suspended be stored to be dealt in heavier measure at the end; they are eager to be stricken with the correction of a Father's hand, and they reckon the pain of the wound to be the medicine of saving health.  Therefore it is rightly said in this place, Let this be my consolation, that afflicting me with grief He spare not.  As if it were in plain words, ‘May He, Who spares people here for this cause, that He may strike them for ever and ever, therefore strike me here, that, by not sparing me, He may spare me for ever.  For I console myself in being afflicted, in that conscious of the rottenness of human corruption, by being wounded I gain assurance for the hope of saving health.’  And that he uttered it not with a swoln but with a humble mind, he makes plain, as we have before said, by the addition, in the words,

Neither will I gainsay the words of the Holy One.




23.  Most often the words of God to us are not the sounds of speech, but the enforcement of deed.  For He speaks to us in that which He works upon us in silence.  Blessed Job then would be gainsaying the words of God, if he murmured at His blows; but what feelings he entertains for his smiter is shewn by him, who, as we have already said, calls Him ‘Holy One’ from whom he is submitting to blows.  It goes on;

Ver. 11.  What is my strength, that I should hold up?  And what is mine end that I should deal patiently?




24.  It is necessary to bear in mind, that the ‘strength’ of the righteous is of one sort, and the strength of the reprobate of another.  For the strength of the righteous is to subdue the flesh, to thwart our own wills, to annihilate the gratification of the present life, to be in love with the roughnesses of this world for the sake of eternal rewards, to set at nought the allurements of prosperity, to overcome the dread of adversity in our hearts.  But the strength of the reprobate is to have the affection unceasingly set on transitory things, to hold out with insensibility against the strokes of our Creator, not even by adversity to be brought to cease from the love of temporal things, to go on to the attainment of vain glory even with waste of life, to search out larger measures of wickedness, to attack the life of the good, not only with words and by behaviour, but even with weapons, to put their trust in themselves, to perpetrate iniquity daily without any diminution of desire, Hence it is that it is said by the Psalmist to the Elect, Be of good courage, and let your heart be strengthened, all ye that hope in the Lord. [Ps 31, 24]  Hence it is declared by the Prophet to the reprobate, Woe unto you that are mighty to drink urine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink. [Is. 5, 22]  Hence it is declared by Solomon, that all the holy without any weakening of desire contemplate the interior rest.  Behold his bed, which is Solomon's, threescore valiant men are about it, of the most valiant of Israel. [Cant. 3, 7]  Hence the Psalmist directing his meaning against the children of perdition in the voice of the Redeemer in His Passion, saith, Lo, they have surprised my soul: the mighty have rushed forth against me. [Ps. 59, 3]  How well did Isaiah comprehend both sorts of strength in the words, But they that wait upon the Lord shall change [mutabunt E.V. marg.] their strength. [Is. 40, 31]  For in that he said not they will ‘take,’ but they will ‘change,’ he clearly made known that that which is laid aside is of one sort, and that which is entered upon of another sort.







25.  Are not the reprobate also ‘strong,’ who take such pains in running after the concupiscence of this world, boldly expose themselves to perils, welcome insults for the sake of gain, never give back from the lust of their appetites conquered by any opposition, grow obdurate with scourges, and for the sake of the world undergo the ills of the world, and so to say in seeking the pleasures thereof are parting with them, nor yet in parting with them ever weary.  Whence it is well said by Jeremiah in the voice of mankind, He hath made me drunken with wormwood. [Lam. 3, 15]  For one that is drunk knows nothing what he is undergoing.  He then is ‘drunken with wormwood,’ who alienated from the faculty of reason through the love of the present life, whilst whatsoever he undergoes for the sake of the world he accounts but light, is blind to the bitterness of the toil which he is enduring, in that in enjoyment he is led on to the several things in which in chastisement he is wearied out.  But on the other hand the righteous man makes it his aim to be weak for undergoing the perils of the world for the world's sake, looks to his own end, marks how transitory the present life is, and refuses to undergo toils without for the sake of that, the enjoyment of which he has overcome within.  Let blessed Job then, pressed by the adversities of the present life, say in his own voice, yea, in the voice of all the righteous, What is my strength that I should hold up?  And what is mine end that I should deal patiently?  As if he made it known in plain words, saying, ‘I cannot submit to the ills of the world for the sake of the world, for now I am no longer strong in the desire thereof.  For while I look to the end of the present life, why do I bear the burthen of that, the longing for which I tread under my feet?’  And because the unrighteous severally, as we have said, bear the toils thereof with stronger resolution in proportion as they feed with greater avidity on its enjoyment, therefore he rightly subjoins without delay that same strength of the reprobate, in the words,

Ver. 12.  Neither is my strength the strength of stones, nor is my flesh of brass?






26.  For what have we here denoted by ‘brass’ and ‘stones’ save the hearts of the insensate, who oftentimes even receive the strokes of the Most High, and yet they are not softened by any strokes of discipline?  Contrary whereunto, it is said to the Elect through the Prophet, by promise from the Lord, I will take the stony heart out of you, and will give you a heart of flesh. [Ezek. 11, 19]  Paul also says, Though I speak with the tongues of men and of Angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. [1 Cor. 13, 1]  For we know that stones when struck cannot give a clear sound, but when brass is struck a very sonorous sound is made by the striking of it; which, because like stones it is without life, has no sense contained in the sound.  And there be some, who, like to stones, have become so hardened as to the precepts of religion, that, when the stroke of the visitation of the Most High is proving them, they never return the sound of humble confession.  But some differing in no respect from the metallic nature of brass, when they receive the strokes of the smiting of the Most High, give forth the sound of devout confession; but because they do not send out the tones of humility from the heart, when they have been brought back to a state of sound health, they know nothing what they have vowed.  The one then, being struck like stones, have no tones at all, while the other in nothing omit the resemblance of brass, who when under the stroke utter good things which they do not feel.  The one sort refuse even words to the worship of the smiter.  The other sort, in promising what they never fulfil, cry out without any life.  Let the holy man then, who amidst the scourges eschewed the hardness of the reprobate, exclaim, Neither is my strength the strength of stones, nor is my flesh of brass.  As though he made open confession in plain words, saying, ‘Under the lash of discipline I keep clear of similarity to the reprobate.  For neither have I become like stones so hardened that under the impulse of the stroke I turned dumb in the duty of confession; nor again, like brass do I give back the voice of confession, while I know not the meaning of the voice.’  But because under the scourge the reprobate are strong unto weakness, and the Elect weak unto strength, blessed Job, while he declares that he is not strong of a diseased sense, makes it plain that he is strong of a state of saving health.  So let him instruct us whence he received this same strength, lest if he ascribes to himself the powers that he has, he be running vigorously to death.  For very often virtue possessed kills worse than if it were wanting, for while it lifts up the mind to self-confidence, it pierces it with the sword of self-elation, and while as it were it quickens by imparting strength, slays by filling with exaltation, i.e. it forces on to destruction the soul, which, through self trust, it uproots from trust in the interior strength.  But forasmuch as blessed Job is both rich in virtue, and yet has no confidence in himself, and, that I may say so, in powerlessness is possessed of powers, he fitly subjoins these words, saying,

Ver. 13.  Lo, there is no help to me in myself.




27.  It is now made clear to whom the mind of the stricken man had recourse for hope, seeing that he declares that there was no hope to him in himself; but because he intimates that in himself he was weak, for the earning [or ‘to (shew) the merit of.’] of yet greater strength, let him add how he was even forsaken by his neighbours, My friends also departed from me [V. thus].  But mark, he that was despised without, is seated within upon the throne of judgment.  For at the moment that he declares himself forsaken, he forthwith breaks out into pronouncing sentence, in the words,

Ver.14.  Whoso taketh away pity from his friend, forsaketh the fear of the Lord.




