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He explains part of the sixth Chapter, from verse 27, and the whole of the seventh and eighth Chapters.  In the course of this exposition, from verse 11, to the end of the eighth Chapter, he speaks at length on the sin of hypocrisy.





1.  WE have already in the preceding book considered the point, that blessed Job is making known to us the force of his humility, when he says,

Ver. 27.  Yea ye overwhelm the fatherless, and ye strive to overthrow your friend.


For he shews what great weakness he considers himself to be of, who calls himself ‘fatherless.’  But because charity even when wounded cannot quit love, he at once complains that they would have him overthrown, and yet witnesses that he is their friend.  Whose words, as we have often said already, in such wise specially apply to himself, that yet by them, in the Spirit of Prophecy, we have at the same time set forth the sentiment [‘sententia.’ see l. xxiii. § 31] of the faithful People, in the voice of the Church Universal.  Which same People, while encountering the opposition of heretics, both regards itself as weak in humility, and yet never abandons the greatness of keeping love entire, For the People of Holy Church, as it is the child of a dead Father, is not unfitly called ‘fatherless,’ in that henceforth indeed through faith it follows His life of Resurrection, but does not as yet see Him by His appearing.  Now heretics ‘overwhelm the fatherless,’ when they bear hard upon the lowliness of the faithful People, by clamorous and false charges, and yet he is a ‘friend,’ whom they set themselves to ‘overthrow,’ in that God's faithful People never cease with loving affection to call to the Truth, the very persons whom they suffer as persecutors.  But herein it is necessary to be known, that holy men neither dread from weakness to be exposed to falsehoods, nor in being harmed ever hold their peace as to the Truth.  Whence it is added;

Ver. 28.  But fulfil what ye have begun; give ear, and see if I lie.




2.  For because he does not fear to endure adversities, let him say, But fulfil what ye have begun; and because he does not withhold the announcements of the Truth from his very persecutors themselves, let him add, Give ear, and see if I lie.  As if he said in plain words, ‘Neither do I tremble at the mischiefs done me before, nor do I withhold the succours of correction from ungrateful hearers, in that I both have exercise through being driven to straits by misfortune, and gain increase by being kindly devoted to my very persecutors themselves.’  For the mind of the Saints, in this war of temptations, being at once defended by the shield of patience, and begirt with the swords of love, obtains resolution for the enduring of bad treatment, and puts forth kindness in the recompensing good, so as both to receive stoutly the weapons of enmities, and return forcibly the darts of love.  For he does not in any way go armed to the wars, who either taking a shield, uses no swords, or using swords, is not protected by a shield.  And hence the soldier of God, encountered by a war of adversity, ought both to hold before him the shield of patience, lest he perish, and being prompt to preach he should launch the darts of love, that he may win the victory.  The sum of which armour Paul briefly informs us of, saying, Charity suffereth long, and is kind. [1 Cor. 13, 4]  But when one of either is wanting, charity is not, i.e. if bearing with the wicked without kindness, he has no love; or again if shewing himself without patience, he neglect to bear with the wicked whom he loves.  Therefore that true charity may be retained by us, it must needs be that both patience support kindness, and again kindness support patience, that building up a large edifice as it were in our breast, both patience may give strength to the tower of kindness, and kindness give grace to the firmly founded edifices of patience.  Therefore let blessed Job, as being prompt to patience, say, But fulfil what ye have begun; and as endued with kindness let him add, Give ear, and see I lie,




3.  But because Holy Church, being well trained in the school of humility, does not enjoin as by authority the right instructions which she delivers to those that be gone astray, but wins acceptance for them by reason, it is well said in this place, See if I lie.  As though it were in plain words, ‘In all that I declare, give no credence to me upon grounds of authority, but consider on grounds of reason whether they be true.  And if at any time she says what cannot be comprehended by reason, she reasonably advises that human reasoning should not be looked for in hidden truths.’  But it often happens that heretics, when they meet with opportunity for reasoning, give themselves a loose in the brawlings of strife.  Hence it is immediately subjoined with propriety,

Ver. 29.  Answer, I pray you, without strife.


4.  For neither do heretics try to attain truth by their investigations, but to appear to be the winners; and whereas they desire to shew for wise without, they are bound within in their foolishness with the chains of their own pride; hence it comes to pass that they look out for contests of rivalry, and concerning God, Who is our Peace, they know not how to speak with peaceableness, and by the article of peace they become contrivers of strife.  To whom it is well spoken by Paul, But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the Churches of God. [1 Cor. 11, 16]  Now it is rightly added,

And speaking that which is just, judge ye.




5.  For everyone that speaks, whilst he waits for his hearer's sentence upon his words, is as it were subjected to the judgment of him, by whom he is heard.  Accordingly he that fears to be condemned in respect of his words, ought first to put to the test that which he delivers; that there may be a kind of impartial and sober umpire sitting between the heart and the tongue, weighing with exactness whether the heart presents right words, which the tongue taking up with advantage may bring forward for the hearer's judgment.  Therefore let blessed Job, while managing his own case against his friends, yet telling our proceedings against heretics, blame precipitancy in speakers, and gather words to suit their mind, saying, And speaking that which is just, judge ye.  As if it were in plain words, ‘If in this, that ye come out to us in the issuing forth of the tongue, ye would not be found fault with, retain within the balances of justice, that what is delivered without, may find acceptance by the weightiness of truth, the more in proportion as the scales of discretion weigh it well within, and because those put forth a right judgment about the sayings of others, who are used first to sit in judgment on their own; after that he had said, speaking that which is just, judge ye, he immediately adds with propriety,

Ver. 30.  And ye shall not find iniquity in my tongue, nor shall foolishness sound through my jaws.




6.  As if it were expressed in plain words, ‘The more exactly ye weigh your own words, the more truly ye estimate  those of others, and when what ye say begins to be right, ye will recognise what ye hear to be just.  For my tongue never sounds of folly to you, unless it be what comes from your own inward thoughts.’  Thus Holy Church makes it her aim first to prove the allegations of her enemies to be false, and then to make known the announcements of the truth, for so long as they reckon themselves to hold right notions, they obstinately assail the right things that they hear.  Therefore it is necessary beforehand that heretics should feel their error, lest they gainsay the truth when it is heard.  For neither if the tiller of the soil neglect to root up the briars of the field by the cutting of the share, will the earth bring to a crop the seed received into her bosom; and 'when the physician does not get rid of the corruption, by opening the wound, healthy flesh never forms in the corrupt spot.  First then in destroying what is bad, let him say, And speaking that which is just, judge ye; but afterwards in teaching what is right, let him add, And ye shalt not find iniquity in my tongue, nor shall foolishness sound through my jaws.  Now it is the way with heretics to deliver some things openly, to hold others in secret, for by the ‘tongue,’ plain speaking is denoted, but by the ‘jaws [fauces],’ the secret harbouring.


7.  Neither in the tongue then of Holy Church does ‘iniquity resound,’ nor ‘foolishness in her jaws,’ for the things that she proclaims in open utterance, at the same time she preserves in inward faith; nor does she teach one thing in public and keep another to herself in secret; but she both delivers what she thinks by giving utterance to it, and keeps what she delivers by living accordingly; and whatever is let out belonging to the feast of heavenly wisdom by the tongue of preaching, she tastes this same by the jaws of silent expectation.  And let blessed Job, both as an individual member of the whole Church, in telling his own case, and as shewing what is the heart of all of the Elect, make known all that he feels, that the testimony of his speech may manifest the uprightness of his mind.  It proceeds,

Chap. vii. 1.  The life of man upon earth is a warfare.


[vi]                                          [MORAL INTERPRETATION]


8.  In this passage in the old Translation the life of man is not called ‘a warfare’ at all, but ‘a trial [a],’ yet if the meaning of either word be regarded, the sound that meets the ear outwardly is different, yet they make one and the same concordant meaning.  For what is represented by the title of ‘a trial,’ saving our contest with evil spirits?  and what by the designation of ‘a warfare,’ but an exercising against our enemies?  So that trial is itself ‘a warfare,’ in that whilst a man is watching against the plots of evil spirits, surely he is spending himself under arms for the fight.  But we are to observe that this life of man is not said to have ‘trial,’ but it is described as itself being ‘trial.’  For having of free will declined from the upright form wherein it was created, and being made subject to the rottenness of its state of corruption, whilst out of self it begets mischiefs against self, it henceforth becomes the very thing it undergoes.  For whereas by letting itself down, it relinquished the erect seat of the interior, what did it find in itself save the shifting of change?  And though it now erect itself thence to seek things on high, it directly drops down to its own level from the impulse of a slippery changeableness.  It desires to stand up in contemplation, but has not the strength.  It strives to fix firmly the step of thought, but is enfeebled by the slippings of its frailty.  Which same burthens of a changeful lot, forasmuch as it sought them out of free will, so it bears them against the will.  Man might have possessed his fleshly part in quiet, if created aright as he was by his Maker, he had been willing to be possessed by Him; but, whereas he aimed to lift himself up against his Maker, he straightway experienced in himself insolency from the flesh.  Now forasmuch as together with guilt [b] punishment is also inherited along with it by birth, we are born with the engrafted evil of a frail nature; and we as it were carry an enemy along with us, whom we get the better of with toilsome endeavours.  And so the life of man is itself ‘a trial,’ in that it has that springing up to it from itself, whereby it is liable to be destroyed.  And though it is ever cutting down by the principle of virtue all that it begets in the principle of frailty, yet it is ever begetting in frailty somewhat to cut down by virtue.


9.  And so the life of man is in such a way ‘a trial,’ that though we are henceforth restrained from the commission of sin, yet in our very good works themselves we are clouded now by the recollection of evil deeds, now by the mists of self-deception [seductionis], now by the suspension of our own purpose of mind.  Thus one man henceforth restrains the flesh from excess, and yet he is still subject to images thereof, in that the things, which he has done willingly, come to mind against his will, and what he accounted pleasure he bears as punishment.  But because he fears to be drawn again into the conquered evil habit, he restrains his greedy appetite by the forcible means of a singular abstinence, and by his abstinence his face is rendered pale; then when paleness is observed in his countenance, his life is commended as deserving of the reverential regard of his fellow-creatures, and presently with the words of commendation vainglory enters into the mind of this man of abstinence, which while the mind having received a shock cannot get the better of, it seeks to blot from the face the paleness whereby that entered in, and so it comes to pass that being tied fast with the knots of infirmity, either in avoiding the paleness of abstinence, it again dreads to be brought under the dominion of excess, by food, or subduing by abstinence the impulse to excess, it apprehends its paleness serving to vainglory.  Another man getting the better of the downfall of pride, henceforth lays hold of the state of humility with all the desire of his heart, and when he sees people that are full of pride breaking out so far as to the oppressing of the innocent, being inflamed by the incitement of zeal, he is forced to lay aside in some degree the thing he determined on, he displays the force of the side of right, and withstands the evil-minded not with mildness, but with authority.  Whence it is very commonly the case, that either by pursuit of humility he is led to abandon zeal for the right, or again by zeal for right he interrupts the pursuit of humility, which he maintained.  And when the authoritativeness of zeal and lowliness of purpose scarcely admit of being preserved together, the man is made a stranger to himself in his embarrassment.  So that he is in a great dilemma lest in a deluded mind either pride pass itself off for the high tone of zeal, or timid inactivity feign itself humility.  Another man, considering how great is the sin of deceit, determines to fortify himself in the citadel of truth, so that henceforth no false word should proceed out of his lips, and that he should wholly cut himself off from the sin of lying.  But it very frequently happens that, when the truth is spoken, the life of a neighbour is borne hard upon; and whilst the person fears to bring injury upon another, he is brought back, as in an aim of pity, to that evil habit of deceit which he had for long kept under; and so it comes to pass, that though wickedness has no place in his mind, yet the shadow of falsehood dims therein the rays of truth.  And hence oftentimes, because when a man is urged with questions he cannot keep silence, either by telling a falsehood he slays his own soul, or by speaking the truth bears hard upon the life of a neighbour.  Another man, incited by the love of his Maker, aims by unintermitted prayer to withhold his mind from all earthly thoughts, and to place it in safety in the secret deeps of inward repose; but in the very mounting of his prayer, whilst he is striving to ascend from things below, he is struck back by the vision of them, and the eye of the mind is stretched to gaze on the light, but from bodily habit it is dimmed by the images of earthly things arising.  Whence it very often comes to pass, that the mind of the person so striving, being exhausted by its own weakness, either giving over prayer, is lulled asleep in sloth, or if it continue long in prayer, the mist of rising images gathers thick before its eyes.


10.  And so it is well said, The life of man is a trial upon earth, since there also he met with the guiltiness of a downward course, where he thought to lay hold on the advancement of an upward one, and the mind is only thrown into disorder by the same act whereby it strove to arise out of its disorder, so that it is thrown back upon itself shivered by the very means, by which it was already getting above itself collected and compacted.  This man being a stranger to instruction in the Divine Law, is kept down by his ignorance, that he should do nothing for the attaining of salvation.  That man being endued with the knowledge of the Divine Law, while he is delighted that understanding is vouchsafed to him beyond other men, in that he exults with a selfish delight, wastes in himself the gift of understanding which he has received.  And in the Judgment he is shewn to light worse than others by the same thing, whereby he is exhibited brighter than others for a season.  The first, because he is lifted high by no gifts of extraordinary powers, eschews the more plain path of uprightness too, and as if accounting himself an alien to the heavenly benefit, does evil things as though with more security, in proportion as he has never been vouchsafed the high endowments of the heavenly gift.  The other the spirit of Prophecy replenishes, uplifts to the foreknowledge of events, and shews him things to come as now present.  But whilst oftentimes and in many cases he is lifted above himself, so that he does really contemplate future events, his mind being drawn off into self-confidence, fancies that that spirit of Prophecy, which cannot always be had, is always with him, and when he takes every notion that he may have for prophecy, because that he ascribes this to himself even when he has nothing of it, he even loses it in the degree that he might possess it.  And so it comes to pass, that he is brought back in sorrow behind the standard of other men's merits by the very means, whereby he was advanced before it in gladness of heart in the esteem of all.  And so, The life of man is a trial upon earth, in that either being a stranger to extraordinary powers, it is unable to mount to the heavenly prize, or enriched with spiritual gifts, it is one day ruined the worse by occasion of its extraordinary powers.


11.  But whereas we have said a little above that ‘a trial’ is the same as ‘a warfare,’ it is above every thing to be borne in mind, that something more is signified to us by the title of ‘warfare,’ than by the name of ‘trial.’  For to our apprehension there is this addition made by the expression of ‘a warfare,’ namely, that by warfare there is made daily progress towards an end.  And whilst the space of warfare goes on increasing in a regular course, the whole warfare of men [B. & C. ‘of a man’] is at the same time diminishing.  And so, the life of man is a warfare upon earth, in that, as we have said above, each one of us, while by the accessions of time he is daily advancing to the end of life, in adding to his life, is making an end to live.  For he looks for the days to come round, but as soon as they are come for the lengthening of life, they are already taken away from the amount of life; for while the step of the traveller too is advancing over the ground in front, what remains of the way is lessening.  Thus our life is ‘a warfare,’ in that in the same degree that it is drawn out to its enlargement, it is brought to an end, so as not to be.  Therefore it is well said, The life of man is a warfare upon earth; for whilst by the several periods of time it seeks to gain ground, by that very period which it adds but in losing, it is made to pass away as it grows.  And hence the very course of a warfare itself is described in the words that are immediately added,

Are not his days also like the days of an hireling?




12.  The hireling longs for his days to pass the quicker, that he may attain without delay to the reward of his toil; and so the days of man imbued with a knowledge of the Truth and of the things of eternity, are justly compared to ‘the days of an hireling,’ because he reckons the present life to be his road, not his country, a warfare, not the palm of victory, and he sees that he is the further from his reward, the more slowly he is drawing near to his end.  Moreover we must bear in mind, that the hireling spends his strength in labours that belong to others, yet procures for himself a reward that is his own.  Now it is uttered by the Redeemer’s voice, My Kingdom is not of this world. [John 18, 36]  All we, then, who being endued with the hope of heaven, wear ourselves out with the toiling of the present life, are busied in the concern of another.  For it often happens that we are even compelled to serve the sons of perdition, that we are constrained to give back to the world what belongs to the world, and we are spent indeed with another man's work, yet we receive a reward of our own, and by this, that we manage uncorruptly the interests of others, we are made to arrive at our own.  In reverse of which, ‘Truth’ saith to certain persons, And if ye have not been faithful to that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own. [Luke 16, 12]  Moreover it is to be remembered, that an hireling anxiously and heedfully looks to it, that never a day pass clear of work, and that the expected end of the time should not come empty for his rewarding.  For in his earnestness of labour he sees what he may get in the season of recompense.  Thus when his work advances, his assurance in the reward is increased, but when the work is at a stand-still, his hope sickens in respect of the recompense.  And hence each of the Elect reckoning his life as the days of an ‘hireling,’ stretches forward to the reward the more confident in hope, in proportion as he holds on the more stoutly for the advancement of labour.  He considers what the transitory course of the present life is, he reckons up the days with their works.  He dreads lest the moments of life should pass void of labour.  He rejoices in adversity, he is recruited with suffering, he is comforted by mourning, in that he sees himself to be more abundantly recompensed with the rewards of the life to come, the more thoroughly he devotes himself for the love thereof by daily deaths.  For it is hence that the citizens of the Land above say to the Creator of it in the words of the Psalmist, Yea, for Thy sake are we killed all the day long. [Ps 44, 22]  Hence Paul says, I die daily, brethren, for your glory. [1 Cor. 15, 31]  Hence he says again, For the which cause I also suffer these things; but I am not confounded, for I know Whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day. [2 tim. 1, 12]  Therefore holy men for all the labours which they now exercise, while committing them to ‘Truth,’ already hold so many pledges of their recompense shut up in the chamber of hope.  Yet oppressive heat is now felt under toil, that one day refreshment may be had in rest.  Whence it is rightly added immediately afterwards,

Ver. 2, 3.  As a servant earnestly desireth the shadow, and as an hireling looketh for the end of his work, so am I made to possess months of vanity, and I have numbered me wearisome nights.