28.  Who else is here denoted by the name of a friend, saving every neighbour, who is united to us in a faithful attachment in proportion as, having received from us good service in this present time, he effectually aids us toward attaining hereafter the eternal country?  For because there are two precepts of charity viz. the love of God and the love of our neighbour, by the love of God the love of our neighbour is brought into being, and by the love of our neighbour the love of God is fostered.  For he that cares not to love God, verily knows nothing how to love his neighbour, and we then advance more perfectly in the love of God, if in the bosom of this love we first be suckled with the milk of charity towards our neighbour.  For because the love of God begets the love of our neighbour, the Lord, when going on to say in the voice of the Law the words, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, prefaced it by saying, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God; [Matt. 22, 37. 39. Deut. 6, 5; 10, 12] for this reason, that in the soil of our breast He might first fix the root of His love, so that afterwards in the branches the love of our brethren should shoot forth.  Again, that the love of God grows to strength by the love of our neighbour, is testified by John, where he says, For he that loveth not his brother, whom he hath seen, how can he love God, Whom he hath not seen?[1 John 4, 20]  Which love of God, though it has its birth in fear, yet it is changed by growing into affection. 


29.  But oftentimes Almighty God, to make known how far anyone is from the love of Him and of his neighbour, or what proficiency he has made therein, regulating all things in a marvellous order, puts down some by strokes, and sets up others by successes; and as often as He forsakes certain persons in their temporal estate and condition, He shews the evil that lurks in the hearts of certain others.  For very often the persons that courted us in the season of prosperity without an equal, are the very ones to persecute us in distress.  For when a man in a prosperous condition is beloved, it is very doubtful whether his good fortune or the individual be the object of love.  But the loss of prosperity puts to the test the force of the affection.  Whence a certain wise man saith rightly, A friend cannot be known in prosperity; and an enemy cannot be hidden in adversity. [Ecclus. 12, 8]  For neither does prosperity shew a friend, nor adversity hide an enemy, in that both the first is often hidden by awe for our high fortune, and the latter is disclosed to view from presuming on our adverse condition.  Let the holy man then, set in the midst of scourges, exclaim, He that taketh away pity from his friend, forsaketh the fear of the Lord; in that doubtless he that contemns his neighbour in consequence of his adversity, is clearly convicted never to have loved him in his prosperity.  And since Almighty God smites some for this reason, that He may both discipline the individuals stricken, and afford to those that are not stricken opportunity for doing good; whosoever disregards one that is smitten, puts away from him an occasion of virtue, and lifts himself up the more wickedly against his Maker, in proportion as he views Him as neither merciful in the saving of himself, nor just in the wounding of another.  But we must observe that blessed Job in such sort describes his own case, that the life of all the Elect People is at the same time set forth by him.  For seeing that he is a member of that People, when he describes what he himself undergoes, he is also relating what that People is subject to, saying,

Ver. 15.  My brethren have passed by me like a brook which passeth by rapidly in the hollows.




30.  Because the mind of the reprobate is set on present things alone, for the most part it proves a stranger to the scourge now, in proportion as hereafter it remains an exile from the inheritance.  But oftentimes the lost hold the same faith by which we live, receive the same Sacraments of faith, are bound in the unity of the same religion, yet they are unacquainted with the bowels of compassion; of the force of that love, with which we are inflamed, both towards God and our neighbour, they know nothing.  Therefore they are rightly called both ‘brethren,’ and those that ‘pass by,’ in that by faith they come forth from the same mother's womb with ourselves, but are not rooted in one and the same earnestness of charity towards God and our neighbour.  Whence they are also fitly likened to a ‘brook which passes by rapidly in the valleys.’ For a brook flows from the highlands down below, and while it gathers its waters from the winter rains, is dried up by the summer heats; for they that from love of earthly objects quit the hope of the land above, seek the valley as it were from the uplands, and these are replenished with the winter season of the present life; but the summer of the Judgment to come dries them up, in that so soon as the sun of the rigour of the Most High waxes hot, it turns the joy of the reprobate into drought.  Therefore it is rightly said, Rapidly passeth by in the valleys.  Since for a torrent to pass by rapidly [c] to the valleys, is for the mind of the froward, without any pains or hindrance to descend to the lowest aims.  For all ascending is in painstaking, but all descending is in pleasure, in that in effect the step is strained to reach a higher level, but in relaxation, it is let down to a lower one.  For it is a matter of much toil to get a stone up to the top of a mountain, but it is no labour to let the same down from the top to the bottom.  Surely, that same is propelled down without let, which did not reach the top without mighty pains.  The crop is sown by long application, it is nourished by a long course of shower and sunshine, yet it is consumed by a single instantaneous spark.  By little and little buildings mount to a height, but by instantaneous falls they come to the ground.  A vigorous tree lifts itself in the air by slow accessions of growth, but all that it has in a long course reared on high, is brought down at once and together.  Therefore forasmuch as ascending is with pains and descending with pleasure, it is rightly expressed in this place, My brethren have passed by me like a brook which passeth by rapidly in the valleys; which too may be taken in another sense likewise. 


31.  For if we understand the valleys to be the regions of punishment below, then all the unrighteous ‘pass away rapidly like a brook to the valleys,’ in that in this life, which; they go after with all the desire of their heart, they can never stay for long, since for all the days that they add to their age, they are as it were daily tending by so many steps to their end.  They wish for the periods to be lengthened to them, but forasmuch as when granted they cannot hold; for as many additions as they are allowed to their life, they are losing just so many from their period of living; therefore the moments of time, in so far as they pursue, they are fleeing from; in so far as they get them, they are parting with them.  Thus they ‘pass away rapidly to the valleys,’ who indeed draw out to a great length their desires for the pleasures, but on a sudden are brought down to the dungeons of hell.  For because even that period which is protracted by any length of life whatever, if it be closed by an ending; is not long, those wretched persons learn from the end that: that was but short, which they held only in letting go.  Whence also it is well said by Solomon, But if a man live many years and rejoice in them all; yet let him remember the days of darkness; for they shall be many: and when they have come, the past shall be convicted of vanity. [Eccles. 11, 8]  For when the foolish mind meets on a sudden with evil which never passes away, it is made to understand by undergoing the eternal durations thereof, that the thing which could pass away was vain.  But we should know that the greater number desire to do right, but there are some things calculated to cross and thwart their weak minds arising from the present life; and whereas they fear to undergo crosses in the lowest things, they offend against the rule of right set by the decree above.  Whence it is rightly subjoined,

Ver. 16.  Over those that fear the frost, the snow rushes down.




32.  For the frost congeals below, but the snow falls down from above.  And often there are persons, who, while they fear temporal adversities, expose themselves to the severity of everlasting visitation.  Concerning whom it is rightly declared by the Psalmist, There were they in great fear where no fear was. [Ps. 14, 5]  For this man already longs to defend the truth with freedom, yet being affrighted in that very longing that he feels, he shrinks from the indignation of a human power, and while on earth he fears man in opposition to the truth, he undergoes from heaven the wrath of Truth.  That man, conscious of his sins, is already desirous to bestow upon the needy the things which he is possessed of, yet dreads lest he himself come to need them so bestowed.  When, being alarmed, he provides with reservation for his own use succours of the flesh for the future, he starves the soul from the sustenance of mercy, and when he fears want on earth, he cuts off from himself the eternal plenitude of the heavenly cheer.  Therefore it is well said, Over those that fear the frost, the snow rushes down.  In that all who apprehend from below what ought to be trodden under the feet, undergo from above what is deserving of apprehension, and when they will not pass by what they might have trodden beneath them, they meet with a judgment from heaven which they can in no sort sustain.  Now by acting thus they attain the glory of the world in time, but what will they do in the hour of their call, when terror-stricken they quit at once all the things which they kept here with grievous apprehensions?  And hence it is rightly subjoined,

Ver. 17.  What time they be dissipated they shall perish.




33.  For all persons that are ruled by concern for the present life, are brought to nought by the loss of it, and then they are undone without, who have for long been undone within by disregarding the things of eternity.  Concerning whom it is rightly added, When they have become hot, they shall be dissolved from their place.  For every wicked man when he ‘has become hot is dissolved from his place,’ in that, in drawing near to the Judgment of the Interior Severity, when he has now begun to be heated in the knowledge of his punishment, he is severed from that gratification of his flesh whereunto he had long time clung.  Hence it is that it is delivered by the Prophet against the reprobate, And vexation alone shall only give understanding to the hearing [Is. 28, 19]; in that verily they never understand the things of eternity, saving when they are already made to undergo punishment for those of time without remedy.  Thus the mind is heated, and inflames itself with the fires of a fruitless repentance, it shrinks from being led to punishment, and holds fast to the present life in desire, but it is dissolved from its place, in that panting from the gratification of the flesh, its hardness is melted by suffering chastisement.  But seeing that we have heard what all the wicked will undergo in the hour of their removal, let us hear further some of the ways in which their course is perplexed in the career of their freedom.  It goes on,

Ver. 18.  The paths of their steps are involved. [V. involutae]




34.  All that is involved is folded back into itself.  And there are some who as it were resolve, with all the purpose of their heart, to resist the vicious habits that mislead them, but when the crisis of the temptation comes full upon them, they do not hold out in their purposed resolution.  For one swoln with the bad daring of pride, when he sees that the rewards promised to humility are great, lifts himself up against himself, and as it were puts away the swelling and turgid bigness of pride, and vows to prove himself humble under whatever insults; but when he has been suddenly assailed with the injuriousness of a single word, he straight-way returns to his accustomed haughtiness, and is brought into such a swelling temper of mind, that he does not at all remember that he had made it his object to win the blessed attainment of humility.  Another, fired with avarice, is out of breath with eagerness in adding to his means.  When he sees that all things speedily pass away, he arrests his mind, which is roaming abroad through covetous desires, he determines henceforth not to set his heart on any thing, and to hold what he has already gotten only under the reins of great control; but when objects that delight him are suddenly presented to his eyes, thereupon the heart beats high in the ambition to obtain them, the mind cannot contain itself, it looks about for an opportunity of getting them, and unmindful of the moderation which it had covenanted with itself, in longings for the attainment of them, disquiets itself with goading thoughts.  Another is polluted by the corruption of lust, and is now bound and chained with long usage, but he sees how excellent is the pureness of chastity, and finds it a foul disgrace to be mastered by the flesh.  Therefore he resolves to restrain the dissoluteness of his pleasures, and seems to set himself with all his powers to make a stand against habit; but upon the image being either presented to his eyes, or recalled to his recollection, when he is moved by a sudden temptation, at once he becomes all adrift from his former state of preparation; and the same man, that had set up against it the shield of resolution, lies pierced with the javelin of self-indulgence, and he being unstrung is overcome by lust, like as if he had never made ready any weapons of resolve against it.  Another is set on fire with the flames of anger, and is uncontrolled even to the extent of offering insults to his neighbours, but when no occasion of rage comes across his spirit, he considers how excellent the virtue of mildness is, how high the loftiness of patience, and sets himself in order to be patient even against insult: but when any slight matter arises to ruffle him, he is in a moment kindled from his heart's core to words and insults.  So that not only the patience he had promised never returns to his remembrance, but that the mind neither knows its own self, nor those revilings which it utters.  And when he has fully satisfied his rage, it is as if he returned after exercise to a state of tranquillity, and then he calls himself in again into the chambers of silence, when not patience, but the gratification of its hastiness has given a check to the tongue.  Therefore even late, and after the insults have been offered, he scarcely restrains himself, seeing that fiery horses too are often checked from their career, not by the hands of the controller, but by the limits of the ground.  Therefore it is well said of the reprobate, The paths of their way are involved.  For in resolve they aim at right courses indeed, but are ever doubling back into their accustomed evil ones, and being, as it were, drawn out without themselves, they return back to themselves in a round, who indeed desire good ways, but never depart from evil ways.  For they wish to be humble, yet without being despised; to be content with their own, yet without suffering need; to be chaste, yet without mortification of the body; to be patient, yet without undergoing insults; and when they seek to make virtuous attainments, yet eschew the toils thereof, what else is this than that at one and the same time they know nothing of the conflicts of war in the field, and desire to have the triumphs for war in the city.


35.  Not but that this, that their ways are described as ‘involved,’ may be further understood in another sense also; for it often happens with some people that they stoutly gird themselves up to encounter some vices, but neglect to overcome others, and while they never lift themselves up against these, they are reestablishing against themselves even those which they had subdued.  For one has now subdued the flesh from the dominion of lust, but he has not yet reined in the mind from avarice; and while he keeps himself in the world for the practising of avarice, and does not quit earthly courses, when the juncture of the occasion breaks out, he falls into lust also, which sin he seemed to have already subdued.  Another has overcome the violence of avarice, but he has never subdued the power of lust, and when he is providing the costs of fulfilling his lustful passion, he submits the neck of the heart to the yoke of avarice too, which he had for long got the mastery of.  Another has now laid low rebellious impatience, but has not yet subdued vainglory; and when for this he winds himself into the honours of the world, being pierced with the irritation of cases that chance, he is brought back a captive to his impatience, and whilst vainglory lifts up the soul to the vindication of itself, being overcome it submits to that which it had got the upper hand over.  Another has subdued vainglory, but has not yet brought down impatience.  And when in impatience he utters a thousand threats to those that offer opposition, being ashamed not to execute what he says, he is brought back under the dominion of vainglory, and being subdued, by means of something else, he becomes liable to that, which he was rejoicing that he had fully conquered.  Thus then the vices retain a hold over their runaway by mutual aid in turn, and they as it were receive him back, when already gone, under the rule of their dominion, and hand him over to each other by turns for vengeance.  Thus ‘the paths of the ways of the wicked are involved,’ in that although by mastering one evil habit, they free the foot, yet, while another sways them, they entangle it in the very one, which they had conquered.


36.  But sometimes while the paths of their ways are involved, at once not a single sin is overcome, and one sin is done by occasion of another.  For oftentimes to theft there is joined the deceit of denial, and often the sin of deceit is increased by the guilt of perjury.  Often a misdeed is committed with shameless assurance, and often (which becomes worse than any fault) there is even a glorying in the commission of the misdeed.  For though self-exaltation is apt to arise on the score of virtue, yet sometimes the foolish mind exalts itself on the grounds of the wickedness it has done.  And when transgression is joined to transgression, what else is this than that the steps of the froward are bound in involved ways and entangled chains?  Hence it is rightly delivered by Isaiah against the froward soul, under the likeness of Judaea, And it shall be an habitation of dragons, and a pasture for ostriches, and the demons shall meet with the onocentaurs, and the satyr shall cry to his fellow.  For what is denoted by the ‘dragons,’ saving malice, and what by the name of ‘ostriches,’ saving hypocrisy; as an ostrich has the appearance of flight, but has not the use of flying, for that hypocrisy too impresses upon all beholders an image of sanctity in connection with itself, but knows not to maintain the life of sanctity.  Therefore in the perverse mind the dragon lies down and the ostrich feeds, in that both lurking malice is cunningly covered, and the guise of goodness is set before the beholder's eyes.  But what is represented by the title of ‘onocentaurs,’ saving those that be both lecherous [d] and high-minded?  for in the Greek tongue, ‘onos’ signifies ‘an ass,’ and by the designation of an ‘ass’ lust is denoted, according to the testimony of the Prophet, who says, Whose flesh is as the flesh of asses [Ezek. 23, 20]; but by the name of a ‘bull’ [e] the neck of pride is set forth, as it is spoken by the Psalmist in the voice of the Lord concerning the Jews in their pride, Many bulls have compassed me; strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round. [Ps. 22, 19]  Thus they are ‘onocentaurs,’ who, being subject to vicious habits of lust, lift up their neck on account of the very same cause for which they ought to have been abased, who, in serving their fleshly gratifications, all sense of shame being put far from them, not only do not grieve that they have lost the way of uprightness, but further even exult in the working of confusion.  Now ‘the demons’ meet with the ‘onocentaurs,’ in that the evil spirits readily serve to their wish all those whom they see rejoicing in the things which they ought to have bewailed; and it is fitly subjoined there, And the hairy satyr [Lat. pilosus] shall cry to his fellow.  Now what others are represented by the title of ‘the hairy one,’ saving they which the Greeks call ‘Pans,’ and the Latins ‘Incubi,’ [f] whose figure begins in the human form, but terminates in the extremity of a beast?  Therefore by the designation of ‘the hairy one’ is denoted the ruggedness of every sin, which even if in any case it begins as if in a pretext of reason, yet always goes on to irrational motions; and it is like a man ending in a beast, whilst the sin, beginning in a copy of reason, draws him out even to a result devoid of reason.  Thus often the pleasure of eating is subservient to gluttony, and it pretends to be subservient to the requirement of nature, and while it draws out the belly into gluttony, sets up the limbs in lasciviousness.  Now ‘the satyr crieth to his fellow,’ when one wickedness perpetrated leads to the perpetration of another, and as if by a kind of voice of thought, a sin already committed invites another sin which yet remains to be committed.  For oftentimes, as we have said, gluttony says, ‘If you do not sustain the body with plentiful support, you can hold on in no useful labours;’ and when it has kindled the mind by the desires of the flesh, immediately lust too in her turn forms words of her own prompting, saying, ‘if God would not have human creatures united together in a bodily sort, He would never have made members in themselves suited to the purposes of so uniting;’ and when it suggests these things as if in reason, it draws on the mind to unrestrained indulgence of the passions, and often when found out, immediately it looks out for the support of deceit and denial, and does not reckon itself guilty, if, by telling lies, its life may be protected.  Thus ‘the satyr crieth to his fellow,’ when, under some semblance of reasoning, a sin following out of the occasion of a preceding sin ensnares the froward soul; and when harsh and rugged sins sink it low, it is as if ‘the satyrs’ ruled it, gathered together in it in concord; and thus it comes to pass that the ways of their paths are always involving themselves worse and worse, when sin taking occasion of sin enchains the lost soul.