13.  Since for ‘a servant to desire the shadow,’ is after the heat of trial and the sweat of labour to seek the cool of eternal repose.  Which shadow that servant desired, who said, My soul thirsteth for God, the living God; when shall I come and appear before God? [Ps. 42, 2]  And again, Woe is me that I sojourn in Mesech. [Ps. 120, 5]  Who as if after hard toil retreating from the heat, and seeking a covering that he might attain the rest of coolness, says again, For I will enter into the place of the wonderful Tabernacle, even to the house of God. [Ps. 42, 4]  Paul panted to lay hold of this ‘shadow,’ having a desire to depart and to be with Christ. [Phil. 1, 23]  This shadow they had already attained unto in the fulness of the desire of their hearts, who said, We which have borne the burthen and heat of the day. [Mat. 20, 12]  Now he that is said to ‘desire’ the shadow, is rightly styled ‘a servant,’ in that each one of the Elect, so long as he is bound fast by the condition of frailty, is held in under the yoke of corruption, in its exercising dominion over him, as though under the harrassing effect of heat; which same person, when he is stripped of corruption, is then made known to himself as free and at rest.  And hence it is well said by Paul also, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption, into the glorious liberty of the children of God. [Rom. 8, 21]  For the Elect are now, pressed down by the penalty of a corrupt state, but then they are exalted high by the glory of an incorrupt.  And in the same degree that, relatively to the burthens of our present constraint, there is nought of liberty now manifested in the sons of God, relatively to the glory of the liberty to ensue, nought of servitude will then appear in the servants of God.  And so the servile garb of corruption being cast off, and the nobility of liberty bestowed, the creature is turned into the gloriousness of the sons of God, in that in being united to God by the Spirit, it is proved as it were to have surmounted and overcome this very thing, that it is a created being.  Now he that still ‘desires the shadow’ is ‘a servant,’ in that so long as he is subject to the heat of temptation, he is bearing on his shoulders the yoke of a wretched condition, and it is rightly added there, and as an hireling looks for the reward of his work.


14.  For an hireling, when he looks at the work to be done, at once resigns his spirit in consequence of the length and burthensomeness of the labour; but when he recalls his sinking spirit to take thought of the reward of his work, he immediately sets afresh his vigour of mind for the exercising of his labour, and what he reckoned a grievous burthen in respect of the work, he esteems light and easy on the grounds of the recompense.  Thus, thus, do each of the Elect, when they meet with the crosses of this life, when insults upon their good name, losses in their substance, pains of the body are brought upon them, reckon the things grievous, which they are tried with; but when they stretch the eyes of the mind to the view of the heavenly country, by comparison with their reward they see how light is all they undergo.  For that which is shewn to be altogether insupportable for the pain, is by forecasting reflection rendered light for the recompense.  It is hence that Paul is always being lifted up bolder than himself against adversities, in that ‘as an hireling he looketh for the end of his work.’  For he accounts what he undergoes to be a heavy burthen, but he reckons it light in consideration of the reward.  For he does himself declare how great the burthen is of what he suffers, in that he bears record that he was ‘in prisons more abundantly, in stripes above measure, in deaths oft,’ &c.  who ‘of the Jews five times received folly stripes save one.’ [2 Cor. 11. 23. &c.]  Who was ‘thrice beaten with rods, once stoned, thrice suffered shipwreck, a night and a day was in the deep of the sea; who endured perils of waters, of robbers, of his own countrymen, of the heathen, in the city, in the wilderness, in the sea, among false brethren; ‘who in weariness and painfulness, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness,’ had labour and toil, who sustained ‘fights without, within fears,’ who declares himself pressed down above strength, saying, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we were weary even of life.  But in what sort he wiped off him the streams of this hard toil with the towel of his reward, he himself tells, when he says, For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared, with the glory to come, which shall be revealed in us.  Thus, ‘as an hireling, he looketh for the end of his work,’ who while he considers the increase of the reward, reckons it of no account that he labours well nigh spent.  But it is well added,  So am I made to possess months of vanity, and wearisome nights have I numbered me.


15.  For the Elect serve the Creator of things, and yet are often driven to straits by the want of things; they hold fast in God by love, and yet they lack the supports of the present life.  So they who do not aim at present objects by their actions, as to the profits of the world, spend ‘months of vanity.’  Moreover they are subject to ‘wearisome nights,’ in that they bear the darkness of adversity not only to the extent of want, but oftentimes to the anguish of the body.  For to undergo contempt and want is not hard to virtuous minds; but when adversity is turned to the paining of the flesh, then surely wearisomeness is felt from pain.  It may also be not unsuitably interpreted, that each one of the Saints as a hireling spends ‘months of vanity,’ in that he now already bears the toil, but does not yet hold the reward; the one he undergoes, the other he looks for; but ‘he numbers him wearisome nights,’ in that by exercising himself in virtuous habits, he is accumulating upon his own head the ills of the present life: for if he does not aim to advance in spirit, he finds the things of the world perchance less galling to him.




16.  Yet, if this sentence be referred to the voice of Holy Church, the meaning thereof is traced out with a little more particularity.  For she herself has ‘months of vanity,’ who in her weak members has to bear earthly actions running on to nought without the meed of life.  She ‘numbers to herself wearisome nights,’ in that in her strong members she bears manifold afflictions.  For in this life there be some things that are hard, and some that are empty, and some that are both hard and empty at one and the same time.  For from love of the Creator to be tried with the afflictions of the present life, is hard indeed, but not empty.  For love of the present world to be dissolved in pleasures, is empty indeed, but not hard.  But for the love of that world, to be exposed to any adversities, is at one and the same time both empty and laborious, in that the soul is at once ‘afflicted by adversity, and not replenished with the compensation of the reward.  And so in those who being now placed within the pale of Holy Church, still let themselves out in the pursuit of their pleasures, and are thenceforth not enriched with the fruit of good works, she passes ‘months of vanity,’ in that she spends the periods of life without the gift of the reward.  But in those who, being devoted to everlasting aims, meet with the crosses of this world, ‘she numbers herself wearisome nights,’ in that she as it were in the obscurity of the present life undergoes the darkness of woe.  But in those who at one and the same time love this transitory world, and yet are wearied with its contradiction, she sustains at once ‘days of vanity,’ and ‘wearisome nights,’ in that neither does any recompense coming after reward their lives, and, yet present affliction straitens them.  But it is rightly that she never says that she has ‘days,’ but ‘months of vanity’ in these.  For by the name of ‘months,’ the sum and total amount of days is represented, and so by the ‘day,’ we have each individual action set forth: but by ‘months,’ the conclusion of those actions is implied.  But it often happens that when we do anything in this world, being buoyed up by the eager intentness of our hope, this particular thing that we are about, we never think empty; but when we are come to the end of our doings, failing to obtain the object of our aims, we are grieved that we have been labouring for emptiness, and so we spend not only days, but likewise ‘months of vanity,’ in that not in the beginning of our actions, but only at the end, we bethink ourselves that we have been toiling in earthly practices without fruit.  For when trouble follows upon our actions, it is as if the months of vanity of our life were brought home to us: in that it is only in the consummation of our actions that we learn, how vain was all our toil therein.


17.  But because in the sacred word sometimes ‘night’ is put for ignorance, according to the testimony of Paul, who saith to his disciples instructed in the life to come; Ye are all the children of the light, and the children of the day; we are not of the night, nor of darkness. [1 Thess. 5, 5]  To which words he prefixed, But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. [ib. 4]  In this place the voice of Holy Church may be understood in the person of those of her members, who after the darkness of their state of ignorance are brought back to the love of righteousness, and being enlightened by the rays of truth, wash out with their tears all that they have done amiss.  For every one that has been enlightened looks back to see how polluted all that was that he laboured at, in love with the present life.  And therefore Holy Church in the case of these, in whom there is a return to life, compares her toils to ‘a servant’ in a state of heat, and to ‘an hireling longing for the end of his work,’ in the words, As a servant earnestly desireth the shadow, and as an hireling looketh for the end of his work; so am I made to possess months of vanity, and wearisome nights have I numbered me.  For in drawing the comparison there are two things which he premised, as also in the describing of weariness there are two which he thereupon added.  For to the one oppressed with heat he gave ‘months of vanity,’ in that in proportion as the refreshing of eternity is more the object of our desire, it is more clearly seen how vainly we spend our labour for this life.  But to the one in expectance he brought in ‘wearisome nights,’ in that the more that at the end of our works we look at the reward we are to have given us, the more we lament that we so long knew nothing of the thing that we now aim at.  And hence the very solicitude of the penitent is carefully set forth, so that it is said, ‘that he numbered to himself wearisome nights,’ in that the more truly we return to God, the more exactly we consider, while we grieve over them, those toils which we underwent in this world from ignorance.  For as everyone finds that to become more and more sweet which he desires of the things of eternity, so that which he was undergoing for the love of the present world, is made appear to him proportionably burthensome.  Now if the following words be considered with reference to the historical import alone, doubtless we have the mind of one in sorrow described by them, viz. how in the different impulses of desire he is variously urged by the force of grief.  For it goes on,

Ver. 4.  When I lie down, I say, When shall I arise? and again I look for the evening.




18.  For in the night, day is desired, in the day, evening is longed for; in that grief will not let the things that are before us give satisfaction, and while it saddens the heart in the experience of the present, it is ever stretching it to something beyond in expectation, as it were by a consolatory longing.  But because at one and the same time the afflicted mind is drawn out in desire, and yet its grief, even though beguiled by longings, is not ended; it is rightly added, And I shall be filled with pains even until the darkness.  But the cause of this grief is set forth, when the words are immediately introduced,

Ver. 5.  My flesh is clothed with worms and clods of dust: my skin is dried up and shrunken.




19.  But we shall make out these words more exactly and more applicably, if we go back to the order of the foregoing interpretation.  For by sleep the torpor of inaction, and by rising the exercising of action, is represented.  By the name of the evening moreover, because it accords with sleep, we have set forth again the desire of inaction.  But Holy Church, as long as she is leading a life of corruption, never ceases to bewail the inconveniences of her condition of mutability.  For man was created for this end, that, with mind erect, he might mount to the citadel of contemplation, and that no touch of corruption should cause him to swerve from the love of his Maker; but herein, that he moved the foot of his will to transgression, turning it away from the innate stedfastness of his standing, he immediately fell away from the love of his Creator into himself.  Yet in forsaking the love of God, that true stronghold of his standing, he could not stand fast in himself either; in that by the impulse of a slippery condition of mutability, being precipitated beneath himself through corruption, he also came to be at strife with himself.  And now, in that he is not secured by the stedfastness of his creation, he is ever being made to vary by the fit of alternating desire, so that both at rest he longs for action, and when busied pants for rest.  For because the stedfast mind, when it might have stood, would not, it is now no longer able to stand even when it will, in that in leaving the contemplation of its Creator, it lost the strength of its health, and wherever placed is ever seeking some other place through uneasiness.  And so in setting forth the fickleness of the human mind, let him say, When I go to sleep, I say, When shall I arise?  and again I shall look for the evening.  As if it were expressed in plain words; ‘Nothing it receives sufficeth the mind, in that it has lost Him, Who might have truly sufficed to it.  Thus in sleep I long for rising, and at rising I look for evening, for both when at rest I aim at the employment of action, and when employed I look for the inaction of repose.’


20.  Which nevertheless may be understood in another sense also, For to sleep is to lie prostrate in sin.  For if the designation of ‘sleep’ did not denote sin, Paul would never say to his disciples, Awake, ye righteous, and sin not. [1 Cor. 15, 34]  And hence too he charges his hearer, saying, Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. [Eph. 5, 14]  And again; That now it is high time for us to arise out of sleep. [Rom. 13, 11]  Hence too Solomon upbraids the sinner, saying, How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? [Prov. 6, 9]  Therefore each one of the Elect, when he is oppressed with the sleep of sin, strives to rise to keep the watch of righteousness.  But often when he has risen he feels himself lifted up by the greatness of his virtuous attainments.  And hence after attainments in virtue he desires to be tried with the adversities of the present life, lest he fall the worse from presumption in his virtuous achievements.  For if he had not known that he was preserved more effectually by trial, the Psalmist would never have said, Examine me, O Lord, and prove me. [Ps. 26, 2]  And so it is well said here, When I go to sleep, I say, When shall I arise? and again I shall look for the evening; in that both in the sleep of sin, we look for the light of righteousness, and when successes in virtuous attainments elevate the mind, adversity is wanted for our aid, so that when the soul is exalted above what it ought to be in rejoicing at its own excellencies, it may be established by sorrow coming forth, through the encounters of the present life.  Hence it is not said, I shall dread the evening, but, I shall look for.  For we ‘look for’ favourable things, we dread those that are adverse to us.  And so the good man ‘looks for evening,’ in that when he needs to be tried with affliction, adversity itself is made success to him.


21.  By the designation of ‘evening’ there may also be understood the tempting of sin, which oftentimes assaults the mind the sharper, in proportion as the spirit transports it higher to the regions above.  For never in this life is sin so entirely abandoned in the practising of righteousness, that we continue without flinching in the self-same righteousness; in that although right principle does already drive out sin from the dwelling of the heart, yet the very sin, that is so banished, taking her seat at the doors of our thought, knocks for it to be opened to her.  And this Moses too conveyed in spiritual signification, when he described the parts of time being made in a bodily way, saying, And there was light, and adding soon after, And the evening was made [Vulg. factum est]. [Gen. 1, 3. 5.]  For the Maker of all things foreseeing man's guilt, then exhibited in Time what now passes in the human mind.  For the light draws on to eventide, in that the shades of temptation follow the light of righteousness.  But because the light of the Elect is not put out by temptation, not night; but evening, is recorded as made.  Since it often happens, that in the heart of the righteous temptation shades the light of righteousness, but it does not put an end thereto; it forces it to the paleness of a flickering state, but does not utterly quench it.  And so the Elect both after sleep long for the rising, and after rising look for evening, in that they use both to awake from sin to the light of righteousness, and when placed in that same light of righteousness, they are ever making themselves ready to encounter the snares of temptation; which same they do not dread, but look for, as they are not ignorant that even trials promote the interest of their righteousness. 


22.  But with whatever degree of virtue they may have striven against their corruption, they cannot have entire health, until the time that the day of their present life is ended.  And hence it is added, And I shall be full of pains even until the darkness.  For one while adversities burst upon them, at another time successes themselves beguile them by insidious joviality; at one time evil propensities making head stir up a war of the flesh, at another time being brought under, they invite the mind to pride.  Therefore the life of good man is full of pains even until the darkness, in that so long as the period of their state of corruption is going on, it is shaken by tribulation both internal and external; nor does it experience assurance of health, saving when it leaves behind it for good the day of temptation.  And hence this same cause of these pains is brought in immediately afterwards, when it is said, My flesh is clothed with corruption and foulness of dust.  For, as we have said a little above, man wilfully forsook his innate stability, and plunged himself into the abyss of corruption: and hence now he either goes slipping in impure works, or defiled by forbidden thoughts.  For, so to speak, being judicially bowed down beneath its own sin, our nature its very self is put out of the pale of nature, and, when let loose, it is carried even to the length of bad works, while, being held in, it is dimmed by the pressing imagination of bad works.  Thus in the fulfilment of a forbidden deed, ‘corruption’ [putredo] taints the flesh, while in the lightness of evil thought, dust as it were rises up before the eyes.  By consenting to evil practices we are wasted with corruption, but by suffering in the heart the images of evil deeds, we are defiled with the stains of dust; and so he says, My flesh is clothed with foulness of dust.  As if it were in plain words; 'The carnal life that I am subjected to, either the corruption of wanton practice defiles, or the cloud of wretched thought compasses about in the recollection of evil ways.


23.  And yet if we take this in the voice of the Holy Church Universal, doubtless we find her at one time sunk to the earth by the ‘corruption’ of the flesh, at another time by ‘the defilement of dust.’  For she has many in her, who whilst they are devoted to the love of the flesh, turn corrupt with the putrefaction of excess.  And there are some that keep indeed from the gratification of the flesh, yet grovel with all their heart in earthly practices.  So let Holy Church say in the words of one of her members, let her say what she undergoes from either sort of men, My flesh is clothed with corruption, and the defilements of dust.  As if she told in plain words, saying, ‘There are very many that are members of me in faith, yet these are not sound or pure members in practice: in that either being mastered by foul desires, they run out in the rottenness of corruption; or, being devoted to earthly practices, they are besmeared with dust.  For in those, whom I have to endure, that are full of wantonness, I do plainly lament for the flesh turned corrupt; and in those, whom I suffer from, that are seeking the earth, what else is this but that I carry it defiled with dust?’


24.  And hence it is properly added at the same time concerning both sorts; My skin is dried up and shrivelled.  For in the body of the Church, those that are devoted to outward concerns alone are suitably called ‘the skin,’ which same by becoming dry is contracted, in that the soul of carnal men, while their hearts are set on present objects, and covet what is close at hand, have no mind, as it were, to be made to stretch out after the things of the future world in longsuffering.  These, while they disregard the richness of the interior hope, are dried up that they become shrivelled; in that if hopelessness did not parch their hearts, the fever of a little mind would never contract them.  Thus it was this contraction that the Psalmist dreaded, when in fear of the drought of the same he said, May my soul be satisfied as with marrow and fatness. [Ps. 63, 5]  For the soul is ‘satisfied with marrow and fatness,’ when it is refreshed by the infusion of heavenly hope against the heat of present longings.  And so the ‘skin’ being dried up shrivels, when the heart being given to outward objects, and dried up in hopelessness, is not stretched out in love of its Creator, but is folded up into itself, so to say, by wrinkled thought.


25.  But it is to be considered that carnal minds only delight in present things, because they never weigh well how transitory the life of the flesh is.  For if they regarded the speed of its flight, they would never love it even when it smiled upon them.  But Holy Church, in her elect members, daily minds how quick a flight belongs to outward things, and therefore she sets firm the foot of serious purpose in the interior.  And hence it is well added;

Ver. 6.  My days are past more swiftly than a web is cut off by the weaver.


[xi]                                        [MORAL INTERPRETATION]


26.  By a very suitable image the time of the flesh is compared to a web.  For as the web advances by threads, so this mortal life by the several days; but in proportion as it grows to its bigness, it is advancing to its cutting off.  For as we have also said above, whilst the time in our hands passes, the time before us is shortened.  And of the whole space of our lives those portions are rendered fewer that are to come, in proportion as those are many in number that have gone by.  For a web, being fastened above and below, is bound to two pieces of wood that it may be woven; but in proportion as below the part woven is rolled up, so above the part that remains to be woven is being unwound, and by the same act, by which it augments itself in growth, that is rendered less which remains.  Just so with the periods of our life, we as it were roll up below those that are past, and unwind at top those that are to come, in that in the same proportion that the past become more, the future have begun to diminish.  But because not even does a web suffice for the setting forth of our span of time, for the rapid course of our life surpasses the speed and quickness even of that too, it is well said in this place, My days are past away more swiftly than a web is cut off by the weaver.  For to the web there is a delay of growth, but to the present life there is no delay of coming to an end.  For in the one when the hand of the workman is stopped, the end of the arrival is deferred, but in this latter, because we consume without end time ending every instant, even while resting we are brought to the end of our way, and along the course of our passage, we go on even in sleeping.  Therefore the Elect, seeing that the moments of the present life run past at speed, never in this journey of most rapid motion fix the purpose of their hearts.  And hence it is well added upon that,

And are spent without any hope.




27.  The minds of lost sinners are bound fast with such love for the days of their present life, that they long to live for ever here in the same way.  So that, if it were possible, they desire never to have the course of their life brought to an end.  For they are too indifferent to take account of the future, they place all their hope in transitory things, they aim to have nothing but such objects as pass away.  And while they think too much of transitory things, and never look forward to those that shall remain, the eye of their heart is so closed in insensible blindness, that it is never fixed on the interior light.  Whence it often happens, that distress already shakes the frame, and approaching death cuts off the power of the breath of life, yet they never cease to mind the things that are of the world.  And already the avenger is dragging them to judgment, and yet they themselves, occupied with the concerns of time, in the busy management of them, are only thinking how they may still live on in this world.  In the act of leaving every thing, they dispose of all as if they were entering upon the possession of them, in that the hope of living is not broken, at the very moment when life is at an end.  They are already being forced to judgment in feeling [per sentemtiam], yet they still cleave to the hold of their goods in solicitude.  For by the hardened soul death is still believed to be far off, even when his touch is felt.  And the soul is so separated from the flesh, that by keeping itself in excessive love for things present, when it is led to everlasting punishment, it does not know this mere thing, whither it is being led; and in leaving all that it would not love with bounds, it suddenly finds without bounds things that it never anticipated.  But, on the other hand, the mind of the righteous is stretched in intentness after the eternal world, even when the present life goes smoothly along with it.  It enjoys the high health of the flesh, yet the spirit is never hindered by dependence on it.  No atom [articulum] of death as yet breaks forth, still he daily regards it as present to him.  For because life is unceasingly slipping by, the expectation of living is wholly cut short for him.  Therefore it is well said of the passing days, And are spent without hope.  As if it were declared in plain terms; ‘I have not placed confidence of heart in the present life, in that all that is passing I have dismissed from my hopes, treading it under foot.’  And hence it is rightly added immediately after,

Ver. 7.  O remember that my life is wind.




28.  For those men love the life of the flesh as enduring, who do not consider how infinite is the eternity of the life to come; and whereas they take no thought of the sure stedfastness of the everlasting state, they take their exile for their home, darkness for light, going for standing.  Since they that know nothing of greater things can never judge rightly of the least.  For the order of judging requires that we should be above that which we are striving to try.  Since if the mind is not able to rise above all things, it has no certain sight at all in relation to those, by which it is surpassed.  And so it is for this reason that the lost soul is inadequate to estimate the course of the present 1ife, because from love of the same it is bowed down to the admiration thereof.  But holy men, in proportion as they lift their hearts towards the eternal world, bethink themselves how short-lived that is which is closed by an ending.  And all that is passing is rendered worthless to their senses, forasmuch as that pours in its light through the rays of intelligence, which once received never departs.  And as soon as they contemplate the infinite extent of eternity, they cease any longer to desire as great whatsoever has an end to limit it.  But the mind when lifted up is carried beyond the limits of time, even when by the flesh it is held fast in time, and it looks down from a greater height on all that is to have an end, the more truly it knows the things without end.  Now this very consideration of the short span of man’s estate is itself an offering of singular efficacy [virtutis] to our Maker.  Whence a sacrifice of this merit is here rightly offered together with prayer, when it is said, O remember that my life is wind.  As if it were said in plain words, ‘Regard with loving-kindness one that is quickly gone, in that I claim to be looked upon by Thee with greater pity, even in proportion as I myself do not turn away mine eyes from the contemplation of my short span.’  But seeing that when the season of our present life is cut short, there is no more return to the work of earning our forgiveness, it is rightly added,

Mine eye shall no more return to see good.




29.  The eye of the dead ‘no more returneth to see good,’ in that for the setting forth of good works, the soul once snipped of the flesh knows no return.  It is hence that the rich man, whom the fire of hell was devouring, knew that he could never restore himself by doing works; for he never turned himself to do good to himself, but to his brethren that were left; I pray thee, father Abraham, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house; for I have five brethren, that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. [Luke 16, 27. 28.]  For hope even though unfounded is used to cheer the stricken soul; but the lost, that they may feel their woe the keener, lose even hope as to pardon.  And hence when he was given over to avenging flames, he was not anxious to help himself, as we said, but his brethren, in that he knew that he would never be without the torments of those fires, the punishment of despair being superadded.  Hence Solomon saith, Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest. [Eccles. 9, 10]  So ‘the eye shall no more return to see good,’ in that the soul, on meeting with its recompense, is never again recalled to tell to the account of practice.  Therefore forasmuch as all that is seen is fleeting, and the things that follow are to endure, blessed Job rightly combined the two in one verse, saying, O remember that my life is wind: mine eye shall no more see good.  For looking at the transitoriness of things present, he says, O remember that my life is wind.  But contemplating the eternity of those that come after, he added, Mine eye shall no more return to see good.  And here, furthermore, he justly proceeds to take upon him the voice of the whole race of man destitute of the benefit of redemption, saying,

Ver. 8.  The eye of man shall not see me.




30.  For ‘the eye of Man’ is the pity of the Redeemer, which softens the hardness of our insensibility, when it looks upon us.  Hence, as the Gospel witnesses, it is said, And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter.  And Peter remembered the word of the Lord.  And he went out, and wept bitterly. [Luke 22, 61. 62.]  But the soul when divested of the flesh ‘the eye of Man’ doth not henceforth at all regard, in that it never delivers him after death, whom grace doth not restore to pardon before death.  For hence Paul saith, Behold, now is the accepted time, behold, now is the day of salvation. [2 Cor. 6, 2]  Hence the Psalmist saith, For His mercy is for the present state of being [d]; [Ps. 118, 1] for this reason, that the man whom mercy doth not rescue now, after the present state of being, justice alone consigns to punishment.  Hence Solomon saith, And if the tree fall toward the south or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth there it shall be. [Eccles. 11, 3]  For when, at the moment of the falling of the human being, either the Holy Spirit or the Evil Spirit receives the soul departed from the chambers of the flesh, he will keep it with him for ever without change, so that neither once exalted, shall it be precipitated into woe, nor once plunged into eternal woes, any further arise to take the means of escape.  Therefore let the holy man, contemplating the ills of mankind, viz. how he is removed from the present world without the knowledge of his Redeemer, and buried in everlasting flames without remedy, and taking up their voice in his own person, give utterance to the words, And the eye of man shall not see me.  Forasmuch as the man whom the grace of the Redeemer doth not now look upon to correct, it doth not then visit to keep from destruction.  For the Lord, when He cometh to judgment, looketh on the sinner to smite, but He doth not look on him to acknowledge him in bestowing the grace of salvation.  He taketh account of sins, and knoweth not the life of those that perish.  Hence after that the holy man had averred that he could no more be ‘seen by the eye of Man’ after the present life, he rightly added at once;

Thine eyes are upon me, and I shall not stand.




31.  As though he said in plain words; ‘Thou, when thou comest in severity to Judgment, both seest not, to save, and yet seest, to smite, in that him, whom Thou lookest not on in the present life with the pitifulness of Thy saving care, hereafter looking on Thou dost extinguish by Thy law of justice.  For now the sinner casts away the fear of God, and yet lives, blasphemes and yet prospers, because the pitiful Creator would not in seeing punish him, whom He would rather by waiting for bring to amendment; as it is written, And winkest at the sins of men for their repentance. [Wisd. 11, 23]  But when the sinner is then looked upon, he ‘does not stand,’ in that when the strict Judge minutely examines his deserts, the convicted sinner cannot bear up against his torments. 


32.  Not but that this likewise accords with the voice of the righteous, whose mind is ever anxiously fixed on the coming Judgment.  For they have fears for every thing that they do, whilst they heedfully consider who are the persons, and before what a Judge they will have to stand.  They behold the power of His Mightiness, and they consider what an amount of guilt they are tied and bound with from their own imperfection.  They reckon up the evil deeds of their own doing, and multiply over against them the benefits of their Creator.  They reflect how rigidly He judges wicked deeds, how minutely He examines good ones; and they foresee without a shadow of doubt that they will be lost, if they be judged apart from pity: for even this very life that we seem to live righteously is sin, if, when He takes account of our lives, the mercy of God does not make allowance for it in His own eyes.  For it is hence written in this very book, Yea, the stars are not pure in His sight. [Job 25, 5]  For strictly judged in His sight those very persons do also bear spots of defilement, that shine bright in the purity of holiness.  Therefore it is well said, Thine eyes are upon me, and I shall not stand.  As if it were said in plain terms by the voice of the righteous man, ‘If I be sifted with an exact scrutiny, I cannot stand up in undergoing judgment, for life cannot bear up against punishment, if the mercilessness of just retribution bears hard upon it.’  Now both the sin and the punishment of that same human race is well added in few words, where it is said immediately afterwards,

Ver. 9.  As the cloud is consumed and vanisheth away; so he that goeth down to hell shall come up no more.




33.  For a cloud is suspended in the higher regions, but it is condensed and driven by the wind that it flies, and it is scattered by the heat of the .sun that it vanishes.  Thus, thus verily is it with the hearts of men, which by the faculty of reason bestowed upon them dart on high, but driven by the blasts of the evil spirit, they are forced hither and thither by the bad impulses of their desires, but by the searching eye of the Judge above they are melted as if by the heat of the sun, and being once consigned to the regions of woe, never return for the benefit of working.  Let the holy man then, in setting forth the elevation, the career, and the eclipse of the human race, exclaim, As the cloud is consumed and vanisheth away, so he that goeth down to the grave shall come up no more.  As if he spake in plain words, saying, ‘In flying on high he is brought to nought, who by exalting himself is advancing to destruction, whom, if sin once force to punishment, mercy never more restores to pardon.’  Hence it is yet further added,

He shall return no more to his own house.




34.  As the house of the body is a bodily habitation, so that becomes to each separate mind ‘its own house,’ whatsoever thing it is used to inhabit in desire.  And so ‘there is no more returning to his own house,’ because, when once a man is given over to eternal punishments, he is henceforth no more recalled thither, where he had attached himself in love.  Moreover by the designation of hell the despair of the sinner may also be set forth, of which it is said by the Psalmist, In hell, who shall confess to Thee? [Ps. 6, 5]  Whence again it is written, When the ungodly man cometh into the pit of sinners, he contemneth. [Prov. 18, 3]  Now whosoever yields himself to ungodliness, doth assuredly quit the life of righteousness by a proper death.  But when a man after sin is furthermore overwhelmed by a mountain of despair, what else is this but that after death he is buried in the torments of hell?  Therefore it is rightly said, As the cloud is consumed, and vanisheth alway, so he that goeth down to hell shall come up no more; in that it very often happens, that with the commission of wickedness despair also is united, and the way of returning is henceforth cut off.  But the hearts of the despairing are rightly compared to clouds, in that they are at once darkened with the mists of error, and thick with the number of sins; but being consumed, they vanish away, in that being lighted up by the blaze of the final Judgment, they are scattered to the winds.  ‘The house’ too is often understood for the dwelling-place of the heart.  Hence it is said to one that was healed, Go to thine house [Mark 5, 19]; in that it is most meet that the sinner after pardon should turn back into his own mind, so as not to do aught a second time which may justly subject him to the scourge.  But he that has ‘gone down to hell,’ shall no more ‘ascend into his own house,’ in that him, that despair overwhelms, it puts forth without from the habitation of the heart.  And he cannot return back within, because when he has been ejected without, day by day he falls urged on into worse extremes.  For man was made to contemplate his Creator, that he might ever be seeking after His likeness, and dwell in the festival [solemnitate] of His love.  But being cast without himself by disobedience, he lost the seat of his mind, in that being left all abroad in dark ways, he wandered far from the habitation of the true light.  Whence it is further added with propriety,

Neither shall his place know him any more.




35.  For ‘the place’ of man, but not a local place, the Creator Himself became, Who created him to have his being in Himself, which same place man did then forsake, when on hearing the words of the deceiver, he forsook the love of the Creator.  But when Almighty God in the work of redemption shewed Himself even by a bodily appearing, He Himself, so to say, following the footsteps of His runagate, came as a place where to keep man whom He had lost.  For if the Creator could not in any sense be styled ‘a place,’ the Psalmist, in praising God, would never have said, The children of thy servants shall dwell there [‘there’ is not in V. or LXX.]. [Ps. 102, 29]  For we never say there, except when we mark out a place in a particular manner.  But there are very many, who even after they have received the succour of the Redeemer, are precipitated into the darkness of despair, and they perish the more desperately, in proportion as they despise the very offered remedies of mercy.  And so it is rightly said concerning him that is damned, Neither shall his place know him any more.  For he is not known by his Creator in His sorer severity at the Judgment, in the same degree that he is not recalled even by His gifts to the grace of restoration.  And hence it is particularly to be observed, that he does not say, ‘Nor shall he know his own place any more;’ but, Neither shall his place know him any more.  For whereas that ‘knowing’ is ascribed not to the person, but to the place, the Creator Himself is manifestly set forth, by the name of ‘a place,’ Who, when He cometh in strictness for the final account, shall say to all that abide in iniquity, I know you not whence ye are. [Luke 13, 25]  But the Elect severally, in proportion as they consider that lost sinners are unsparingly cut off, day by day purify themselves with greater diligence from the stains of the iniquity they have done; and when they see others on the brink of ruin grow cold in the love of life, they earnestly inflame themselves to tears of penitence.  Hence it is well added,

Ver. 11.  Therefore also I will not refrain my mouth.




36.  For that man ‘refrains his mouth,’ that is ashamed to confess the evil he has done.  For to put the mouth to labour is to employ it in the confession of sin done, but the righteous man doth ‘not refrain his mouth,’ in that forestalling the wrath of the searching Judge, he falls wroth upon himself in words of self-confession.  Hence the Psalmist saith, Let us come before His Presence with confession [e]. [Ps. 95, 2]  Hence it is delivered by Solomon, He that coveteth his sins shall not prosper, but whoso confesseth, and forsaketh them shall have mercy. [Prov. 28, 13]  Hence it is written again, The just man is first the accuser of himself. [Ib. 18, 17]  But the mouth is never opened in confession, unless at the thought of the searching Judgment the spirit is in straits from fear; and hence it is fitly said afterwards,

I will speak in the anguish of my spirit.




37.  For ‘anguish of the spirit’ sets the tongue in motion, so that the voice of confession is levelled against the guilt of evil practice.  Moreover it is to be borne in mind, that oftentimes even the reprobate make confession of sins, but are too proud to weep for them.  But the Elect prosecute with tears of severe self-condemnation those sins of theirs which they disclose in words of confession.  Hence it was well that after blessed Job had pledged himself not to spare his lips, he added directly the anguish of the spirit.  As if he avowed plainly, saying, ‘The tongue doth in such sort tell of guilt, that the spirit is not ever let go loose amidst other things, free of the sting of sorrow; but in telling my sins, I disclose my wound, and in thinking over my sins for their amendment, I seek the cure of the wound in the medicine of sorrow.’  For he that tells indeed the evil deeds he has done, but holds back from lamenting what he has told, he as it were by taking off the covering discovers the wound, but in deadness of mind he applies no remedy to the wound.  Therefore it is needful that sorrow alone should wring out the voice of confession, lest the wound, being exposed, but neglected, in proportion as it is henceforth more freely touched through the knowledge of our fellowcreatures, fester so much the worse.  Contrariwise the Psalmist had not only disclosed the sore of his heart, but was furthermore applying to it thus laid bare the remedy of sorrow, when he said, I acknowledge my sin unto Thee, and my iniquity will I think on. [Ps. 32, 5]  For by so ‘acknowledging’ he discovered the hidden sore, and by thus ‘thinking on’ it, what else did he, than apply a remedy to the wound?  But to the mind that is distressed, and anxiously thinking on its own ills, there arises a strife in behalf of self against self.  For when it urges itself to the sorrows of penitence, it rends itself with secret upbraiding.  And hence it is justly added afterwards,

I will converse with the bitterness of my spirit.