37.  But here it is necessary to know that sometimes the eye of the understanding is first dulled, and then afterwards the mind being taken captive roams at random amidst outward objects of desire, so that the blinded soul knows nothing where it is being led, and willingly surrenders itself to the allurements of the fleshly part; while at other times the desires of the flesh first burst forth, and after long custom in forbidden courses, they close the eye of the heart.  For often the mind discerns light ways, but does not lift itself up fearlessly against bad practices, and it is overcome while offering resistance, when the very thing that it does in exercising discernment is outdone by the pleasurable emotion of its partner [carnis suae] the flesh.  For that it very often happens that first the eye of contemplation is parted with, and afterwards the mind is subjected to the toils of the world through the desires of this our flesh, Samson is witness on being taken captive by the Philistines [Allophylis, as usual in V. and LXX.], who after he had lost his eyes was put to the mill, because the evil spirits, after that by the piercings of temptation they force out the eye of contemplation within, send it without into a round of labour.  Again, that it often happens that both right practice is parted with externally, and yet the light of reason still retained in the heart, the Prophet Jeremiah instructs us, who, while he relates the captivity of Zedekiah, tells us the course of the captivity of the interior, in these words, Then the king of Babylon slew the sons of Zedekiah in Reblatha before his eyes; also the king of Babylon slew all the nobles of Judah.  Moreover he put out Zedekiah's eyes. [Jer. 39, 6. 7.]  The king of Babylon is our old enemy, the master of the confusion of the interior, who first slaughters the sons before the eyes of the parent beholding it, in that he oftentimes so destroys good works, that the very man who is taken captive perceives with terror that he is parting with them.  For the soul very often groans, but yet being subdued by the enjoyments of its fellow the flesh, the good things which it begot it loses while it loves them; it sees the ills, which it undergoes, and yet never lifts the arm of virtue against that king of Babylon.  But whilst having its eyes open it is struck with the doing of iniquity, by being used to sin it is one day brought to this, that it is bereft of the very light of reason itself also.  Whence the king of Babylon, after his sons had been first put to death, plucked out Zedekiah's eyes, in that the evil spirit, after that good deeds have been first put away, afterwards takes away the light of understanding likewise.  Which rightly befals Zedekjah in Reblatha, for ‘Reblatha’ is rendered ‘these many.’  For he at last has even the light of reason too closed, who is weighed down by bad habit in the multitude of his iniquities.  But in whatever way sin may come forth, or from whatever occasion it may spring, yet the ways of the reprobate are always ‘involved,’ so that, being abandoned to depraved lusts, they either do not pursue good things at all, or pursuing them with a weak aim, they never stretch out the unimpeded steps of the mind in pursuit of them.  For either they do not set out with right aims, or, breaking down in the very way, they never attain to them.  Whence it generally happens that tiring of them they return to their own ways, prostrate themselves from their settled purpose of mind in the enjoyments of the flesh, mind only the things that are transitory, and take no heed of those which are calculated to abide with them.  Whence it is fitly subjoined,

They shall walk unto emptiness, and perish.


38.  For they all ‘walk unto emptiness,’ who bring with them nothing of the fruit of their labour.  Thus one man spends himself in the attainment of honours, another is in a fever with multiplying his means, another pants after the obtaining of applause; but because everyone at his death leaves all such things here, he has lost his labour on emptiness, who has brought nothing with him before the presence of the Judge.  Contrary whereto it is well delivered in the Law, Thou shalt not appear before the face of the Lord empty. [Ex. 23, 15]  For he that has not provided for himself the wages of life earned by well doing, ‘appears before the Lord empty.’ [Deut. 16, 16]  Hence it is said of the just by the Psalmist, But they shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing their sheaves with them. [Ps. 126, 6]  For they come to the inquisition of Judgment, ‘bringing their sheaves with them,’ who exhibit in themselves those good works, whereby they may obtain life.  Hence the Psalmist says again concerning every Elect person, Who hath not taken his soul in vain. [Ps. 24, 4]  For everyone ‘takes his soul in vain,’ who, taking account of present things only, pays no heed to those that shall follow him to last for ever.  He ‘takes his soul in vain,’ who, being unconcerned for the life thereof, prefers to it the care of the flesh; but the righteous do not ‘take their soul in vain,’ in that whatsoever they do through the instrumentality of the body, with stedfast purpose they make all tell to its weal, that even though the deed pass away, still the cause of the deed may never pass, in that after life it procures the rewards of life.  But the reprobate are indifferent to take account of these; for verily ‘going walking into emptiness,’ in pursuing life they flee from it, and in finding it they lose it.  But we are more effectually withheld from imitating the wicked, if we calculate their losses by the end.  Whence it is well added even with a charge,

Ver. 19.  Consider the paths of Tema, the ways of Sheba, and wait a little while. [V. thus]


39.  For Tema is rendered ‘the south wind,’ and Sheba ‘a net.’  What is here set forth by ‘the south wind,’ which dissolves the limbs it blows on with its warm breath, saving dissolute laxity of life? and what by ‘the net,’ save the fettering of practice?  For they that aim at the things that are eternal with a dissolute mind, of their own free will fetter themselves by the irregularity of their efforts, that they should never advance towards God with a free step, and while they entangle themselves with the loose practices of their behaviour, they as it were set their feet to be held in the meshes [maculis] of a net.  For as we said a little way above, that there are persons who are drawn back into bad habits, already got the better of, by means of other open evil habits not yet overcome, so there are some that fall back into those which they had abandoned by means of others, which are cloked with the title of respectability, or the honourableness of praise.  Thus there are very many, who now no longer aim at the things of another, and who with the love of tranquillity begun are parted from the jarrings of this world, thirst to be instructed in Holy Writ, long to give themselves to heavenly contemplations, yet they do not abandon with a perfect freedom of soul all concern about their domestic affairs, and often while they are employed in the service of the same in a lawful way, they are involved in the unlawful jarrings of this world at the same time; and while they are eager to protect their earthly interests with anxious care, they quit that repose of the heart, which they sought for; and whilst their substance, that is escaping from them, is guarded with continual caution, the word of divine knowledge which has been conceived in the heart is let loose; in that, according to the declaration of ‘Truth,’ the thorns choke the seed that has sprung up, when the importunate cares of earthly things put out the word of God from the recollection [Matt. 13, 22].  Therefore they are walking in a net with their steps all abroad, who, while they do not perfectly forsake the world, fetter themselves in their steppings, that they cannot step. 


40.  And there are very many, who not only do not covet what belongs to another, but even abandon all that they possessed in the world, who despise themselves, do not aim at any glory of the present life, sever themselves from this world's courses of action, and whatever prosperity may smile upon them, they well nigh tread it under their feet; yet being tied with the chain of earthly relationship, while they imprudently obey the dictates of the love of kindred, it often happens that by the instrumentality of relations they turn back to those habits which they had even together with self-contempt already subdued; and whereas they love their fleshly kin beyond what needs, being drawn back without, they are separated from the Parent of the heart.  For we often see men, who, as far as concerns their own interest, henceforth no longer entertain any desires of the present life, who have quitted the world both in practice and in profession, yet for their inordinate affection for relations, burst into the courts of justice, busy themselves with the discord of earthly things, part with the freedom of interior repose, and restore in their hearts the interests of the world that were long undone.  Whither then are those walking but into a net, whom perfection of life commenced had already set free from the present world, but whom the excessive love of earthly kin still binds?


41.  For they that fol1ow after the reward of the eternal espousals with close pursuits, and not with loose steps, as they disregard themselves for the love of God, so they lay aside every thing whereby they see they are hindered; and since it is necessary for God's sake that they should render service to all that they are able, for God's sake they refuse their private services even to their relations.  Hence it is that when one said, Suffer me first to go and bury my father, he thereupon heard from the lips of ‘Truth,’ Follow Me, and let the dead bury their dead, but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. [Luke 9, 59. 60.]  Wherein it is to be observed, that whereas the chosen disciple is withheld from the burial of his father, for the sake of God it is not permitted a devout person to do for a dead father, from carnal affection, that which, for God's sake, he ought to do for strangers likewise.  Hence again ‘Truth’ saith, If any man come to Me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. [Luke 14, 26]   In which same place, forasmuch, as after the hatred of our kindred we have the hatred of our own life brought in, it is plainly shewn that we are bidden to hold our relations in hatred in such sort as ourselves, that urging them [A.B.E. ourselves] away to the interests of eternity, and putting aside carnal favour towards them, when it is a hindrance in the way, we might learn by a proportioned skill of discrimination, at once to love them suitably, and to hate them savingly, so that in love hatred might be so taught to arise, that we might be able to love more really in hatred.  Hence again it is said by Moses, Who said unto his father and to his mother, I know you not, and to his brethren, I recognize you not, nor knew they their own children; these have observed Thy word and Thy covenant, and kept Thy judgments. [Deut. 33, 9]  For he longs to know God more familiarly who, from love of religion, desires to know no longer those whom he has known after the flesh.  For the knowledge of God is lessened by a grievous curtailment, if it be shared with acquaintance with the flesh.  Everyone then must be put without the pale of kindred and acquaintance, if he would be more genuinely united to the Parent of all, that those same ones, whom for the sake of God he makes light of for a good end, he may the more substantially love, in proportion as he renounces in them the destructible affection of carnal attachment.


42.  We ought indeed, even in a temporal way, to benefit more than the rest those to whom we are more nearly united; for a flame too extends its burning to things put by it, but that particular thing, wherein it originates, it first sets burning.  We ought to acknowledge the tie of earthly relationship, and yet to disown it, when it obstructs the progress of the mind, that the faithful soul, being inflamed in devotion to divine things, may at once not look with contempt on the things which are joined to it below, and that by regulating these aright in itself, it may mount above them in the love of things on high.  Therefore with wise caution we must be on our guard, that no favouring of the flesh steal upon us, and divert the step of the heart from the right path, lest it hinder the efficacy of heavenly love, and sink the soaring mind; downwards under a superincumbent weight.  For everyone ought so to sympathize in the wants of his kindred, that yet by such sympathy he never let the force of his purpose be impeded, so that affection indeed should fill the bowels of the heart, yet not divert it from its spiritual resolve.  For it is not that holy men do not love their fleshly kin, to give them all things necessary, but they subdue this very fondness within themselves from love of spiritual things, in order so to temper it by the control of discretion, that they may be never led by it, yea in a small measure, and in the very least degree, to deviate from the straight path.  And these are well conveyed to us by the representation of the kine, which going along towards the hilly lands under the Ark of the Lord, proceed at one and the same time with fondness and with hardened feeling; as it is written, And the men did so: and took two milch kine, and tied them to the cart, and shut up their calves at home: and they laid the Ark of the Lord upon the cart. [1 Sam. 6, 10]  And soon after; And the kine took the straight way to the way of Beth-shemesh, and they went along by one way, lowing as they went, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left. [ver. 12]  For observe, when the calves were shut up at home, the kine which are fastened to the waggon bearing the Ark of the Lord, moan and go their way, they give forth lowings from deep within, and yet never alter their steps from following the path.  They feel love indeed shewn by compassion, but never bend their necks behind.  Thus, thus must they needs go on their way, who being placed under the yoke of the sacred Law, henceforth carry the Lord's Ark in inward knowledge, so as never for this, that they take compassion on the necessities of relations, to deviate from the course of righteousness which they have entered upon.  For ‘Beth-shemesh’ is rendered ‘the house of the sun.’  Thus to go to Beth-shemesh with the Ark of the Lord placed on them, is in company with heavenly knowledge to draw near to the seat of light eternal.  But we are then really going on towards Beth-shemesh, when in going the path of righteousness, we never turn aside into the adjoining side-paths of error, not even for the sake of the affection we bear to our offspring; kindness to whom ought indeed to have a place in our mind, but never to turn it back, lest that mind, if it be not touched by a feeling of affection, be hard, or being too much touched, if it is turned aside, be slack.


43.  It is well to look at blessed Job, in whom the yoke of God's fear had worn the neck of the heart, and see under what controlling influence of discretion he bears the Ark of the Lord's sentence.  For when the calves are gone he lows, in that, when tidings of his children's death were brought 'him, ‘he fell upon the ground with his head shaven,’ yet he goes by the right way whilst lowing, in that his lips in groaning are opened to utter the praises of God, whereas, he exclaims without delay, The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. [Job 1, 21]  But minds that are not gifted with discretion know nothing of this rule of life, and in the degree that they seek the ways of the Lord negligently, they are turned back foolishly to the paths of the world.


44.  Rightly then does the holy man after ‘the paths of Theman’ make mention of ‘the ways of Saba.’  For they whom the south wind of a mischievous warmth has relaxed, are verily held bound in the net of entanglement.  But in describing the deeds of the wicked, he rightly admonishes them to ‘consider’ these things; for we delight in froward practices in doing them, but when seen in others we pass sentence upon them, and the actions, which in our own case we think to be little deserving of sentence, we learn to be as base as they really are by the conduct of others; and so it comes to pass that the mind is brought back to itself, and takes shame to do the thing that it censures.  For it is as though an ugly face in a mirror caused disgust, as often as the mind sees in a similar life, what to feel abhorrence for in itself.  Therefore he says, Consider the paths of Teman, the ways of Sheba, and wait a little.  As if it were in plain words; ‘Look to the harms of another's luke-warmness, and then you will the more surely take hope in relation to eternal things, if with the eye of the heart rightly directed you look at that which may disgust you in others.’