38.  For when we are in trouble from dread of God's judgment, whilst we bewail some things done wrong, seeing that by the mere force of our bitterness alone we are stirred up to enter into ourselves more observantly, we find in ourselves other things also to bewail more largely.  For it often happens that what escaped us in our insensibility, is made known to us more exactly in tears.  And the troubled mind finds out more surely the ill that it has done and knew not of, and its conflict discovers to it in a true point of view how far it had deviated from the peace which is of truth, in that its guilt, which while secure it thought not of, it finds out in itself when disturbed.  For the bitterness of penance gaining ground urgently brings home to the confounded heart the unlawful things it has committed, exhibits the Judge arrayed against them in severity, strikes deep the threats of punishment, smites the soul with consternation, overwhelms it with shame, chides the unlawful motions of the heart, and disturbs the repose of its mischievous self-security, all the good gifts that the Creator has vouchsafed to bestow upon him, all the evil that he himself has done in return for the good things of His hand, are reckoned up, how that he was created by Him in a wonderful way, that he was sustained freely and for nought, that he was endowed with the substance of reason at his creation, that he was called by the grace of his Creator, that he himself even when called refused to follow, that the pitifulness of Him that calleth did not disregard him, not even when deaf and resisting, that he was enlightened with gifts, that of his own free will, even after these gifts received, he blinded himself by wicked deeds, that he was cleared from the wrong doings of his state of blindness by the strokes of fatherly solicitude, that by means of the pains of these strokes he was restored to the joys of saving health by the remedy that mercy applied, that being subject to certain bad practices, though not of the worst sort, he does not cease to sin even in the midst of these strokes; that the grace of God even when slighted did not abandon its sinner.  And thus whereas it upbraids with so much keenness the agitated mind at one time by a display of the gifts of God, another time by the reproaches of its own behaviour, the bitterness of spirit has a tongue of its own in the heart of the righteous, which speaks to it the more searchingly, in proportion as it is heard within.  And hence it is not at all said, ‘I will talk in the bitterness of my spirit,’ but I will converse with the bitterness; in that the force of grief, which taking each sin separately, stimulates the deadened mind to lamentations, as it were shapes words of converse to it, wherein it being chidden might find itself out, and henceforth rise up with better heed to the safe keeping of itself.  And so let the righteous man say in his own voice; as bearing a figure of Holy Church, let him say in ours too; I will converse with the bitterness of my spirit.  As if he spake it in plainer words, saying, ‘Within I hold converse with the anguish of my heart against mine own self, and without I hide myself from the lash of the Judge.’  Now the mind that is borne hard upon by the pangs of penitence is gathered up close into itself, and severed by strong resolution from all the gratifications of the flesh, it longs to advance to things above, yet it still feels opposition from the corruption of the flesh.  And hence it is rightly added immediately,

Ver. 12.  Am I a sea or a whale, that thou hast compassed me about with a prison?




39.  Man is ‘compassed about with a prison,’ in that he very often both strives to mount on high by the strides of virtuous attainments, and yet is impeded by the corruption of his fleshly part.  Of which same the Psalmist rightly prays that he might be divested, saying, Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise Thy Name. [Ps. 142, 7]  But what have we set forth by the designation of ‘the sea,’ saving the hearts of carnal men tossed with swelling thoughts?  and what by the name of ‘a whale,’ except our old enemy?  who when in taking possession of the hearts of the children of this world he makes his way into them, does in a certain sort swim about in their slippery thoughts.  But the whale is made fast in prison, in that the evil Spirit, being cast down below, is kept under by the weight of his own punishment, that he should have no power to fly up to the heavenly realms, as Peter testifies, who saith, God spared not the Angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness to be reserved unto judgment. [2 Pet. 2, 4]  ‘The whale’ is fast bound in prison, in that he is prevented from tempting the good as much as he desires.  The sea too is ‘compassed about with a prison,’ in that the swelling and raging desires of carnal minds, for the doing of the evil that they long for, are clogged by the straitness of their inability.  For they often long to have power over their betters, yet by the Divine ordering, that regulates all things marvellously, they are made to bow beneath them.  They desire, being exalted high, to injure the good, yet being brought under their power, they look for consolation from them.  For the sake of fulfilling the gratification of the flesh, they covet length of years in the present life, yet they are carried off from it with haste.  Concerning such it is well said by the Psalmist, And He put the waters as it were in a skin. [Ps. 78, 13. V. thus]  For ‘the waters are in a skin’ when their loose desires, in that they find not the execution in deed, are kept down under a carnal heart.  Therefore the whale and the sea are hemmed in by the close pressure of a prison, in that whether as regards the evil spirit or his followers, in whose minds he gathers himself and sets rolling therein the waves of tumultuous thoughts, the rigour of the Most High confines them, that they should have no power to accomplish the evil things that they are set upon.


40.  But holy men, in proportion as they contemplate the Mysteries of heavenly truths with more perfect purity of heart, pant after them with daily increased ardour of affection.  They long to be henceforth filled to the full at that fountain head, whence they as yet taste but a little drop with the mouth of contemplation.  They long entirely to subdue the promptings of the flesh, no longer to be subject to any thing unlawful in the imaginations of the heart springing from the corruption thereof.  But because it is written, For the corruptible body presseth down the soul, and the earthy tabernacle weigheth down the mind that museth upon many things, [Wisd. 9, 15] therefore they henceforth rise above themselves in purpose of mind, but being still subject to the capricious motions of their imperfect nature, they lament that they are confined in the prison-house of corruption.  Am I a sea or a whale, that Thou dost compass me about with a prison?  As if it were in plain words; ‘The sea or the whale, i.e. the wicked and their prime mover, the Evil Spirit, because they desire to have a loose given them for the mere liberty of committing iniquity alone, are justly held bound in the prison of the punishment inflicted on them.  But I, that already long for the liberty of Thine eternal state, why am I still enclosed in the prison of mine own corruption?’  Not that this is either demanded in pride by the righteous, in that being inflamed with the love of the Truth they desire completely to surmount the narrow compass of their imperfect condition; nor yet that it is unjustly ordered by the Author of the just, in that in delaying the wishes of His Elect, He puts them to pain, and in paining purifies, that they may one day be the better enabled by that delay, for the receiving that they desire.  But the Elect, so long as they are kept away from the interior rest, turn back into their own hearts, and being there buried from the tumults of the flesh, as it were seek a retreat of infinite delight.  But therein they often feel the stings of temptation, and are subject to the goadings of the flesh, and there they meet with the hardest toils, where they had looked for perfect rest from toil.  Hence the holy man after the prison of his state of corruption that he told of, hastening to return to the tranquil regions of the heart, seeing that he experienced in the interior also all that same strife, to escape which he fled from things without, adds immediately, saying,

Ver. 13, 14.  When I say my bed shall comfort me, I shall be eased in speaking with myself on my couch, then Thou scarest me with dreams, and terrifiest me through visions.




41.  For in Holy Writ a ‘bed,’ a ‘couch,’ or ‘litter,’ is usually taken for the secret depth of the heart.  For it is hence that under the likeness of each separate soul, the Spouse, urged by the piercing darts of holy love, says in the Song of Songs, By night on my bed I sought him, whom my soul loveth. [Cant. 3, 1]  For ‘by night and on the bed is the beloved sought,’ in that the appearance of the Invisible Creator, apart from every image of a bodily appearing, is found in the chamber of the heart.  And hence ‘Truth’ saith to those same lovers of Him, The kingdom of God is within you. [Luke 17, 21]  And again, If I go not away, the Comforter will not come. [John 16, 7] As if it were in plain words; ‘If I do not withdraw My Body from the eyes of your fixed regard, I lead you not by the Comforter, the Spirit, to the perception of the unseen.’  Hence it is said by the Psalmist of the just, The Saints shall be joyful in glory, they shall rejoice upon their beds [Ps. 149, 5]; in that when they flee the mischiefs from things without, they exult in safety within the recesses of their hearts.  But the joy of the heart will then be complete, when the fight of the flesh shall have ceased without.  For so long as the flesh allures, because as it were the wall of our house is shaken, even the very bed is disturbed.  And hence it is rightly said by that Psalmist, Thou hast made all his bed in his sickness. [Ps. 41, 3]  For when temptation of the flesh moves us, our infirmity being made to tremble disturbs even the bed of the soul.  But what do we understand in this place by ‘dreams’ and ‘visions’ saving the representations of the last searching Judgment?  What we already have some slight glimpse of through fear, but do not see it as it really is.  Thus holy men, as we have said, ever turn back to the secret recesses of the heart, when from the world without, they either meet with successes beyond their wishes, or with adversities beyond their strength, and, wearied with their toils without, they seek as a bed, or litter, the resting-places of the heart.  But whilst by certain pictures of their imagination they see how searching the judgments of God are, they are as it were disturbed in their very repose on their beds by the vision of a dream.  For they behold after what sort the strict Judge cometh, Who while with the power of infinite Majesty He lights up the secret recesses of the heart, will bring back every sin before our eyes.  They bethink themselves what the shame of that is, to be confounded in the sight of the whole human race, of all the Angels and the Archangels.  They reflect what agony is in store after that confounding, when at one and the same time guilt shall prey upon the soul imperishably perishing, and hell fire upon the flesh unfailingly failing.  When, then, the mind is shaken by so terrific a conception, what else is this but that a sad dream is presented upon the bed?  Therefore let him say, When I say, My bed shall comfort me, and I shall be eased talking with myself on my couch; then Thou scarest me with dreams, and terrifiest me through visions.  As if he confessed openly, saying, ‘If fleeing from external things, I turn back into the interior, and am anxious in some sort to rest upon the bed of my heart, there, whilst Thou dost set me to [A.B.D. ‘teach me’] the contemplation of Thy severity, Thou makest me to fear horribly by the mere images my foresight raises up.’  Now it is well said, And I shall be eased, talking with myself in my bed, in that when we return wearied to the silence of our hearts, as it were holding converse on our beds, we handle the secret words of thought within ourselves.  But this very converse of ours is turned into dread, in that thereby there is more forcibly presented to us in imagination the view, which holds out the terrors of the Judge.




42.  But lest anyone should be at pains to make out these words after the literal sense, it is of great importance to find out in how many ways the mind is affected by images from dreams.  For sometimes dreams are engendered of fulness or emptiness of the belly, sometimes of illusion, sometimes of illusion and thought combined, sometimes of revelation, while sometimes they are engendered of imagination, thought, and revelation together.  Now the two which we have named first, we all know by experience, while the four subjoined we find in the pages of Holy Writ.  For except dreams were very frequently caused to come in illusion by our secret enemy, the Wise Man would never have pointed this out by saying, For dreams and vain illusions have deceived many, [Ecclus. 34, 7] or indeed, Nor shall ye use enchantments, nor observe dreams. [Lev. 19, 26. Vulg.]  By which words it is shewn us how great an abomination they are, in that they are joined with ‘auguries.’  Again, excepting they sometimes came of thought and illusion together, Solomon would never have said, For a dream cometh through the multitude of business. [Eccl. 5, 3]  And unless dreams sometimes had their origin in a mystery of a revelation, Joseph would never have seen himself in a dream appointed to be advanced above his brethren, nor would the espoused of Mary have been warned by the Angel in a dream to take the Child and to fly into Egypt.  Again, unless dreams sometimes proceeded from thought and revelation together, the Prophet Daniel, in making out the vision of Nebuchadnezzar, would never have set out with thought as the root; As for thee, O king, thy thoughts came into thy mind upon thy bed, what should come to pass hereafter, and He That revealeth secrets maketh known to thee what shall come to pass. [Dan. 2, 29]  And soon afterwards, Thou, O king, sawest and beheld a great image.  This great image, that was great, and its stature lofty, stood before thee, &c. [ver. 31]  Thus while Daniel declares in awful terms the dream about to be fulfilled, and shews in what thoughts it had its rise, it is made plain and manifest that the thing very frequently proceeds from thought and revelation combined.


43.  Now it is clear, that since dreams shift about in such a variety of cases they ought to be the less easily believed, in proportion as it less easily appears from what influencing cause they spring.  For it often happens that to those, whom the Evil Spirit cuts off when awake through the love of the present life, he promises the successes of fortune even whilst they sleep, and those, whom he sees to be in dread of misfortunes, he threatens with them the more cruelly by the representations of dreams, that he may work upon the incautious soul by a different kind of influence, and either by elevating it with hope or sinking it with dread, may disturb its balance.  Often too he sets himself to work upon the souls of the Saints themselves by dreams, that at least for a passing moment they may be thrown off the line of steady thought, though by their own act they straightway shake the mind clear of the delusive phantasy.  And our designing foe, in proportion as he is utterly unable to get the better of them when awake, makes the deadlier assault upon them asleep.  Whom yet the dispensation of the Highest in loving-kindness alone allows to do so in his malevolence, lest in the souls of the Elect their mere sleep, though nothing else, should go without the meed of suffering.  Therefore it is well spoken to Him that ruleth over all, When I say, my bed shall comfort me, I shall be eased talking with myself on my couch; then Thou scarest me with dreams, and terrifiest me through visions.  Surely in that God ordereth all things wonderfully, even He Himself doth that thing, which the Evil Spirit seeks to do unjustly, whilst He letteth it not be done saving justly.  Now forasmuch as the life of the righteous is at once assaulted on watch by temptation, and harassed in dreaming by illusion; undergoes without the mischiefs of its corruption, and within painfully carries in itself unlawful thoughts; what may it do in order to pluck the foot of the heart out of the mazes of such numberless entanglements?  Yea, thou blessed man, with what dismay and trouble thou art every way compassed about we have learnt; now let us be informed, what plan thou dost devise to encounter the same.  It goes on,

Ver. 15.  So that my soul chooseth hanging and my bones death.






44.  What is then represented by the soul but the bent of the soul, and by the bones, the strength of the flesh?  Now every thing that is hung is assuredly lifted up from things beneath; therefore ‘the soul chooseth hanging that the bones may die,’ in that whilst the mind's intent lifts itself on high, it extinguishes all the strength of the exterior life in itself.  For the Saints know it for a most certain truth, that they can never enjoy rest in the present life, and so they ‘choose hanging,’ in that quitting earthly objects of desire, they raise the mind on high.  But whilst hung on high they inflict death on their bones, in that for love of the land above, having their loins girt in press and pursuit after virtuous attainments, all wherein they were afore time strong in the world, they load with the chain of self-abasement.  It is well to mark how Paul had his soul suspended aloft, who said, Nevertheless I live: yet not I, but Christ liveth in me. [Gal. 2, 20]  And again; Having a desire to depart and to be with Christ. [Phil. 1, 23]  And, For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. [ver. 21]  Who recalling to mind the achievements of earthly strength, reckoned up as it were so many bones in himself, saying, An Hebrew, of the Hebrews, as touching the Law a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the Church of God. [Phil. 3, 5. 6.]  But by that ‘hanging’ of his soul, how that he does to death these bones in himself, he immediately declares, in that he adds, But what things were gain to me, these I counted loss for Christ. [ver. 7]  Which same bones he implies were still more mercilessly dealt with to destruction in himself, when he adds, For whom I have made all things loss, and do count them but dung. [ver. 8]  But in what manner he hung without life and his bones all dead, he shews, in that he adds in that place, saying, That I may win Christ, and be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Jesus Christ. [ver. 9]  But whereas by bringing together his declarations we have avouched Paul to have been suspended aloft dead to the world, let us now shew whether blessed Job, being filled with the same Spirit, eschews the concupiscence of the exterior life.  It goes on,

Ver. 16.  I have given over hope, I will not live any longer.




45.  There be some of the righteous, who so entertain the desire of heavenly things, that, notwithstanding this, they are not broken off from the hope of things earthly.  The inheritance bestowed on them by God they keep for the supply of necessities, the honours awarded them on a temporal footing they retain; they do not covet the things of others, they make a lawful use of their own.  Yet these are strangers to those same things that they have, in that they are not bound in affection to those very goods which they keep in their possession.  And there are some of the righteous, who bracing themselves up to lay hold of the very height of perfection, whilst they aim at higher objects within, abandon all things without, who bare themselves of the goods possessed by them, strip themselves of the pride of honours, who by continuance in a grateful sorrow affect their hearts with longing for the things of the interior, refuse to receive consolation from those that are exterior, who whilst in spirit they drink of the inward joys, wholly extinguish in themselves the life of corporeal enjoyment.  For it is said by Paul to such as these, For ye are dead, and your life it hid with Christ in God. [Col. 3, 3]  The Psalmist spoke in their voice, when he said, My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord. [Ps. 84, 2]  For they ‘long’ but do not ‘faint,’ who are already imbued indeed with heavenly desires, but notwithstanding are still not tired of the enjoyments of earthly objects.  But he ‘longeth, yea, even fainteth, for the courts of the Lord,’ who whilst he desires the eternal world, doth not hold on in the love of the temporal.  Hence the Psalmist saith again, My soul fainteth for Thy salvation. [Ps. 119, 81]  Hence ‘Truth’ bids us by His own lips, saying, If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself. [Luke 9, 23]  And again; Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot he My disciple. [Luke 14, 33]  Thus the holy man, his soul parted from earthly objects of desire, sets himself in the number of such as those, when he saith, I have given over hope, I will not live any longer.  Since for a righteous man ‘to give over hope’ is to quit the good things of the present life, in making choice of eternity, and to put no trust in temporal possessions.  And whilst doing this, he declares that he ‘will not live any longer,’ in that by a quickening death he is daily killing himself to the life of passion [f].  For be it far from us to think that the holy man should despair of the bountifulness of God's mercy, that he should withdraw the step of the heart from advancing in the interior way, that forsaking the love of the Creator he should as it were stop on the road lacking a guide, and pierced with the sword of rifling despair, be brought to ruin.  But lest we seem violently to wrest his sayings according to the caprice of our own view, we ought to form our estimate of what is promised by that which follows after.  For in what sense he said this, he does himself immediately point out, in that he adds,

Spare me, O Lord, [g] for my days are nothing.




46.  For neither do the two words agree together, I have given over hope, and, spare me.  For he that ‘gives over hope,’ no longer begs to be spared; and he who is still anxious to be spared, is surely far from ‘giving over hope.’  It is on one sort of grounds then that he ‘gives over hope,’ and on another that the holy man prays to be spared; in that whilst he abandons the good things of this transitory life in ‘giving over the hope’ thereof, he rises more vigorous in hope for the securing of those that shall endure.  So that in ‘giving over hope,’ he is the more effectually brought to the hope of pardon, who seeks the things to come so much the more determinately, in proportion as he more thoroughly forsakes those of the present time in giving up hope.  And we are to take notice, that when teaching us the strength of his heart, he delivered indeed but one sentiment about himself, but in teaching it to us he has repeated it a third time.  For what he had said above, My soul chooseth hanging, it was in repeating this, that he added the words, I have given over hope, and in aiming at the blessings of eternity, and putting behind those of time, he last of all brought in this, Spare me.  And what he said above, And my bones death, this same it was that he added, I will not live longer, and this he delivered to end with, for my days are nothing.  But he lightly considers that his ‘days are nothing,’ because as we have often remarked already a little above, holy men, the more thoroughly they are acquainted with things above, in the same proportion they look down upon the things of earth from a loftier height.  And therefore they see that the days of the present life are ‘nothing,’ because they have the eyes of their illumined soul fixed in the contemplation of eternity.  And when they return thence to themselves, what do they find themselves to be but dust?  And being conscious of their frailty, they are in dread of being judged with severity; and when they regard the force of that vast Energy, they tremble to have it put to the test what they are.  And hence it is further added with propriety,

V er.  17.  What is man, that Thou shouldest magnify him?  and that Thou shouldest set Thine heart upon him?