45.  And it is well said, wait a little; for it often happens, that whereas the short period of the present life is loved as if it were to last for long, the soul is dashed from its eternal hope, and being beguiled with present objects, is thrown back by the blackness of self-despair.  And when it imagines that the period is long which remains for it to live, at once upon quitting life it meets that eternity, which it may not avoid.  Hence it is that it was spoken by one that was wise, Woe unto you that have lost patience.  For truly they ‘lose patience,’ who, whilst they reckon to tarry long amongst visible things, part with the hope of the invisible.  And while the mind is rivetted to present objects, life is ended, and they are suddenly brought to unlooked-for punishments, which, being deceived by their presumptuous expectations, they flattered themselves they would either never meet with, or not till late.  Hence ‘Truth’ says, Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour. [Matt. 25, 13]  Hence again it is written, The Day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night [1 Thess. 5, 2]; for because it is never seen drawing near to seize upon the soul, it is likened to a thief in the night.  Therefore it ought to be the more apprehended as always coming, in proportion as it cannot be foreknown by us when it is about to come.  Whence holy men too, in that they have their eyes incessantly fixed on the shortness of life, do as it were pass through life daily undergoing death; and prepare themselves on a more solid basis for the things that shall last, in proportion as they are ever reflecting by the end that transitory things are nought.  For hence the Psalmist, seeing that the life of the sinner fleeth at a quick pace, exclaims, For yet a little while and the sinner shall not be. [Ps. 37, 10]  Hence again he saith, As for man, his days are as grass. [Ps. 103, 15]  Hence Isaiah saith, All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field. [Is. 40, 6]  Hence James rebukes the spirit of the presumptuous, saying, For what is your life? it is even a vapour that appeareth for a little time. [James 4, 14]  Therefore it is rightly said, wait a little, in that both that is unmeasurable which follows after without limit, and all but little that is closed by an end.  For that ought not to seem long to us, which by the course of its allotted period is tending not to be; which while it is carried on by moments, its very own moments, whilst they delay, are themselves urging forwards; and from the very same cause, from which it is seen to be in our possession, it results that it ceases to be in our possession.  But blessed Job, after he had brought in the shortness of the present life in terms of contempt, therefore in the voice of all the Elect rises up justly against the wicked, subjoining,

Ver. 20.  They are confounded, because I have hoped.


46.  When the wicked inflict evils upon the good, if they see them to be shaken from the interior hope, they are overjoyed at their deceiving taking effect, for they account the spread of their error to be the greatest gain, in that they rejoice have fellows in perdition, but whilst the good man's hope is rooted within, and never bent to the ground by outward evils, confusion seizes the soul of the wicked, in that whilst they are unable to get at the innermost parts of the distressed, they are ashamed to prove themselves cruel for no end.  Therefore let the holy man say in his own voice, let him say in the endurance of the Church universal in affliction and groaning, Who, amidst the contrarieties of the wicked, without any default of mind, longs for the joy of the heavenly recompense, and by dying holds on to life; They are confounded, because I have hoped.  As though it were in plain words, ‘because the wicked by hard persecutions fail to soften the force of my rigid mind, surely being covered with shame they lose the labours of their cruel ways.’  And hence at once he looks on the blessings of the Retribution to come as henceforth here, and marks what an arraignment awaits the wicked at the Judgment, adding,

They came even unto me, and were ashamed.




47.  For lost sinners ‘come even to Holy Church’ on the Day of Judgment, in that they are then brought even to the beholding of her glory, that for the greater punishment of their guilt they may see in their rejection what they have lost.  Then shame covers the wicked, when conscience bearing witness convicts them in the sight of the Judge.  Then the Judge is beheld without, and the accuser is felt within.  Then every sin is called up before the eyes, and the soul, over and above the burnings of hell, is worse tortured by its own fire.  Concerning these it is rightly said by the Prophet, Lord, let Thy hand be exalted, that they see not [g], let them see and be confounded. [Is. 26, 11]  For now their merits darken the understanding of lost sinners, but then the knowledge of their guilt enlightens it, so that both now they in no wise see what is to be followed, and then they perceive it, after they have lost it.  For now they do not care to understand the things of eternity, or they refuse to make them their object, when understood; but then assuredly, both understanding and longing after them, they have them disclosed to their sight, when they can no longer obtain them thus longed for.




48.  Which same words of blessed Job, moreover, are in an especial manner suited to his friends, who set themselves to shake the mind of the holy man by bitter upbraidings.  For he says, They were confounded because I have hoped.  As if it were in plain words, ‘Whilst they fail by foolish revilings to turn me to despair, they are themselves confounded by the madness of their fool-hardiness.’  They came even up unto me, and were ashamed.  As though he expressed it, ‘Seeing the sores of my body, but ignorant of the constancy of my mind, whilst they took upon them to reproach me for unrighteousness, they did not yet ‘come up unto me,’ but striking with cruel reproaches, whereas they find that my soul stands firm amidst adversity, ‘coming to me,’ as it were, ‘they are ashamed.’  For herein they ‘come to me,’ in that they know me in the interior of my heart, and there they are ‘covered with shame,’ where outward loss moves me not, standing with firm mien.’  Now there are some, who do not know how to fear God, saving when they are either affrighted by adversity experienced in their own person, or known in others; whom prosperity uplifts from presumptuousness, and crosses dismay from weakness.  Of the number of which same, blessed Job charged his friends with being, in that he immediately adds; saying,

Ver.21.  For now ye are come, to see my stroke, and are afraid.




49.  As though he said in plain words, ‘I feared God then, when, buoyed up with prosperity, I felt no hurts of the scourge.  But ye, who fear not God from love, dread Him from the stroke of the rod alone.  It goes on;

Ver. 22, 23.  Did I say, Bring unto me?  or, Give me of your substance?  or, Deliver me from the enemy's hand?  or, Redeem me from the hand of the mighty?




50.  If these words are referred to the person of Holy Church, as we have said that blessed Job's friends bear the likeness of heretics, he rightly declares that he does not ‘want their substance.’  For the ‘substance’ of heretics is not unsuitably taken for carnal wisdom, by which whilst they are wickedly sustained, they as it were shew themselves rich in words, which Holy Church does not go after, in proportion as she goes beyond it by spiritual understanding.  But oftentimes, while heretics maintain wrong things concerning the Faith, they utter various refined sayings against our old Enemy concerning the temptations of the flesh.  For sometimes they as it were shew in themselves healthy limbs of practice, in the same degree that as wounded in faith they are held in the head by the fangs of the envenomed serpent.  But Holy Church is not minded to hear refined sayings concerning temptation from those, who, whilst they deliver some truths that relate to practice, are leading men onward into the falsities of misbelief.  Whence it is rightly said in this place, Did I say, Bring unto me? or, Give me aught of your substance? or, Deliver me from the enemy's hand?  or, Redeem me from the hand of the mighty?   For he calls the strength of Satan, ‘the enemy's hand,’ and the powers of evil spirits, ‘the hand of the mighty.’  Whom he in this respect calls mighty, in that whereas they were created void of fleshly infirmity, no impotency being mixed therewith obstructs their wicked efforts.  But with regard to this which is subjoined,

Ver. 24.  Teach me, and I will hold my tongue, and cause me to understand wherein I have erred.




51.  It seems doubtful under the scale of what pointing this should hang, whether it be joined to what he had brought in, Did I say, or whether the sentence is spoken disjoined from the preceding, so that it is said thereby in reproach, Teach me, and I will hold my tongue, and cause me to understand wherein I have erred.  Which same however agrees with either pointing, for by neither does he depart from the path of sound meaning.  But since we have delivered these things in course allegorically, it remains for us to examine the words of the history in a moral sense.




52.  Blessed Job had undergone the loss of his property; being given over to the strokes of evil spirits, he was suffering the smarts of their wounds; yet in loving the wise foolishness of God, he had trodden under foot the foolish wisdom of the world with inward scorn.  Therefore in opposition to the rich of this world he is called poor, in opposition to the powerful he is called oppressed, in opposition to the wise he is called a fool.  He answers the three, that as poor he seeks not their substance, nor as oppressed their aid against the strong, nor as a fool does he seek the lore of earthly wisdom.  For in that the holy man is carried off above himself in spirit, both being poor he is not straitened by want, and being oppressed he suffers nothing, and being of free will foolish, he does not gaze with admiration at carnal wisdom.  Hence it is that another poor and oppressed man saith, We are perplexed, yet not in despair, persecuted, but not forsaken we are cast down, yet perish not. [2 Cor. 4, 8. 9.]  Hence it is that teaching the wisdom of a holy foolishness, he says, But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. [1 Cor. 1, 27]  And, if any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. [3, 18]  Hence making manifest both the gloriousness of oppression, and the riches of chosen poverty, he says, As dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and not killed; as sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things. [2 Cor. 6, 9]


53.  It is well on this point to lift up the eyes of the mind, and to see in the Elect of God, who are suffering oppression without, what a fortress of strength they are masters of within.  For all that is high and exalted without, in their secret view is grovelling, from the contempt they feel.  For transported above themselves in the interior, they fix their mind on high, and all that they meet with in this life, they look upon as passing away far below unconnected with themselves, and so to speak, while they strive by the Spirit to become quit of the flesh, almost the very things they are undergoing, they are blind to.  For in their eyes whatsoever is exalted in time, is not high.  For as though set upon the summit of a high mountain, they look down upon the flats and levels of the present life, and rising above themselves in spiritual loftiness, they see made subject to themselves, within, all that swells highest without in carnal glorying; and hence they spare no Powers that are contrary to truth, but those whom they see to be uplifted by pride, they abase by the authority of the Spirit.  For it is hence that Moses, coming from the wilderness, encounters the king of Egypt with authority, saying, Thus saith the Lord God of the Hebrews, How long wilt thou refuse to humble thyself before Me?  let My people go, that they may serve Me: [Ex. 10, 3] and when Pharaoh, being driven hard by the plagues, said, Go ye, sacrifice to your God in this land [Ex. 8, 25]; he thereupon answered with increased authority, It is not meet so to do; for we shall sacrifice the abominations of the Egyptians to the Lord our God.  It is hence that Nathan encounters the king when guilty; to whom first offering a similar instance of the transgression committed, and holding him convicted by the voice of his own sentence, he thereupon added, saying, Thou art the man, who hast done this thing. [2 Sam. 12, 7]  It is hence that the Man of God, being sent to Samaria to destroy idolatry, when king Jeroboam threw frankincense upon the altar, not fearing the king, not held back by the dread of death, with undaunted spirit, put forth the authority of a free voice against the Altar, saying, O Altar, Altar, thus saith the Lord; Behold, a child shall be born to the house of David, Josiah by name, and upon thee shall he offer the priests of the high places. [1 Kings 13, 2]  It is hence that when proud Ahab, being bowed down to the service of idols, ventured to upbraid Elijah, saying, Art thou the man that troubleth Israel? [1 Kings 18, 17]  Elijah forthwith struck the foolishness of the king in his pride with the authoritativeness of a free rebuke, saying, I have not troubled Israel, but thou and thy fathers house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and have followed Baalim. [ver. 18]  It is hence that Elisha, following his master's true loftiness, confounded for the guilt of unbelief Joram the son of Ahab, when he came to him with the king Jehoshaphat, saying, What have I to do with thee?  Get thee to the prophets of thy father and to the prophets of thy mother. [2 Kings 3, 13]  And, As the Lord of hosts liveth, before Whom I stand, surely were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would not look toward thee, nor see thee. [ver. 14]  Hence it is that the same man held Naaman fixed before the door of his house, when he came to him with horses and chariots, and did not meet him, set up as he was with abundance of talents and raiment; that he did not open the door of his house to him, but charged him by a messenger that he should wash seven times in the Jordan.  Hence too this same Naaman was going away enraged, saying, Behold, I thought he will surely come out to me.  It is hence that Peter, when the priests and elders, raging furiously even in scourging, forbade him to speak in the Name of Jesus, straightway made answer with great authority, saying, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.  For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. [Acts 4, 19. 20.]  It is hence that when Paul saw the chief Priest sitting in judgment [al. making resistance] against the Truth, and when his officer had struck him a blow on the cheek, he uttered not a curse, as being moved to wrath, but filled with the Spirit, prophesied with a free voice, saying, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law? [Acts 23, 3]  It is hence that Stephen not even when doomed to die dreaded to put forth authoritativeness of voice in utterance against the power of his persecutors, saying, Ye stiff necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do alway resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. [Acts 7, 51]


54.  But that holy men burst into such high words from passionate affection for Truth, and not from the sin of pride, they themselves plainly point out, in that by other doings and other sayings they make it appear with what great humility they are adorned, and with what great charity they are inflamed toward those whom they rebuke.  For pride begets hatred, humility only love.  Thus the words which love makes bitter, flow, surely, from the fountain head of humility.  Accordingly, how could Stephen utter reproach in pride, who with bended knee prayed for those whom he reproached, when they went on to worse and stoned him, saying, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. [ver. 60]  How did Paul in pride utter words of bitterness against the Priest and Chief of his nation, who in humility lowers himself to the service of his disciples, saying, For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus our Lord, and ourselves your servants for Christ’s sake? [2 Cor. 4, 5]  How did Peter resist the rulers from Pride? when in compassion to their erring course, he as it were makes excuse for their guilt, saying, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers.  But those things which God before had shewed by the mouth of all His prophets, that Christ should suffer, He hath so fulfilled. [Acts 3, 17. 18.]  And he draws them in pity to life, saying, Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out. [ver. 19]  How was it from pride that Elisha refused to come to the sight of Naaman, who not only let himself be seen, but even be taken hold of by a woman? concerning whom it is written, And when she came to the Man of God to the hill, she caught him by the feet, but Gehazi came near to thrust her away.  And the Man if God said, Let her alone, for her soul is in bitterness. [2 Kings 4, 27]  How was it in pride that Elijah uttered words of reproach against the proud king, seeing that he ran humbly before his chariot, as it is written, And he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab?  How was it of Pride that the man of God disregarded the presence of Jeroboam, who out of pity straightway restored his withered right hand to its former soundness?  As it is written, And it came to pass, when king Jeroboam heard the saying of the man of God, which had cried against the altar in Bethel, that he put forth his hand from the altar, saying, Lay hold on him.  And his hand dried up. [1 Kings 13, 4]  And shortly after, And the man of God besought the face of the Lord, and the king's hand was restored him again, and became as it was before. [ver. 6]  For as pride cannot give birth to miraculous powers, we are shewn, in what a Spirit of humility the voice of upbraiding issues, in that signs go along with it.  How did Nathan swell high in words of rebuke against king David, who when there was sin lacking that deserved rebuke, fell on his face upon the ground in his sight? as it is written, And they told the king, saying, Behold, Nathan the Prophet.  And when he was come in before the king, he bowed himself before the king with his face to the ground. [1 Kings 1, 23]  How could Moses, when he freely withstood the Egyptian king, indulge contempt for him, who while he held familiar communing with God worshipped with self-abasement Jethro his relation who was following him?  to whose advice he paid such ready obedience, that after the secret communications of God, he accounted that great gain, which came to him without from the lips of man.


55.  From one set of deeds of the Saints, then, we learn what account we are to take of another.  For holy men are neither free spoken out of pride, nor submissive out of fear.  But whenever uplightness uplifts them to freedom of speech, thought of their own weakness preserves them in self-abasement.  For though, in chiding them, they smite as from above the misdoings of offenders, yet judging themselves the more exactly in their own eyes, they in a manner take their place amongst the refuse, and as they pursue after wickedness in others, so much the fiercer do they return to keep themselves in check; and, on the other hand, as they never spare themselves in doing better, they are the more watchful in rebuking the deeds of other men.  For what, that is derived from the powers of man without, shall strike them with wonder, who alike look down upon themselves, even at the moment that now they have well nigh gotten hold of the summit of interior height.  And so for this reason it is right for them to sit in judgment on the loftiness of earthly exaltation without, for that no load of swelling humour weighs down the eye within.  Hence when blessed Job disregards earthly wisdom, and powers, and substance, in those friends that were full of harsh words, saying, Did I say, Bring unto me?  or, Give me of your substance?  or, Deliver me from the enemy's hand ?  or, Redeem me from the hand of the mighty?  Teach me, and I will hold my tongue, and cause me to understand wherein I have erred; what opinion he entertains about himself, he makes appear a little below, saying, Yea, ye overwhelm the fatherless.  Thus it is clearer than the light what a weak nature he sees himself to be possessed of, in that he calls himself fatherless. It goes on;

Ver. 25.  Wherefore have ye detracted from the words of truth; when there is none of you that is able to convict them?