[xxviii]                                    [LITERAL INTERPRETATION]


47.  God magnifieth man, in that He enriches him with the bountiful gift of reason, visits him with the inspiration of grace, exalts him with the greatness of imparted virtue; and whereas he is nothing in himself, yet through the bounty of His lovingkindness He vouchsafes to him to be a partaker of the knowledge of Himself.  And the Lord ‘setteth His heart upon man’ so magnified, in that after His gifts He brings forth judgment, weighs merits with exactness, rigidly tries the weights of life, and exacts punishment from him afterwards the more strictly, in proportion as He prevents him here more bounteously by the benefit bestowed.  So then let the holy man view the immensity of the Supreme Majesty, and recall the eye of reflection to his own frailty.  Let him see that flesh cannot comprehend that which Truth through the Spirit teaches concerning Himself.  Let him see that man's spirit, even when it is lifted up, is not able to bear the Judgment, which God holds over it, on a trial of strict recompensing, and let him say, What is man, that Thou shouldest magnify him?  and that Thou  shouldest set Thine heart upon him?  As though he cried out in plain words, saying, ‘Man is magnified with a spiritual gift, but yet he is flesh, and after Thy gifts, Thou takest strict account of his ways; yet if he be judged with pity set aside, the weight that rests over him from Thine exactness, not even the spirit that is raised to righteousness has strength to sustain, seeing that though Thy gifts draw him out beyond his own compass, yet at the inquest of Thy strict scrutiny his own frailty contracts him.’  And hence it is fitly added still further;

Ver. 18.  And that Thou shouldest visit him in the dawn, and try him suddenly?



48.  Which is there of us that does not know that it is called the ‘dawn,’ when the night season is now changing into the brightness of light?  so we too are closed in by the darkness of night, when we are dimmed by the practice of wickedness; but the night is turned into light, when the darkness of our erring state is illuminated by knowledge of the Truth.  The night is turned into light, when the splendour of righteousness lights up our hearts, which the blindness of sin lay heavy upon.  This dawn Paul saw rise in the minds of the disciples, when he said, The night is far spent, the day is at hand. [Rom. 13, 12]  And so the Lord ‘visits us at the dawn,’ in that He illumines the darkness of our state of error with the light of the knowledge of Himself, uplifts us with the gift of contemplation, exalts us to the stronghold of virtue.  But it is to be observed, that after God ‘visits him at the dawn,’ He ‘tries man suddenly,’ in that both in drawing near He advances our souls to virtuous heights, and in withdrawing Himself He suffers them to be assaulted with temptation.  For if after the bestowal of the gifts of virtue, she is never moved by any assault of temptation, the soul boasts that she has these of herself.  Therefore that she may at one and the same time enjoy the gifts of a firm state, and humbly acknowledge her own state of infirmity, by the visitation of grace she is lifted up on high, and by the withdrawal of the same, it is proved what she is in herself.  Which is well intimated to us in the history of the book of sacred reading, wherein Solomon is recorded both to have received wisdom from on high, and yet directly after that very wisdom was received, to have been assailed by the disputing of the harlots. [1 Kings 3, 16, &c.]  For immediately after he had received the grace of that great enlightenment, he was exposed to the strife of base women; for that oftentimes when the visiting of the interior bounty illuminates our mind with virtues vouchsafed it, even filthy imaginations forthwith disorder it, that the soul, which being lifted up exults in the immensity of the gift, being at the same time struck by temptation, may discover what she is.  So Elijah both being visited at the dawn, opened the doors of heaven by a word, and yet being ‘tried suddenly,’ fleeing helpless through the desert, was in dread of a single woman. [1 Kings 19, 3]  Thus Paul is carried to the third heaven, and penetrating into the secrets of Paradise, he is held in contemplation; and yet when he returns to himself, travails against the assaults of the flesh, and is subject to another law in his members, by whose rebellion within him he grieves to see the law of the Spirit hard bestead. [2 Cor. 12, 2]  Therefore God ‘visits at the dawn,’ but, after this visiting, He ‘tries suddenly,’ in that He both lifts up by the gift vouchsafed, and by the same being for a while withdrawn, shews unaided [ipsum] man to himself.  Which doubtless we are so long subject to, until the time, when the pollution of sin being clean taken away, we be renewed to the substance of promised incorruption.  Hence it is fitly added yet further,

Ver. 19.  How long wilt Thou not depart from me, nor let me alone until I swallow down my spittle.




49.  The spittle runs into the mouth from the head, but from the mouth it is carried into the belly by being swallowed.  And what is our head saving the Deity, through Whom we derive the original of our being, so as to be ‘creature,’ as Paul bears witness, who declares, The head of every man is Christ, and the head of Christ is God; and what is our belly, saving the mind, which, whilst it takes its food, i.e. heavenly perception, being invigorated, doth surely rule the members of the several actions.  For except Holy Writ did sometimes describe the mind by the name of ‘the belly,’ Solomon surely would never have said, The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord, searching all the inward parts of the belly; [Prov. 20, 27] forasmuch as whilst the grace of heavenly visitation illumines us, it discloses even all the depths of the mind that are hidden from our sight.  What then is meant by the term ‘spittle,’ but the savour of interior contemplation, which runs down from the head to the mouth, in that issuing from the brightness of the Creator, whilst we are still set in this life, it but just touches us with a taste of revelation.  And hence the Redeemer at His coming mixed the spittle with clay, and restored the eyes of him that was born blind, [John 9, 6] in that heavenly grace enlightens the carnal bent of our hearts, by a mixture of the contemplation of Itself, and from his original blindness restores man anew to perception.  For whereas nature henceforth brought him forth in this place of exile, since he was banished from all the joys of Paradise, man was produced from his birth, as it were, without eyes.  But, as the holy man teaches, this spittle runs into the mouth indeed, but that it should not reach into the belly, it is not swallowed down, in that the contemplation of the Divine Being grazes the sense, but does not perfectly refresh the mind, because the soul is unable perfectly to behold what as yet, the mist of corruption impeding the view, it sees by a hasty glimpse.


50.  For see how the soul of the Elect already bears down all earthly desires beneath itself, already mounts above all the objects that it sees are of a nature to pass away, is already lifted up from the enjoyment of external delights, and closely searches what are the invisible good things, and in doing the same is carried away into the sweetness of heavenly contemplation; already very often it sees something of the interior world as it were through the mist, and with burning desire strives to the utmost to be admitted to the spiritual ministries of the Angels, feeds on the taste of the Light Incomprehensible, and being carried out of self disdains to sink back again into self; for forasmuch as the body, which is in the way to corruption, still weighs down the soul, it has not power to attach itself to the Light for long, which it sees in a momentary glimpse.  For the mere infirmity of the flesh by itself drags down the soul, as it mounts above itself, and brings it down, as it aspires, to provide for low cares and wants.  And so spittle flowing from the head touches the mouth, but never reaches to the belly; in that our understanding indeed is henceforth watered with the dews of heavenly contemplation, but the soul is not at all fully satisfied.  For in the mouth is the taste, but fulness in the belly; and so we cannot ‘swallow down our spittle,’ in that we are not suffered to fill ourselves with the excellency of heavenly brightness, which we taste as yet but in a sip.  But whereas this very same that we are already in some slight degree made acquainted with above us, comes from the pitifulness of One that spareth, while that we cannot as yet obtain a perfect perception of it is of the punishment of the old curse still, it is rightly said now, How long dost Thou not spare me, nor let me alone, till I swallow down my spittle?  As if it were in plain words; ‘Then Thou dost perfectly spare man, when Thou admittest Him to the perfect measure of the contemplation of Thee; that being transported he may behold Thy brightness in the interior, and no corruption of his flesh without should hold him back.  Then ‘thou lettest me alone till I swallow down my spittle, when Thou replenishest me with the savour of Thy brightness even to the very overflow of fulness, that I should never henceforth go a hungered, with but a taste of the mouth, through lack of food, but be stedfastly stayed in Thee, the belly of my interior being watered.’  But whoso would obtain the good that he desires must acknowledge the evil that he has done.  The account goes on.

Ver.20.  I have sinned; what shall I do unto Thee, O Thou Preserver of men?




51.  Observe how he confesses the ill that he has done, but the good that he should present to God in compensation, he no where can find, in that all virtue whatever of human practice is without power to wash out the guilt of sin, except His mercifulness in sparing foster it, and not His justice in judging press hard upon it.  Whence it is well said by the Psalmist, Because Thy mercy is better than the life; [Ps. 63, 3] in that howsoever innocent it may seem to be, yet with the strict Judge our life doth not set us free, if the lovingkindness of His mercy loose not to it the debt of its guilt.  Or indeed when it is said, What shall I do unto Thee?  it is plainly, shewn us that those very good things, which we are commanded to practise, are not a gain to Him that imposes the command, but to ourselves.  Whence it is said again by the Psalmist, My goodness extendeth not unto Thee. [Ps. 16, 2]  Now the abjectness of our destitution is set forth, when God is called the ‘Preserver of men,’ in that if His preserving hand defend us not in the face of the snares of the secret adversary, the eye of our heedfulness sleeps on watch, as the Psalmist again bears record, who saith, Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. [Ps. 127, 1]  For it is through ourselves, that we have been brought to the ground, but to rise again by our own strength is beyond our ability.  The fault of our own will laid us low once, but the punishment of our fault sinks us worse day by day.  We strive by the efforts of our earnest endeavours, to lift ourselves to the uprightness we have lost, but we are kept down by the weight of our just dues.  And hence it is fitly added,  Why hast Thou set me opposite to Thee, so that I am a burthen to myself?




52.  Then did God ‘set man opposite to Him,’ when man forsook God by sinning.  For being taken captive by the persuasions of the Serpent, he became the enemy of Him, Whose precepts he despised.  But the righteous Creator ‘set man opposite to Himself,’ in that He accounted him an enemy by pride.  And this very oppositeness of sin is itself made a weight of punishment to man, that he being wrongly free, might serve his own corruption, who while serving rightly exulted in the freedom of incorruption.  For quitting the healthful stronghold of humility, he was brought by growing proud to the yoke of infirmity, and in erecting only bowed down the neck of the heart, in that he who refused to submit to the behests of God, prostrated himself beneath his own necessities; which we shall shew the better, if we set forth those burthens, first of the flesh and afterwards of the spirit, which he is made subject to after being cast down to the ground.


53.  For to say nothing of this, that he is liable to pains, that he gasps with fever; the very state of our body, which is called health, is straitened by its own sickness.  For it wastes with idleness, it faints with work; failing with not eating, it is refreshed by food so as to hold up; going heavily with sustenance, it is relieved by abstinence, so as to be vigorous; it is bathed in water, not to be dry; it is wiped with towels, not by that very bathing to be too wet; it is enlivened by labour, that it may not be dulled by repose; it is refreshed by repose, that it faint not under the exertion of labour; worn with watching, it is recruited by sleep; oppressed with sleep, it is roused to activity by watching, lest it be worse wearied by its own rest; it is covered with clothing, lest it be pierced by the hardship of cold; fainting under the heat it sought, it is invigorated by the blowing of the air.  And whereas it meets with annoyances from the very quarter whence it sought to shelter itself from annoyances, being badly wounded, so to say, it sickens by its own cure.  Therefore fevers set aside and pains not in action, our very breath itself is sickness, whereunto there is never wanting the necessity of administering a cure.  Since whatever the comforts we seek out for occasion of life, we as it were meet with so many medicines of our sickness; but the very medicine itself too is turned into a sore, in that attaching ourselves a little too long to the remedy we sought, we are more brought down in that which we prudently provide for our refreshment.  Thus was presumption to be amended, thus was pride to be laid low.  For whereas we once took to us a high spirit, so every day we carry the mud that runneth down.


54.  Our very mind too itself being banished from the secure delight of interior secresy, is now beguiled by hope, now tormented by fear; one while cast down by grief, at another time made light by a false mirth; it obstinately attaches itself to transitory objects, and is continually afflicted by the loss of them, in that it is also continually undergoing change by a course that carries it away; and being made subject to things changeable, it is also made to be at odds with its own self.  For seeking what it has not got, it anxiously obtains it, and so soon as it has begun to possess the same, is sick of having obtained what it sought after.  Oftentimes it loves what it once despised, and despises what, it used to love.  It learns by dint of pains what are the things of eternity, but it forgets them in a moment, if it cease to take pains.  It takes a long time to seek, that it may find, but a little concerning the things above, but speedily falling, back into its wonted ways, not even for a little space does it hold on in the things it has found.  Desiring to be instructed, with difficulty it gets the better of its ignorance, and being so instructed it has a harder contest against the pride of knowledge; with difficulty it subjects to itself the usurping power of its fleshly part, yet it is still subject to the images of sin within, the works whereof it has already in vanquishing bound down without.  It raises itself in quest of its Creator, but being thrown back, it is bewildered by the beguiling mist of corporeal attachments [h].  It desires to survey itself, and to see how being incorporeal it bears rule over the body, and it cannot.  It asks in a wonderful way what it is unable to answer itself, and remaining ignorant is at a loss under that, which it inquires with a wise purpose.  Viewing itself as large and scanty at once, it knows nothing how to form a true estimate of itself, in that if it were not large it would not be seeking matters of so deep enquiry, and again if it were not little, it would at least find that which it asks of itself. 


55.  Well therefore is it said, Thou hast set me opposite to Thee, so that I am a burthen to myself, in that whilst man being banished is both subject to annoyances in the flesh, and to perplexities in the mind, surely he carries about his own self as a grievous burthen.  On every side he is beset with sicknesses, on every side he is hard bestead with infirmities, that he who, having abandoned God, thought to suffice to himself for his repose, might find nought in himself but a turmoil of disquietude, and might try to fly from himself so found, but having set his Creator at nought, might not have where to fly.  The burthens of which state of infirmity that wise man rightly regarding, exclaims, An heavy yoke is upon the Sons of Adam, from the day that they go out of their mother's womb, till the day that they return to the mother of all things. [Ecclus. 40, 1]  But blessed Job regarding these things, and seeking with groans wherefore they were so ordered, does not reproach justice, but interrogates mercy; that in asking he may himself in self-abasement deal a blow to that, which the Divine pity might in sparing alter.  As if he said in plain words; ‘Wherefore dost Thou despise man set as in opposition to Thee, Who, I am assured, wouldest not that even he should perish whom Thou art thought to despise?’  Whence he proceeds in a right way both to express humility in confession, and to subjoin the voice of free inquiry in the words,

Ver. 21.  And why dost Thou not take away my transgression, and remove mine iniquity?




56.  By which same words, what else is intimated but the desire of the expected Mediator, concerning Whom John saith, Behold the Lamb of God, Which taketh away the sin of the world. [John 1, 29]  Or rather sin is then completely taken away from mankind, when our corruption is changed in the glory of incorruption.  For we can never be free from sin so long as we are held fast in a body of mortality, and therefore he longs for the grace of the Redeemer, i.e. for the wholeness [soliditatem] of the Resurrection, who is looking to have his iniquity entirely ‘taken away.’  Hence immediately after adding both the punishment which was his due by birth, and the Judgment which he dreads in consequence of his own doings, he proceeds,

For now shall I sleep in the dust, and if Thou shalt seek me in the morning, I shall not abide.




57.  It was said to the first man on his sinning, Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. [Gen. 3, 19]  Now by the ‘morning,’ is meant that manifestation of souls, which, when the thoughts are laid bare at the coming of the Judge, is as it were brought to light after the darkness of night.  Of which same morning, it is said by the Psalmist, In the morning I shall stand before Thee and shall see [i]. [Ps. 5, 3. Vulg.]  Now God's ‘seeking’ is His searching man with a minute inquest, and, in searching, judging him with rigorous strictness.  Therefore let blessed Job, surveying the miseries of man's fallen condition, see how that he is both already closely pressed by a present punishment, and in yet worse plight as concerns the future, and let him say, For now shall I sleep in the dust, and if Thou shalt seek me in the morning, I shall not abide.  As if he openly lamented, saying, ‘In the present life indeed I already undergo the death of the flesh, and yet still further from the Judgment to come I dread a worse death, even the doom of Thy severity.  I suffer destruction for sin, yet further on coming to Judgment I dread my sins being brought up again even after my dissolution.  Therefore looking at the external death, let him say, For now shall I sleep in the dust, and dreading the interior let him add, And if Thou shalt seek me in the morning, I shall not abide.  For however strong in righteousness, even the very Elect by no means suffice to themselves for innocency, if they be strictly examined in Judgment.  But they find it now for an alleviation of their withdrawal hence, that they know in their humility that they never can suffice.  Therefore they shelter themselves under the covering of humility from the sword of such a grievous visitation, and in proportion as awaiting the terribleness of the Judge to come, they tremble with continual alarm, so there is an unceasing progress in their becoming better prepared.  It goes on,

C. viii. 1, 2.  Then answered Bildad, the Shuhite, and said, How long wilt thou speak these things? and how long shall the breath [V. so.] of the words of thy mouth be multiplied?




58.  To the unrighteous the words of the righteous are ever grievous, and such as they hear spoken for edification, they bear as a burthen put upon them.  As Bildad, the Shuhite, plainly indicates in his own case, when he says, How long wilt thou speak these things?  For he that says how long, shews that he cannot any longer bear words of edification.  But whereas unfair men are too proud to be set right, they find fault with the things that are spoken well; and hence he immediately adds, And how long shall the breath of the words of thy mouth be multiplied?  When multiplicity is blamed in the speech, surely it is thereby denied that there is weight of meaning in the sense.  For the power of speakers on the highest matters is distinguished by a fourfold quality.  For there be some whom fulness in speaking and thinking combined give width and compass, and there be some whom meagreness both of thought and utterance reduces to small dimensions; and there are some who are furnished with ability in speaking, but not with penetration in thinking; and there are some, who have penetration of thought to support them, but from barrenness of expression are made silent.  For we discover the same in man that we often see in things without sense.  Thus it very often happens that both an abundant supply of water is obtained from the deep of the earth, and that it is conveyed by ample channels upon the surface; and very often a scanty quantity lies concealed in the heart of the earth, and hardly finding a crevice to issue by, strains itself out in scanty dimensions without.  Very often too the smallest quantity springs up out of reach of the eye, and when it finds an outlet gaping wide whereby it may issue forth from an ample opening, it swells out in a thin stream, and the big channels open themselves wide, but there is not aught for them to pour forth; and very often an ample store springs up out of sight, but being confined by narrow channels, it dribbles out in the smallest quantities.  Just so in one sort the ample mouth delivers what the copious fountain of the wit supplies; in another, neither does thought furnish sense, nor the tongue pour it forth.  In others, the mouth indeed is wide to speak, but for the giving out that which thought has provided for it, the tongue gets nothing at all; whilst in others, a full fountain of thought abounds in the heart, but a disproportionate tongue, like a scanty channel, confines it.  In which same four sorts of speaking, the third only is obnoxious to blame, which appropriates to itself by words that, to the level whereof it doth not rise in wit.  For the first is worthy of praise, in that it is powerful and strong in both particulars.  The second deserves commiseration, which in its littleness lacks both.  The fourth calls for aid, in that it has not power to embody what it thinks.  But the third is worthy to be despised and ought to be restrained, in that while it lifts itself high in speech it is grovelling in sense; and like limbs swoln with inflation, it goes forth to the ears of the hearers big but void.  And it is this which Bildad hurls as an accusation against blessed Job, saying, And how long shall the words of the breath of thy mouth be multiplied?  For he that attributes multiplicity of words to the mouth, doubtless finds fault with the barrenness of the heart.  As if he said in plain words, ‘Thou art raised by abundance of breath in word of mouth, but thou art stinted by scantiness of sense.’  But when bad men blame right things, lest they should themselves appear not to know what is righteous, the good things that are known of all men, and which they have learnt by hearsay, they deliver as unknown.  And hence Bildad adds directly,

Ver. 3.  Doth God pervert judgment?  Or doth the Almighty pervert justice?




59.  These things blessed Job had neither in speaking denied, nor yet was ignorant of them in holding his tongue.  But all bold persons, as we have said, speak with big words even well known truths, that in telling of them they may appear to be learned.  They scorn to hold their peace in a spirit of modesty, lest they should be thought to be silent from ignorance.  But it is to be known that they then extol the rectitude of God's justice, when security from ill uplifts themselves in joy, while blows are dealt to other men; when they see themselves enjoying prosperity in their affairs, and others harassed with adversity.  For whilst they do wickedly, and yet believe themselves righteous, the benefit of prosperity attending them, they imagine to be due to their own merits; and they infer that God does not visit unjustly, in proportion as upon themselves, as being righteous, no cloud of misfortune falls.  But if the power of correction from above touch their life but in the least degree, being struck they directly break loose against the policy of the Divine inquest, which a little while before, unharmed, they made much of in expressing admiration of it, and they deny that judgment to be just, which is at odds with their own ways; they canvass the equity of God's dealings, they fly out in words of contradiction, and being chastened because they have done wrong, they do worse.  Hence it is well spoken by the Psalmist against the confession of the sinner, He will confess to Thee, when Thou doest well to him. [Ps. 49, 18]  For the voice of confession is disregarded, when it is shaped by the joyfulness of prosperity.  But that confession alone possesses merit of much weight, which the force of pain has no power to part from the truth of the rule of right, and which adversity, the test of the heart, sharpens out even to the sentence of the lips.  Therefore it is no wonder that Bildad commends the justice of God, in that he experiences no hurt therefrom.




60.  Now whereas we have said that the friends of blessed Job bear the likeness of heretics, it is well for us to point out briefly, how the words of Bildad accord with the wheedling ways of heretics.  For whilst in their own idea they see Holy Church corrected with temporal visitations, they swell the bolder in the bigness of their perverted preaching, and putting forward the righteousness of the Divine probation, they maintain that they prosper by virtue of their merits; but they avouch that she is rewarded with deserved chastisements, and thereupon without delay they seek by beguiling words a way to steal upon her, in the midst of her sorrows, and they strike a blow at the lives of some, by making the deaths of others a reproach, as if those were now visited with deserved death, who refused to hold worthy opinions concerning God.  Hence Bildad the Shuhite, after he pleaded the justice of God, thereupon adds,

Ver.4-6.  Even if thy children have sinned against Him, and He have left them in the hand of their transgression; yet if thou wilt seek to God at dawn, and make thy supplication to the Almighty; if thou wilt walk pure and upright; surely now He will awake for thee, and make the habitation of thy righteousness at peace.




61.  As if the preachers of falsities were to say to afflicted Catholics, ‘Provide for your lives, and learn what wrong things ye maintain from the condemnation of those that are dead from among you.  For except your misbelief were displeasing to the Creator of all things, He would never take from you such numbers [k] by destruction let loose to rage against them.’  For he says, If thy children have sinned against Him, and He have left them in the hand of their transgression.  As though he said in plain speech, ‘They are left in the hand of their own wickedness, that refused to follow the life of our right rule.’  Yet if thou wilt arise to God at dawn, and make thy supplication to the Almighty.  For inasmuch as heretics think that the light of truth rests with themselves, they bid and summon Holy Church, as being in the night of error, to come to the dawning of the truth, that in the knowledge of God it may be led to rise, as in the dawning light, and by the prayer of penitence wash off past misdeeds.  If thou wilt walk pure and upright; that is to say, pure in thought, upright in practice.  Surely now He will awake for thee.  As if it were in plain words, ‘that He, Who now forbears to put forth the power of His protecting hand to thy tribulations, is as if asleep to the succouring of one going wrong.’  And make the habitation of thy righteousness at peace, i.e. ‘does away with the crosses of the present life, and vouchsafes without delay security in repose.’  For because men that are bad reckon temporal enjoyment as a special blessing of Divine recompensing, what they themselves go after with solicitous concern, they promise to others as something great.  Hence it very often happens that they either pledge themselves to regain them when lost, or draw on the minds of their hearers after still greater rewards of this world.  Which Bildad openly expresses, when he adds upon that,

Ver. 7.  Insomuch that though thy beginning was small, yet thy latter end shall greatly increase.




62.  But if it is counsel within the soul that he calls ‘the habitation of righteousness,’ the leaders of false opinions promise afflicted Catholics ‘the habitation of their righteousness at peace,’ in that if they draw them to their own views, then indeed they hold their peace from opposition.  For those who have let themselves be drawn into that which is wrong, are the more lulled to rest in temporal peace, in proportion as they are parted the wider from eternal peace.  Moreover they promise that the riches of understanding shall be increased to all that follow them.  And hence it is added, Insomuch that though thy beginning was small, yet thy latter end shalt greatly increase.  Then because they do not easily obtain credit to their words, in that their life is often shewn to be worthy of contempt, they put forward the opinions of the Fathers of old, and turn the right line they take into a proof of their own erring way, Hence it is added, .

Ver. 8.  For inquire, I pray thee, of the former age, and diligently search into the memory of the fathers.




63.  They give us notice that ‘the former generation’ and ‘the memory of the fathers’ are not seen but ‘searched,’ because they will not have that to be seen therein, which lies open before the eyes of all men.  But sometimes, like good men, they give some instruction of a moral kind, and shew how the present may be gathered from the past; and from the things which are even now withdrawn from our eyes by passing away, they shew how little there is in the things that are seen before our eyes.  Whence it is yet further added,

Ver. 9.  For we are but of yesterday, and know nothing, because our days upon earth are but a shadow.




64.  And so the generation of old is set before us to be inquired of, that the period of the present life may be shewn to pass away like a shadow; in this way, that if we recall to mind the things that have been and are now over, we clearly see how swiftly that also will be gone which we have in our hands.  But it often happens that heretics go along with us in extolling the same fathers whom we venerate; but their sense being perverted, they strike at us by those very commendations of them.  Hence it is yet further added,

Ver. 10.  Shall not they teach thee, and tell thee, and utter words out of their heart?




65.  We must mark what he had said before, And the inspiration [‘spiritus,’ as before] of the words of thy mouth is multiplied.  But now when the fathers are brought to mind, he says, They shall utter words out of their heart.  As though heretics abhorring the life of Holy Church said, ‘Thou hast abundance of inspiration in thy mouth, in thy heart thou hast none of it.  But they are to be heard in opposition, who, in uttering words from the heart, have taught the right thing by living like it.’  But oftentimes the wicked, whereas the evil of their own crookedness is unknown to them, boldly pull in pieces the uprightness of others, and while they usurp to themselves authority of pronouncing rebukes against good men, they either deliver those good sentiments, which they have imbibed not by seeing but by hearing them, or else with lying lips lay that evil to the charge of others, which they are themselves guilty of committing.  But when they give utterance to good thoughts, which they scorn to observe, it is to be remarked that very frequently Truth so speaks by the lips of her adversaries, that in putting their tongue in motion it smites their life.  So that in telling of the highest perfection of righteousness while they know nothing of it, they themselves are rendered at once both judges by their words and accusers by their deeds. 




Hence Bildad subjoins words of wondrous truth against hypocrites, but he is running himself through with the point of his discourse.  For unless he were himself in some slight degree a pretender of righteousness, he would never venture to teach a good man with so much temerity.  And indeed they are words of singular force that he speaks, but they ought to have been addressed to fools, not to a wise man; to the wicked, not to a good person; in that he proclaims himself no less than insane, who, when the gardens are parched, pours water into the river.  But in the mean time, laying aside the question to whom the thing is said, let us weigh well and minutely what it is that is said, that the sentiments delivered may edify ourselves, even though they assail the character of their Author.  It goes on,

Ver. 11.  Can the rush grow up without moisture?  can the flag grow without water?




To whom Bildad compares ‘the rush’ and ‘the flag,’ he himself immediately discloses, when he adds;

Ver. 12, 13.  Whilst it is yet in his greenness, and not cut down, it withereth before any other herb.  So are the paths of all that forget God, and the hypocrite's hope shall perish.


66.  So that by the name of ‘a rush’ or ‘a flag,’ he denotes the life of the hypocrite, which has an appearance of greenness, but has no fruit of usefulness for the services of man, which continuing dry in barrenness of practice, is green with only the colour of sanctity alone.  But neither does a rush grow without moisture, nor a flag without water, in that the life of hypocrites receives indeed the infused grace of the heavenly gift for the doing of good works, but in whatsoever it does seeking praises without, it proves void of fruit of the infused grace vouchsafed it.  For they often perform wonderful deeds of miraculous power, they expel demons from bodies possessed, and by the gift of prophecy, by knowing anticipate things to come, yet they are separated from the Giver of so many blessings in the bent of the thought of their heart.  For through His gifts they seek not His glory, but their own applause.  And whereas by the benefits vouchsafed them they raise themselves in their own praise, they are assailing their Benefactor with the very gifts of His bounty.  For they behave themselves proudly against Him that gave them, from the very circumstance whereby they should have been rendered the more thoroughly humble towards Him.  But a judgment the more unsparing smites them hereafter, in proportion as heavenly Goodness now pours upon them even in their ingratitude the dew of His blessing in larger measure.  And the fulness of the gift turns to the increase of condemnation to them, because when they are watered they bear no fruit, but under a hue of green rear themselves on high in barrenness.  These ‘Truth’ well describes in the Gospel, saying, Many shall say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy Name?  and in Thy Name have cast out devils?  and in Thy Name done many wonderful works?  And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; Depart from Me, ye that work iniquity. [Matt. 7, 22. 23.]  Thus neither the rush nor the flag lives without water, because hypocrites do not take the greenness of good works, save by gift from above; but because they appropriate it to the use of their own applause, they grow green indeed in the water, but barren.


67.  Now it is well added, Whilst it is yet in his flower, nor plucked with the hand, it withereth before any other herb.  ‘The rush in his flower’ is the hypocrite in esteem.  Now the rush springing up with sharp edges is not plucked with the hand, in that the hypocrite, having his feelings sharpened by presumption, disdains to be rebuked for his wickedness.  In his flower he gashes the hand that plucketh him, in that the hypocrite in the midst of applause, that no one may dare to rebuke him, by his cutting tongue wounds the life of the rebuker without delay.  For he desires not to be holy, but to be called holy; and when he may chance to be rebuked, it is as if he were lopped off in the full bloom of his reputation.  He is enraged to be found out in his wickedness, he forbids the man that brings his guilt home to him to address him, in that he is as it were pained by being touched in a secret wound.  Such as he was known to the ignorant, he would wish to be accounted of all men, and readier to lay down his life than to be reprimanded, he is made worse by censure, because he accounts the word of disinterested goodness as the dart of deadly smiting.  Hence in exasperated passion he directly rises in abuse, and looks about for all the evil he can rake together against the life of his rebuker.  He longs to prove him beyond all comparison guilty, that he may make himself out innocent, not by his own doings, but by the guilt of others; so that often the person repents that he has uttered a word of censure, and that just as from the hand of one plucking any thing, so from the mind of the person chiding, there runs out as it were the blood of sorrow, if I may say so.  Hence it is well said by Solomon, Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee.  For it is not proper for the good man to fear, lest the scorner should utter abuse at him when he is chidden; but lest being drawn into hatred, he should be made worse. 


68.  And here it is necessary to be known, that the excellencies of good men, as they begin from the heart, go on increasing to the very end of the present life; but the practices of hypocrites, seeing that they are not rooted in secret, often come to nought before the present life is ended.  For very frequently they devote themselves to the study of sacred scholarship, and because they prosecute it not for providing a store of merits, but for procuring commendations, the moment that they get hold of the sentence of human applause, and thereby secure the boon of transitory success, they give themselves with all their heart to worldly concerns, and are completely emptied of sacred scholarship, and by their way of acting afterwards, they shew how much they love the things of time, who before only had those of eternity alone on their lips.  But it is very often the case that they exhibit an appearance of maturity put on, they shew fair by the composure of silence, by the forbearance of long suffering, by the virtue of continence; but when by means of these they have reached the height of the honour that they aimed at, and when respect is henceforth bestowed on them by all men, they immediately begin to let themselves out in wantonness of self-gratification, and they are their own witnesses against themselves that they held none of their good derived from the heart, in that they parted with it so soon.


But sometimes there are persons found who give all they possess, and lavish all their goods upon the needy, yet before the end of their life, inflamed with the itch of avarice, they covet the goods of others, who seemed to be giving their own with a lavish hand; and afterwards with determined cruelty they go after that, which they had given up before with pretended piety.  And hence it is rightly said in this place, Whilst it is yet in his flower, and not yet plucked with the hand, it withereth before any other herb.  For as to their fleshly part even the righteous are herbs, as the Prophet bears witness, who saith, All flesh is grass.  But ‘the rush’ is said to ‘wither before all other herbs;’ in that while the righteous continue in their goodness, the life of hypocrites is dried up from the greenness of assumed uprightness.  Even the rest of the herbs wither, because the deeds of the righteous come to an end together with the life of the flesh.  But the ‘rush’ precedes the withering of the herbs, for before the hypocrite passes out of the flesh, he gives over the deeds of virtuous habits which he had manifested in himself.  Concerning which same it is also well said by the Psalmist, Let them be as the grass upon the housetop, which withereth afore it be plucked up. [Ps. 129, 6]  For ‘the grass upon the housetop’ springeth up aloft, but it is never set firm with a rich soil, forasmuch as the hypocrite is seen practising the highest acts, but he is not stablished therein in purity of intention.  Which same grass even when not plucked up soon withereth, for this reason, that the hypocrite at one and the same time still exists in the present life, and yet already parts with the practices of holiness as with the appearance of greenness.  For because he went about to do good works without the purpose of a right heart, by losing these he shews that he flourished without a root.


69.  But as we have before said, who he is to whom Bildad likens ‘a rush’ or ‘a flag,’ he makes plain at the moment, where he adds, So are the paths of all that forget God, and the hypocrite's hope shall perish.  For what does the hypocrite hope for from all his deeds, saving the observance of honour, the reputation of applause, to be feared by his betters, to be called a Saint by all men?  But the hope of the hypocrite can never endure, for, from not making eternity his aim, he hastes away from all that he holds in his hand.  For the bent of his mind is not fixed in that glory which is possessed without end; but while he gapes after transient applause, he loses in the getting the thing that he toils for, as ‘Truth’ testifieth, Who saith, Verily I say unto you, they have had their reward. [Matt. 6, 2]  Now this hope of being vouchsafed a reward cannot be maintained for long, seeing that honour is bestowed for the works exhibited, but life is pressing on to its close; praises are reechoed, but then along with them the periods of time are speeding to an end.  And because the soul is in no wise rooted in the love of the eternal world, it slips away together with the very objects that it is centered in.  For no one can attach himself to the moveable, and remain himself unmoved.  For he that embraces transitory things is drawn into transition by the mere circumstance, that he is entangled with things running out their course.  Therefore let him say, And the hypocrite's hope shall perish.  For the applause of man, which he seeks with mighty pains, being driven on by the items of time, does run to nought.  And it is well added,

Ver. 14.  His own folly shall not satisfy him.




70.  For it is infinite folly to labour painfully, and pant after the breath of applause, to apply one's self to the heavenly precepts with hard toil, but to aim at the reward of an earthly kind of recompense.  For that I may so express myself, he that in return for the good that he practises looks for the applause of his fellowcreatures, is carrying an article of great worth to be sold at a mean price.  From that whereby he might have earned the kingdom of heaven, he seeks the coin of passing talk.  His practice goes for little, in that he spends a great deal, and gets back but very little.  Whereunto then are hypocrites like but to luxuriant and untended vines, which put forth fruit from their fertility, but are never lifted from the earth by tending?  All that the rich branches bud forth, stray beasts tread under foot, and the more fruitful they see it is, the more greedily they devour it, thus cast away and laid low, in that the works of hypocrites while they shew fair, come forth as if rich, but whilst they aim at human praises, it is as if they were left forsaken upon the ground.  And the beasts of this world, i.e. the evil spirits, devour them, because they turn them to account to the end of perdition, and they seize upon them with greater avidity, in proportion as great things are more clearly known.  Hence it is well said by the Prophet, The standing stalk, there is no bud in them, and they shall yield no meal; if so be it yield, the strangers shall swallow it up. [Hos. 8, 7. Vulg.]  For the stalk is without a bud, when the life lacks the merit of virtuous habits.  The stalk yieldeth no meal, when he that thrives in this world understands nothing refined, and yields no fruit of good practice.