56.  He must himself be pure from evil, who makes it his concern to correct the evil practices of other men, so as not to be taken up with earthly imaginations, not to give way to grovelling desires, in order that he may the more clearly see what things others ought to avoid, in proportion as he himself the more thoroughly eschews them by knowledge and by practice.  For the eye which dust weighs upon, never clearly sees the spot upon the limb, and the hands that hold mud can never cleanse away the overcast dirt.  And this according to the older of the old Translation [h], the voice of God rightly conveyed in sense to David, busied about external wars, when It says, Thou shalt not build a temple, for thou art a man of blood. [1 Chron. 22, 8; 28, 3.]  Now he builds God's Temple, who is devoted to correcting and forming the minds of his neighbours.  For we are God's Temple, who are framed to life by His indwelling, as Paul bears witness, saying, For the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are. [1 Cor. 3, 17]  But a man of blood is forbidden to build a temple to God, in that he who is still devoted to carnal practices, must needs blush to instruct the minds of his neighbours spiritually.  Therefore it is well said, Wherefore have ye detracted from the words of truth, when there is none of you that is able to convict them?  As if it were in plain words; ‘With what rashness do ye blame all ye hear, who knowing nothing of the causes of my stroke, still utter words that deserve blame.’  It goes on,

Ver. 26.  Ye only set in order speeches to upbraid, and ye speak words against the wind.


57.  There are two sorts of speech, which are very troublesome and mischievous to mankind, the one which aims to commend even froward things, the other which studies to be always carping even at right ones.  The one is carried downward with the stream, the other sets itself to close the very channels and streams of truth.  Fear keeps down the one, pride sets up the other.  The one aims to catch favour by applause; anger, in order that it may be manifested in contention, drives forward the other.  The one lies grovelling at command; the other is always swelling high in opposition.  Accordingly, blessed Job convicts his friends of being of this kind, when he says, Ye do but set in order speeches to upbraid.  But he proceeded to make known whence it is that men come even to the effrontery of unjust upbraiding, when he added, And ye speak words to the wind.  For to ‘speak, words to the wind’ is to talk idly.  For often when the tongue is not withheld from idle words, a loose is even given to the rashness of foolish reviling.  For it is by certain steps of its descent, that the slothful soul is driven into the pitfall.  Thus while we neglect to guard against idle words, we are brought to mischievous ones, so that it first gives satisfaction to speak of the concerns of others, and afterwards the tongue by detraction carps at the life of those of whom it speaks, and sometimes even breaks out into open revilings.  Hence the incitements are sown of angry passions, jars arise, the fire-brands of animosity are kindled, peace is altogether extinguished in men's hearts.  Hence it is well said by Solomon, He that letteth out water is a beginning of brawls. [Prov. 17, 14]  For to let out water is to let the tongue loose in a flood of words, contrary to which he at the same time declares in a favourable sense, saying, The words of a man's mouth are as deep waters. [Prov. 18, 4]  He then that letteth out water is a beginning of brawls, for he who neglects to refrain his tongue, dissipates concord.  Hence it is written contrariwise, He that silenceth a fool, softeneth wrath. [Prov. 26, 10. Vulg.]


58.  But that everyone that is given to much talking cannot maintain the straight path of righteousness, the Prophet testifies, in that he saith, For an evil speaker shall not be led right upon the earth. [Ps. 140, 11]  Hence again Solomon saith, In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin. [Prov. 10, 19]  Hence Isaiah saith, And the cultivation of righteousness, silence; so pointing out that the righteousness of the interior is desolated, when we do not withhold from immoderate talking.  Hence James saith, If any man among you think himself to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain. [James 1, 26]  Hence he says again, Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak. [1, 19]  Hence he adds again, The tongue is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. [3, 8]  Hence ‘Truth’ warns us by his own lips, saying, Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. [Matt. 12, 36]  For an idle word is such as lacks either cause of just occasion, or purpose of kind serviceableness.  If then an account is demanded for idle speech, it is very deeply to be considered what punishment followeth after that much talking, wherein we sin even by words of pride.


59.  Furthermore, be it known that they are lost to the whole estate of righteousness altogether, who let themselves go in mischievous words.  For the mind of man, like water, both when closed round is collected on high, in that it seeks anew the source whence it descended, and when let loose it comes to nought, in that it dissipates itself to no purpose down below.  For the mind is as it were drawn out of itself in so many streams, as it lets itself out in superfluous words from the strict control of silence.  And hence it has no power to turn back within to the knowledge of itself, in that being dissipated without in much talking, it loses the strength of interior reflection.  Therefore it lays itself bare in every part to the inflictions of the plotting enemy, in that it does not hedge itself about with any defence for its safe-keeping.  Whence it is written, He that hath no rule over his own spirit in his talk is like a city that is broken down and without walls.  For because it is without the wall of silence, the city of the mind lies open to the darts of the enemy, and when it casts itself forth of itself in words, it exhibits itself exposed to the adversary, and he gets the mastery of it without trouble, in proportion as the soul that he has to overcome combats against its own self by much talking.


60.  But herein be it known, that when we are withheld from speaking by excess of fear, we are sometimes confined within the strait bounds of silence beyond what need be.  And whilst we avoid the mischiefs of the tongue without caution, we are secretly involved in worse.  For oftentimes while we are overmuch restrained in speech, we are subject to a mischievous degree of much talking in the heart, that the thoughts should be hot within, the more that the violent keeping of indiscreet silence confines them, and most often they let themselves take a wider range in proportion as they reckon themselves to be more secure, in that they are not seen by censors without.  Whence the mind is sometimes lifted up in pride, and, as it were, regards as weak those persons whom it hears engaged in talk.  And when it keeps the mouth of the body shut, it never knows to what degree it is laying itself open to evil by entertaining pride.  For it keeps the tongue down, but it sets the heart up.  And whereas it never takes heed to itself from inattention, it censures all the world more freely to itself, in proportion as it does it at the same time the more secretly.  And most frequently oversilent people, when they meet with any wrongs, are driven into bitterer grief, the more they do not give utterance to all that they are undergoing.  For if the tongue declared with calmness the annoyance inflicted, grief would flow away from our consciousness.  For closed wounds give more acute pain, in that when the corruption that ferments within is discharged, the pain is laid open favourably for our recovery.  And generally whilst over-silent men fix their eyes on the faults of any, and yet hold in the tongue in silence, they are, as it were, withdrawing the use of the salve, after the wounds have been seen.  For they the more effectually become the cause of death, that they refused by speaking to cast out the poison which they might.  And hence if immoderate silence were not a thing to blame, the Prophet would newer say,

Woe is me, for I have held my peace.


61.  What then have we here to do, saving that the tongue must be heedfully kept in under the poise of a mighty control, but not that it must be indissolubly chained, lest either being let loose it run out into mischief, or being bound up, it be also slack to render service.  For hence it is said by one, A wise man will hold his tongue till he sees opportunity, that when he accounts it convenient, strictness of silence being laid aside, by speaking such things as are meet, he may devote himself to answer the end of usefulness.  Hence Solomon saith, A time to keep silence, and a time to speak.  For the seasons for changes are to be weighed with discretion, lest either when the tongue ought to be restrained, it let itself out to no purpose in words, or when it might speak to good purpose, it keep itself in from sloth.  Which the Psalmist considering comprehended in a brief petition, saying, Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; and a door of guard on my lips. [Ps. 141, 3]  For a door is opened and shut.  He then who prayed not that a bar should be set to his lips, but a door, openly shewed that the tongue ought both to be held in by self-control, and let loose on grounds of necessity, that both the voice should open the discreet mouth at the fitting time, and on the other hand silence close it at the fitting time.  And because neither the friends of Job, nor all heretics, whose likeness they bear, know how to observe this, they are said to ‘utter words to the wind.’  In that the sayings which the weightiness of discretion does not establish firmly, the breath of levity carries along.