71.  But very often even when it has yielded meal, strangers eat it up, in that even when hypocrites do shew forth good works, the wishes of evil spirits are satisfied therewith.  For those who do not aim to please God by them, do not feed the Owner of the land, but strangers.  Thus the hypocrite, like a fruitful and neglected vine, cannot keep his fruit, because the cluster of good works lies prone upon the ground.  Yet he is fed by his very own insanity itself, in that on the score of good practice he is esteemed of all men, he is set before others, he holds the minds of men in subjection, he is raised to the higher posts; he is fed high with applause.  Now this folly of his satisfies him in the mean season, but it shall not satisfy him, in that when the season of retribution comes, it displeases him under punishment that he was foolish.  Then he will perceive that he did foolishly, when, for the gratification of applause, he receives the sentence of God's rebuke.  Then he sees that he has been senseless, when for the transitory glory that he obtained, everlasting torments are his bitter portion.  Then punishments disclose the true knowledge to light, in that by them it must at once be concluded that all was nought that could pass away; and hence it is rightly added,

And whose trust shall be a spider's web.




72.  The assurance of the hypocrite is rightly called like the webs of spiders, in that all the pains and labour they spend to acquire glory, the wind of the life of mortality blows to shreds.  For as they never seek the things of eternity, they lose together with time all temporal good things.  Moreover it is to be considered that spiders draw their threads in a regular order, for that hypocrites as it were regulate their works by the rule of discernment.  The spider's web is woven with pains, but it is scattered by a sudden blast, in that whatsoever the hypocrite does with laborious effort, the breath of man's regard carries off; and whilst in the ambition of applause his work comes to nought, it is as if his labour went to the wind.  For it often happens that the works of hypocrites last even to the very end of the present life, but, forasmuch as they do not thereby seek the praise of their Creator, they were never good works in the sight of God.  Thus it is very often the case, as we have said above, that they are upheld by scholarship in the sacred Law, that they deliver lessons of instruction, that they fortify by testimonies every notion that they entertain; but they do not hereby seek the life of their hearers, but applause for themselves.  For neither do they know how to put forth any thing else but what may stir the hearts of their hearers to the quick, to pay the recompense of praise, not what may kindle them to shed tears.  For the heart being preoccupied with external desires, is not hot with the fire of divine love, and so words that issue from a cold heart, can never warm their hearers to heavenly affection.  For neither can anyone thing that is not itself alight in itself kindle any other thing.  Hence it is very often brought to pass, that at one and the same time the sayings of hypocrites fail to instruct the hearers, and make the very persons themselves that utter them worse by being exalted with praises.  For as Paul bears witness, Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. [1 Cor. 8, 1]  Thus, whereas charity setteth not up in ‘edifying,’ knowledge in puffing up overthrows.  Very often hypocrites chasten themselves with extraordinary mortification, wear down all the strength of their body, and as it were while living in the flesh utterly kill the life of the flesh, and so by abstinence verge upon death, that they live well nigh dying every day; but they seek the eyes of men for all this, they look for the renown of admiration, as ‘Truth’ testifieth, Which saith, For they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. [Matt. 6, 16]   For their faces become pallid, the body is made to shake with weakness, the breast labours with hard and broken breathings.  But amidst all this, talk of admiration is looked for from the lips of neighbours, and nothing else is aimed at by such great pains, saving human esteem.  Which same are well represented by that Simon, who in the season of our Lord's Passion bore the Cross in compulsion, of whom it is written, And as they came out they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name, him they compelled to bear His cross. [Matt. 27, 32]  For what we do by compulsion, we do not practise from a heartfelt devotedness of love.  And so for him to bear the Cross of Jesus in compulsion, is to submit to the mortification of abstinence for some other aim than needs to be.  Does he not bear the Cross of Jesus under compulsion, who as after the commandment of the Lord subdues the flesh, yet does not love the spiritual Country?  And hence the same Simon bears the Cross, but doth not die; in that every hypocrite chastens his body in abstinence, but yet, in the love of glory, lives on to the world.


73.  Contrariwise it is well said by Paul of the Elect; For they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the vices and lusts.  For we ‘crucify the flesh with the vices and lusts,’ if we so restrain our appetite, that henceforth we look for nothing of the glory of the world.  Since he that macerates the flesh, but pants after honours, has inflicted the Cross on his flesh, but from concupiscence lives the worse to the world, in that it often happens that in the semblance of holiness, he unworthily obtains the post of rule, which except he displayed something of merit in himself, he would never attain to receive by any pains whatever.  But that which he gains for enjoyment is passing, and what ensues in punishment is enduring.  Now his assurance of sanctity is placed in the lips of man, but when the inward Judge tries the secrets of the interior, no witnesses of the life are sought from without.  Therefore it is well said, Whose trust shall be a spider's web; since on the witness of the heart appearing, all passes by wherein his confidence consists, founded without in human applause.  And hence it is yet further added with justice,

Ver. 15.  He leaneth upon his house, but it shall not stand; he shall prop it, but it shall not rise up.




74.  As the house of our exterior life is the building which the body lives in, so the house of our thought is any thing whatever that the mind is centered in by affection.  For every thing that we love, we as it were make our dwelling-place by reposing in it.  Whence Paul, because he had fixed his heart in things above, being still upon earth indeed, yet a stranger to earth, said, Our conversation is in heaven. [Phil. 3, 20]  So the mind of the hypocrite in whatever it does minds nothing else but the fame of its own reputation, nor cares where it is carried [‘ducitur’] after by its deserts, but what it is called [‘dicatur’] in the mean season.  Therefore his house is delight of popularity, which he as it were dwells in at rest, in that in all his works he throws himself back thereupon within his mind.  But this house can never stand, because praise fleeth away with life, and the applause of man does not hold in the Judgment.  Hence the foolish virgins too, who took no oil in their vessels, because their glory was in the voices of others and not in their own consciences, confounded by the presence of the Bridegroom, say, Give us of your oil, for our lamps are going out. [Matt. 25, 8]  For to seek oil from our neighbours is to beseech the fame of good works from the testimony of another man's mouth.  For the empty soul, when it finds that it has retained nothing within by all its labours, looks about for testimony from without.  As if the foolish Virgins said plainly, ‘When ye behold us cast away without reward, say ye what ye have seen in our practice.’


75.  But the hypocrite leans in vain then upon this house of applause, since no human testimony stands him in stead in the Judgment; for the same praise, which he afterwards claims in testimony, he before received in reward.  Or surely the hypocrite leans upon his house, when beguiled by vain caresses, he is as it were lifted up in assurance of his holiness; for hypocrites do many things evil in secret, but a few things good in public.  And when they receive praises from the good that appears, they turn away the eyes of observation from the concealed ill, and they esteem themselves such as they hear without, not such as they know themselves within.  Whence it very often happens that they also come to the Judgment of the Most High with confidence, because they imagine themselves such in the sight of the Interior Judge, as they were held to be by men without.  Yet ‘the house of the hypocrite cannot stand,’ for in the terror of a sifting search, all the foregoing assurance of holiness falls to the ground.  And when he knows that the testimony of another man's lips is wanting to him, he betakes himself to reckoning up his own works.  Hence it is still further added, He shall prop it, but it shall not rise up.  For that which cannot stand by itself, is propped to make it stand; for when the hypocrite sees his life tottering in the Judgment, he sets himself to make it stand in propping it, by the enumeration of his deeds.  Do not they prop the dwelling-place of their own praise on every hand, who in reckoning up their own deeds in the Judgment, as we said before, say, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy Name?  and in Thy Name have cast out devils?  and in Thy Name done many marvellous works? [Matt. 7, 22. 23.]  But the house of praise, stayed up by all these statements, cannot rise, because the Judge saith directly, I never knew you; depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.  And it is to be had in mind that any thing, that rises, lifts itself from below to a higher elevation, and so ‘the house of the hypocrite cannot rise,’ in that in all that he may have done after the heavenly precepts, he never lifted his soul from off the earth, so that with justice he is not then lifted up to the meed of recompense, who in that which he sets forth now, lies prostrate in the desire of temporal glory.  But whereas we have heard how the life of the hypocrite, represented by the name of ‘a rush,’ is rejected in the Judgment, let us hear what sort of person he is held by men before the strict Judge appeareth.  It proceeds,

Ver. 16.  It is seen moist before the sun cometh.




76.  Oftentimes in Holy Writ the Lord is represented by the title of the Sun, as it is said by the Prophet, But unto you that fear My Name shall the Sun of righteousness arise. [Mal. 4, 2]  And as the ungodly that are cast away in the Judgment, are described in the book of Wisdom, as saying, We have erred from the way of truth, and the light of righteousness hath not shined unto us, and the Sun rose not upon us; [Wisd. 5, 6] therefore, ‘before the sun the rush is seen moist,’ in that before God's severity burns hot in the Judgment, every hypocrite shews himself bedewed with the grace of holiness.  He is seen as it were flourishing, because he is accounted righteous, he wins the post of honour, he is strong in his high repute for sanctity, reverence is awarded to him by all men, his credit for praise is magnified.  Thus this rush is full of moisture in the night, but on the coming of the sun it is dried up, in that the hypocrite is accounted holy by all men in the darkness of the present life, but when the searching Judge cometh, he will appear as wicked as he is.  So then let him say, He appears moist before the sun, because now he shews himself flourishing to the eyes of men, but then he shall wither up in the scorching heat of the Divine Judgment.  The account goes on;

And his produce I issueth forth in his springing up.




77.  For every herb in general is first raised out of the ground by springing up, it is subject to the influences of the air and heat, it is fed by the sun and showers, and then at length it is made to open itself to put forth the produce of its seed.  But the rush is produced along with its flower, and so soon as it springs out of the earth, it puts forth its produce of seed with itself.  Therefore by the rest of the herbs the Saints in general are well denoted, but the hypocrite by ‘the rush,’ because the righteous, before they spring up [l] in the practice of holy conversation, undergo the winter season of this life, and the heats of bitter persecutions press them hard; and then, when they do what is right, they never look here for the reward of their, righteousness, but when they depart forth from the labours of the present world, on coming to their eternal Country, they enter upon the enjoyment of their looked-for reward.  But contrariwise the hypocrite, in that he springs up in good practice at once, goes about to win the glory of the present world.  As it were like a rush he springs up with his produce, who in return for this, that he is beginning to live well, aims at the outset to be held in honour by all men.  So that the ‘produce in the springing up,’ is a reward at the outset.  For often there are those that abandon the paths of overt wickedness, and put on the garb of holiness, and the moment they have touched the bare threshold of good living, forgetting what they were, they will not be henceforth chastened by penance for the iniquities they have committed, but they long to be commended for goodness begun; they are eager to get above the rest, even though better men than themselves.  And for the most part whilst present prosperity follows them to their wish, they become infinitely worse than they were by the wearing of sanctity; but being busied with countless concerns, and distracted by that same busying, they not only never bewail the things that they have done, but still fill up more that should be bewailed.


78.  For they that quit the world, ought not to be promoted to externa1[i.e. public] offices, unless in humility they be for some long time established in the contempt of that world.  For the good soon comes to an end, which is made known to the world before the time.  Thus with shrubs too that have been planted, if, before they are fastened with a firm root, the hand touch and shake them, it causes them to wither away, but, if the root be fixed deep, and, being sprinkled with the dews of the earth, be set fast, such as these the hand may even push, and not hurt: these even blasts of wind may buffet and wave, yet not overthrow.  Thus, that the life of practice we have entered upon may not be uprooted, the root of the heart must be fixed long and vigorously in the deep of humility, that when from the mouths of men the breath of calumny or of applause blows strong, though it bend it a little either way, it may not root up the mind from its seat, but that after such bending it may return to its own upright standing, if it but hold strong in the root in its own self.  What among things in course of growth is stronger than a rising wall?  yet if, while it is in the act of erecting, it is pushed, it is at once destroyed without an effort; but if for a space of time it be allowed to dry from its wetness, often it is never a jot moved even by the strokes of the battering rams.  In this way, in this self-same way, our goodness on the one hand being unseasonably displayed comes to nought, and on the other hand being longer kept hidden, is fairly secured; in that when the hand of human employment touches the recent life of our conversation, as it were it pushes the fresh brick wall, and easily destroys it, because it has not as yet got rid of the moisture of its own weakness.  But when in its long lying at rest, the soul holds itself in, as it were like a dry wall, it grows hard against blows, and every thing that strikes it, now it is solid, bounds off it at once shattered.  It is hence that Moses forbade the life of aught that made the beginning to be employed in services for men, saying, Thou shalt do no work with the firstling of thy bullock, nor shear the firstling of thy sheep. [Deut. 15, 19]  For to ‘do work with the firstling of the bullock’ is to display the beginning of a good conversation in the employment of public business.  Moreover ‘to shear the firstlings of sheep,’ is to lay bare of the covering of its concealment the good we have begun before the eyes of men.  And so we are forbidden to ‘work with the firstling of the bullock,’ and we are hindered from ‘shearing the firstlings of our sheep,’ in that even if we begin any thing strong, we ought not to be too ready to execute it in public.  And when our life commences something simple and harmless, it is meet that it quit not the coverings of its secresy, that it may not bare that thing naked to the eyes of the world, the fleece being as it were withdrawn.


79.  So let the firstlings of the bullocks and the sheep avail for the Divine sacrifices alone, that whatsoever we begin strong and harmless, we may sacrifice in honour of the Judge of the interior upon the altar of our hearts.  Which same we may be sure is accepted the more gladly by Him, in proportion as being kept concealed from men it is stained by no desire of applause.  But it often happens that the beginnings of a new method of life have still a mixture of the carnal life, and therefore they ought not to be too ready to make themselves known, lest while the good that pleases is applauded, the soul being beguiled by the praises of itself have no power to discover in itself the evil that lies concealed.  Hence it is rightly said by Moses again, And when ye shall have come into the land that I shall give you, and shall have planted all manner of trees bearing fruit, then ye shall take off their foreskins.   The fruits that are put forth shall be unclean, unto you, ye shall not eat of them. [Lev. 19, 23]  For ‘the trees bearing fruit’ are works fruitful in virtue, and so we ‘take off the foreskins of the trees,’ when suspecting ourselves of the mere weakness of a beginning in itself, we do not give our approval to the beginnings of our good practices, but the fruits that are put forth, we count unclean, and do not make them answer for good for us, in that when the beginnings of good practice are applauded, it is meet that the mind of the doer should not be fed thereby; lest whilst the praise bestowed is plucked with delight, the fruit of good works be eaten prematurely.  He, then, that receives the praise of virtue in its beginning from the mouths of men, as it were eats the fruit of the tree that he has planted before the time,


80.  Hence ‘Truth’ saith by the Psalmist, It is vain for you to rise up before the light: rise up after ye have sat. [Ps. 127, 2. Vulg.]  For ‘to: rise up before the light’ is to take one's pleasure in the night-time of the present life, before the shining of Eternal Retribution is revealed.  So we are to sit first, that we may rise afterwards in a right way.  For whoever doth not now humble himself by his own act and deed, the glory to ensue does not exalt such an one.  Therefore what it is there to rise before the light, it is here for the hypocrite to put forth the produce in his springing up, for in setting his heart on human applauses, in the self-same place, where he springs up to good works, there he desires directly to obtain the glorying of his recompense.  Had not they ‘put forth their produce in their springing up,’ of whom ‘Truth’ said, They love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men Rabbi? [Matt. 23, 6, 7]  Therefore seeing that for this reason, viz. because they are beginning to do well, they endeavour to obtain honour of men, as it were, like a rush, ‘in their springing up they rise with their produce.’  These same, whilst they aim to practise right things, first anxiously look about for witnesses of those same works, and canvass with secret calculation, if there be persons to see the things they are about to do, or if those who see them can report them in a proper way.  But if it chance to happen that no one witnesses their doings, then, surely, they reckon them to be lost to them, and they account the eyes of the interior Umpire as off them, because they have no mind to receive at His hands the reward of their works hereafter.  And whereas when the hypocrite does any thing, he aims to be seen by many eyes, it is yet further added with truth concerning this same ‘rush,’

Ver. 17.  His roots will be wrapped about the heap of rocks, and he will dwell among the stones.




81.  For what do we understand by the name of ‘roots’ save the hidden thoughts, which issue forth out of sight, but rise up in the display of works in open day?  as it is also said by the Prophet concerning the seed of the Word, And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall again take root downward and bear fruit upward. [Is. 37, 31]  For to ‘take root downward,’ is to multiply good thoughts in the secret depths, but ‘to bear fruit upward,’ is to shew forth by the doing of practice what one has thought that is right.  Now by the title of ‘stones’ in Holy Writ men are denoted, as it is said to Holy Church by Isaiah, And I will make thy battlements jasper, and thy gates of carved stones. [Is. 54, 12]  And he made it plain what it was that he called those stones, where he added, All thy children taught of the Lord.  As it is also expressed by Peter in giving admonition, Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house. [1 Pet. 2, 5]  Here therefore, whereas they are called ‘stones,’ but are not in any wise called ‘living stones,’ by the bare appellation of stones may be set forth the lost and the Elect mixed together.  Therefore this rush, ‘which abideth in the place of stones, wrappeth his roots about the heap of rocks,’ in that every hypocrite multiplies the thoughts of his heart, in seeking out the admiration of men; for in all that hypocrites do, seeing that in their secret thoughts they look out for the applauses of their fellow-creatures, like rushes as it were they ‘send out roots into the heap of the rocks.’  For on the point of acting they imagine their praises, and when applauded, they dwell upon them secretly with themselves in the thoughts of their heart.  They rejoice that they have distinguished themselves first and foremost in the esteem of men; and while they are puffed up and swoln in themselves by their applause, they often themselves secretly wonder at what they are.  They long to appear day by day higher than themselves, and grow to a height by extraordinary arts in practice.  For as habits of virtue enfeeble every thing bad, so presumption strengthens the same.  For it forces the mind to grow quick, and to be in high condition at the expense of strength, in that what the prime quality of health withholds, the love of applause enjoins.  Whence too, as we said, they look out for witnesses of their deeds; but if, it chance that witnesses of the thing are wanting, they themselves relate what they have done, and when they begin to be elated with applause, they add a little, by lying, to these works of theirs, which they describe themselves to have done.  But even when they do give true accounts, by the act of telling them they are making them alien to them, in that when they are rewarded with the desired acknowledgments of esteem, they are dispossessed of their inward recompensing of them.


82.  For in this, that they publish their good, they point out to the evil spirits, like enemies plotting against them, what to make spoil of.  Whose life, truly, is represented by that sin of Hezekiah, which is well known to everyone, who after that by a single prayer, and in the space of a single night, he had laid low an hundred fourscore and five thousand of his enemies, by an Angel smiting them, after that he had brought back the sun close to its setting into the higher regions of the heavens, after that he had spun out the web of life to longer dimensions, now already narrowed by the end approaching, shewed to the welcomed messengers of the king of Babylon all the good treasures that he possessed, but directly heard from the voice of the Prophet, Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house shall be carried away into Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the Lord. [2 Kings 20, 17]  In this way, in this self-same way, do hypocrites, after they are grown to a height by great attainments in virtue, because they are indifferent to guard against the plots of evil spirits, and will not remain hidden in those attainments, by displaying their good things, make them over to the enemy; and by betraying it to view, they lose in a moment whatsoever they perform by taking pains in a long course of time.  Hence it is said by the Psalmist, And He delivered their strength into captivity, and their glory into the enemy's hand. [Ps. 78, 61]  For the ‘strength’ and ‘glory’ of presumptuous men is ‘given over into the enemy's hand,’ in that every good thing, that is exhibited in the desire of praise, is made over to our secret adversary's right of possession; for he calls his enemies to the spoil, who reveals his treasures to their knowledge; since so long as we are severed from the safety of the Eternal Land, we are walking along a way until robbers lying in wait.  He then that dreads to be robbed on the road, must of necessity bide the treasures that he carries.  O wretched beings, who by going after the praises of men, waste to themselves all the fruits of their labours, and whilst they aim to shew themselves to the eyes of others, blast all that they do.  Which same when the evil spirits prompt to boastfulness, taking them for a prey they strip bare their works, as we have said.  Whence ‘Truth’ in setting forth by the Prophet the rancour of our old enemies, under the form of a particular people, saith, He hath laid my vineyard waste, and barked my fig-tree: he hath made it clean bare, and despoiled [V. so.] it; the branches thereof are made white. [Joel 1, 7]  For by spirits lying in wait the vineyard of God is made a desert, when the soul that is replenished with fruits is wasted with the longing after the praise of men.  That people barks the fig-tree of God, in that carrying away the misguided soul in the appetite for applause, in the degree that it draws her on to ostentation, it strips her of the covering of humility, and ‘making it clean bare despoils it,’ in that so long as it is withdrawn from sight in its goodness, it is as it were clothed with the bark of its own covering.  But when the mind longs for that it has done to be seen by others, it is as though ‘the fig-tree despoiled’ had lost the bark that covered it.  And it is properly added there, The branches thereof are made white; in that his works being displayed to the eyes of men, turn ,white; a name for sanctity is gotten, when right practice is made appear, but whereas upon the bark being removed, the branches of this fig-tree wither, it is to be observed with due discrimination that the deeds of presumptuous men, when they are paraded before human eyes, by the same act whereby they aim to win favour, are rendered dry and sapless.  Therefore the mind that is shewn to view in boasting is rightly called a fig-tree barked, in that it is at once white, in so far as it is seen, and within a little of withering, in so far as it is denuded of the covering of the bark.  The things we do, therefore, are to be kept within, if we expect to receive from the Umpire within the recompense of our work.  It is hence that ‘Truth’ saith in the Gospel, But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth, that thine alms may be in secret;  and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly. [Matt. 6, 3. 4.]  It is hence that it is said of the Church of the Elect by the Psalmist, The king's daughter is all glorious within. [Ps. 45, 13]  Hence Paul saith, For our glory [V. so.] is this, the testimony of our conscience. [2 Cor. 1, 12]  For the king's daughter is the Church, which is begotten in good practice by the preaching of spiritual Princes.  But ‘her glory is within,’ in that what she does she holds not for the boasting of outward display.  Paul describes his ‘glory’ as ‘the testimony of his conscience,’ in that not aiming at the applause of another's man's lips, he knows no such thing as placing the satisfactions of his life out of himself.


83.  Therefore the things that we do must be kept concealed, lest by carrying them negligently on the journey of the present life, we lose them, through the invasion of the spirits that hunt for spoil.  And yet ‘Truth’ saith, Let them see your good works, that they may glorify your Father which is in heaven. [Matt. 5, 16]  But assuredly it is one thing when in the display of our works the glory of the Giver is our aim, and quite another when our own praise is the thing sought for in the gift of His bounty.  And hence again in the Gospel the same ‘Truth’ saith, Take heed that ye do not your works before men, to be seen of them.  Therefore when our works are displayed to men, we must first weigh well, in entering into the heart, what is aimed at by the prosecution of such display.  For if we make the glory of the Giver our end, even our works that are made public we keep hidden in His sight.  But if we desire to win our own applause by them, they are thenceforth cast out of His sight without, even though they be known nothing of by numbers.


84.  Now it belongs to those that are exceeding perfect, so to seek the glory of their Maker by the works shewn, as not to know what it is to exult in self-congratulation upon the praise bestowed upon them.  For then only is a praiseworthy work displayed to men without harm, when the praise awarded is genuinely trodden under in the mind's contempt.  Which same as the weak sort do not perfectly get above in contemning it, it remains of necessity that they keep out of sight the good that they do.  For often from the very first beginning of the display, they seek their own praise.  And often in the displaying of their works, they desire to publish the gloriousness of the Creator, but being received with applause, they are carried off into desire of their own praise.  And whilst they neglect to call themselves to account within, being dissipated without, they do not know what they do, and their work ministers to their pride, and they fancy that they are rendering it in the service of the Giver.  Thus ‘a rush abideth among the stones,’ in that the hypocrite stands there, where he sets fast the purpose of his mind.  For whilst he goes about to get the testimony of numbers, he takes his stand, as it were, in the heap of stones.  But the same hypocrite that is represented by the designation of ‘a rush,’ whilst he brings his body under by abstinence, whilst by bestowing in alms all that he possesses, he spends himself in efforts of pity, whilst he gets instruction in the knowledge of the sacred Law, whilst he employs the word of preaching; who that beheld him so filled with bounty, would account him a stranger to the grace of the Giver?  And yet the Hand of heavenly Dispensation vouchsafes to him the gifts of works, and withholds the lot of the inheritance.  It lavishes endowments for working, yet disowns the life of the worker.  For when the gift vouchsafed is applied toward his own praise, in the eye of the interior Light, he is darkened by the shadow of pride.  Hence it is well added,

Ver. 18.  If He destroy him from his place, then He shall deny him, saying, I have not known thee.




85.  The hypocrite is ‘destroyed from his place,’ when he is parted from the applause of the present life, by death intervening.  But the interior Witness ‘denieth’ him, thus destroyed, and asserts that He knows him not, in that in justly condemning the life of the pretender, ‘Truth’ knows him not, nor recognises the good works he has done, in that he never put them forth in a right purpose of mind.  And hence when He cometh to Judgment, He will say to the foolish virgins, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. [Matt. 25, 12]  In which same whilst He sees corruptness of mind, He condemns even incorruptness in the flesh.  But would that their own ruin alone were enough for hypocrites, and that their wicked pains did not vehemently urge others to a life [al. ‘a way’] of duplicity.  For it is the way with everyone, to wish that, such as he is himself, others of a like sort should be joined with him, and to avoid difference in life, and to inculcate as a pattern for imitation the thing that he loves.  Whence also according to the view of hypocrites every degree of simplicity of character is criminal.  For they sit in judgment on open characters, and purity of heart they term stupidity; and all whom they desire to be attached to themselves, they turn out of the path of simplicity, and then, as though their folly were cast out, they reckon that they have enlightened those persons, in whom they force to a surrender that fortress of wisdom, purity of heart.  But forasmuch as the hypocrite is condemned not for his own frowardness alone, but for the added ruin of his followers also, after that he is said not to be known by the Judge, the words are rightly brought in upon that;

Ver. 19.  Behold, this is the joy of his way [al. ‘of his life’], that out of the earth others also should grow.




86.  As though it were in plain words, ‘When the Judge cometh, he is not acknowledged, but receives punishment a thousand fold, because he rejoiced in his wickedness more amply in proportion as he spread evil among others also.’  For he that is not satisfied with being wicked himself here, must be tormented There with the due of the guilt of others also.  Now then let the hypocrites rejoice, and triumph to have gotten the suffrages of their fellow-creatures.  Let the simplicity of good men be looked down upon, and be called foolishness by the craft of the double-dealing.  Speedily doth the contempt of the single-minded pass, speedily the glorying of the double-dealing run to an end.  And hence it is fitly added,

Ver. 20.  Behold, God will not cast out a perfect man, neither will He stretch out His hand to the evil.




87.  In that assuredly when the Strict One appeareth in the Judgment, He will at once lift up the despisedness of the simple by glorifying them, and break in pieces the greatness of the evil-minded [malignorum] by condemning them.  For hypocrites are called evil-minded, who do good acts but not well, and practise every thing right only in eagerness after praise.  Now anyone, to whom we stretch out our hand, we plainly lift up from below.  Thus God does not stretch out His hand to the evil-minded, in that all that seek earthly glory He leaves below, and how right soever the things that they do may seem to be, He doth not advance them to the joys above.  Or, as may well be, hypocrites are for this reason called evil-minded, because they make a shew of being wellminded toward their neighbours, and cover over the arts of their wicked designs.  For in all that they either do or say, they shew simplicity externally, but they are inwardly conceiving in the subtleties of double-mindedness; they counterfeit purity on the outside, but they conceal an evil heart at all times under the semblance of purity.  In respect of whom it is well spoken by Moses, Thou shalt not wear a garment woven of woollen and linen together. [Deut. 22, 11]  For by ‘woollen’ is denoted simplicity, by ‘linen’ subtlety.  And it is the fact that a garment made of ‘wool and linen’ hides the linen within and shews the wool on the outside.  And so he ‘puts on a garment of woollen and linen together,’ who in the mode of speech or behaviour that he adopts conceals within the artfulness of an evil purpose, and exhibits without the simplicity of an innocent mind.  For whereas it is impossible to detect craftiness under the semblance of purity, it is as if linen were hidden under the thickness of wool.  But after the condemnation of the double-minded, the recompensing of the righteous is duly exhibited, when it is added thereupon,

Ver. 21.  Till He fill thy mouth with laughing, and thy lips with shouting.




88.  For the ‘mouth’ of the righteous will then be ‘filled with laughing’ when the tears of their pilgrimage being done, their hearts shall be filled to the full with exulting in eternal joy.  Concerning this laughing ‘Truth’ saith to His disciples, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice; and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. [John 16, 20]  And again, But I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you. [ver. 23]  Concerning this laughing of Holy Church, Solomon saith, And she shall laugh in the last day. [Prov. 31, 25]  Of this it is said again, Whoso feareth the Lord, it shall go well with him at the last. [Ecclus. 1, 3]  Not that there shall be laughter of the body, but laughter of the heart.  For now from rioting in dissipation there springs a laughter of the body, but then from joy in security there will arise a laughter of the heart.  Therefore when all the Elect are replenished with the delight of open vision, they spring forth into the joyousness of laughter in the mouth of the interior.  But we call it shouting [jubilum], when we conceive such joy in the heart, as we cannot give vent to by the force of words, and yet the triumph of the heart vents with the voice what it cannot give forth by speech.  Now the mouth is rightly said to be filled with laughter, the lips with shouting, since in that eternal land, when the mind of the righteous is borne away in transport, the tongue is lifted up in the song of praise.  And they, because they see so much as they are unable to express, shout in laughter, because without compassing it they resound all the love that they feel.


89.  Now it is said ‘till,’ not that Almighty God so long forbears to raise up the evil until he take to Him His Elect to the joys of their jubilee, as if afterwards He saved from the punishment those whom first leaving in sin He sentences to damnation, but that He never does it even before the Judgment, when it may seem doubtful to men, whether it is to be done.  For that after the jubilee of His Eject people He does not stretch out His hand to the evil-minded, is already plain from the mere severity of the final reckoning by itself.  As the Psalmist also spake in this manner, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou on My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool. [Ps. 110, 1]  Not that the Lord never sat on the Lord's right hand, after that by smiting His enemies He made them subject to His power, but that He is set over all things in eternal blessedness, even before He treads under His feet the hearts of those that rebel against Him.  Wherein it is made plain that His enemies being brought under, He still rules without end even afterwards.  Thus it is said in the Gospel of the espoused of Mary, And knew her not, till she had brought forth her first-born Son. [Matt. 1, 25]  Not that he did know her after the birth of the Lord, but that he never touched her even when he did not know her to be the Mother of his Creator.  For because it was impossible that he could have touched her after he knew that the Mystery of our Redemption was transacted from her womb, plainly it was necessary that the Evangelist should bear witness of that time, of which there might be misgivings entertained by reason of Joseph's ignorance.  And so it is expressed here in like manner, Behold, God will not cast away a perfect man, neither will He stretch out His hand to the evil-minded; till He fill thy mouth with laughter, and thy lips with shouting.  As if it were expressed in plain speech; ‘Not even before the Judgment does He abandon the life of the faithful, nor even before He appears does He forbear from smiting the minds of the evil-disposed by abandoning them.’  For that the sons of perdition He torments without end, and that after that He shall have appeared His Elect reign for evermore, assuredly there is no doubt.  It goes on;

Ver. 22.  They that hate thee shall be clothed with confusion.




90.  ‘Confusion clothes’ the enemies of the good in the final Judgment; for when they see before the eyes of their mind their past misdeeds running over in excess to them, their own guilt clothes them on every side, weighing them down.  For they then bear the memory of their doings in punishment, who now, as though strangers to the faculty of reason, sin with hearts full of joy. There they see how greatly they should have eschewed all that they loved.  There they see how woful that was, which they now hug themselves for in their sin.  Then guilt spreads a cloud over the mind, and conscience pierces itself with the darts of its remembrances.  Who then can adequately estimate how exceeding great will be the confusion of the wicked Then, when both the Judge Eternal is discerned without, and sin is set in review before the eyes within?  who are on this account brought to such a pass, because they loved transient things alone.  And hence it is rightly added upon that;

And the tents of the wicked shall not abide.




91.  For a tent is put together that the body may be preserved from heat and cold.  What then is here set forth by the name of a dwelling-place, save the building of earthly prosperity, whereby the wicked are multiplying above their heads things to fall, that they may shelter themselves from the exigencies of the present life as from heat and rain.  Thus they go about to rise in honours, lest they should appear contemptible.  They pile up the good things of earth, and heap them high, lest they ever come to pine with the cold of want.  They scorn to take thought of what is to come, and busy themselves with all their heart, that nought may be lacking in the present scene of things.  They aim to spread their name, that they may not live unknown, and if every thing is forthcoming to their hearts’ content, they regard themselves as proof in all things, and blessed in their condition.  Thus in the place where they rear a dwelling-place of the interior, there surely they have their tents fixed.  They bear crosses with impatience, they rejoice in prosperity without restraint.  They mind alone the things that are before them, nor do they draw their breath by the yearning after their heavenly home in the remembrance thereof.  They are glad that the good things are theirs, which their heart is bent on having; and there, where they rest in the body, they bury the soul too, making it a thing extinct, in that being slain with the instrument of worldly solicitude, that pile of earthly things, which they heap together hunting for them without, they are always carrying on them within in thought.


92.  But contrariwise the good neither take the blessings offered them here below as any thing great, nor very much dread the ills brought upon them.  But both whilst they use present advantages, they forecast inconveniences to come, and when they lament for present evils, they are comforted in the love of the good things to follow.  And they are cheered by temporal support, just as a wayfarer enjoys a bed in a stable; he stops and hurries to be off; he rests still in the body, but is going forward to something else in imagination.  But sometimes they even long to meet with afflictions, they shrink from finding all go well in transient things, lest by the delightfulness of the journey, they be hindered in arriving at their home; lest they arrest the step of the heart on the pathway of their pilgrimage, and one day come in view of the heavenly land without a recompense.  They delight to be little accounted of, nor do they grieve to be in affliction and necessity.  Thus they that never fortify themselves against the adversities of the present time, as it were will not have a tent against the heat and rain.  And hence Peter is justly rebuked, because when he was not yet confirmed in perfectness of heart, upon the brightness of ‘Truth’ being made known, he goes about to set up a tent upon earth. [Matt. 17, 4]  And thus the righteous are indifferent to build themselves up here below, where they know themselves to be but pilgrims and strangers.  For because they desire to have joy in their own, they refuse to be happy in what belongs to another.  But the unrighteous, the further they are removed from the inheritance of the eternal Country, fix the foundations of the heart so much the deeper in the earth.  It is hence that in the very beginning of man's creation Enoch is born seventh in the elect family. It is hence that Cain calls his firstborn son Enoch, and names the city that he built after him. [Gen. 4, 17]  For ‘Enoch’ is rendered ‘Dedication.’  And so the wicked dedicate themselves in the beginning.  For in this life, which is first, they plant the root of the heart, that they may flourish here to their content, and wither root and branch to the Country that follows after.  But to the righteous, Enoch is born the seventh, in that the festal dedication of their lives is kept for the end.  It is hence, as Paul testifies, Abraham dwells in tents [so Vulg.], for he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. [Heb. 11, 9]  It is hence that Jacob goes humbly [Vulg. like E.V. paullatim] following the flocks of sheep, and Esau coming to meet him lords it with a throng of numerous attendants, in that here both the Elect are without pride, and the lost swell with satisfaction in the good things of the flesh.  Hence the Lord saith to Israel, If thou shalt choose one from the people of the land and set him for a king over thee, he shall not multiply horses and horsemen to himself. [Deut. 17, 15. 16.]  And yet the first king ‘chosen from among his brethren,’ so soon as he had attained the height of power, chose for himself three thousand horsemen; he immediately launched into pride, burst forth in the building up of the height he had attained, in that without he could not keep under on a level of equality all that made his spirit within rise high above the level of others.  That rich man had as it were erected for himself a fenced dwelling place, who said, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years: take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. [Luke 12, 19]  But because that dwelling is not bottomed upon the foundation of Truth, he heard at the same moment, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall these things be, which thou hast prepared? [ver. 20]  Therefore it is well said, And the dwelling-place of the wicked shall come to nought.  In that the lovers of this fleeting life, whilst they diligently build themselves up in present things, are suddenly hurried into eternity.