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After going through the twenty-second and twenty-third chapters of

the Book of Job, and the twenty-fourth to the middle of verse twenty

with a brief explanation, he brings the third Part to a close.


THOSE persons, who being opposed to the words of truth, get the worst in making out a case, often repeat even what is well known, lest by holding their tongue they should seem defeated.  Hence Eliphaz, being pressed closely by the sayings of blessed Job, utters things which no one but is aware of.  For he says,

Ver. 2.  Can a man be compared unto God, even when he has perfect knowledge?




1.  By comparison with God, our knowledge is ignorance, for it is by participation, and not by comparison, with God that we become imbued with wisdom.  What wonder then when that is said, as if in the way of instruction, which might have been known, even if it had been kept silent?  And yet further he subjoins the power of God as defending it.

Ver. 3  Is it any profit to the Almighty that thou art righteous?  or is it gain to Him, that thou makest thy ways perfect?




2.  For in all that we do well, we are doing good to ourselves and not to God.  And hence by the Psalmist it is said, O my soul, thou hast said unto the Lord, Thou art my God, seeing that Thou needest not my goods. [Ps. 16, 2]  For He is truly ‘Lord’ to us, because He is also assuredly ‘God,’ Who needs not the good in him that serveth Him, but bestows the goodness which He receives, so that the goodness which is offered up should avail not Himself, but those that first receive and afterwards render back.  For though the Lord, when He cometh for Judgment, saith, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me; it is with extraordinary pitifulness that He says this, by sympathy with His members.  And He the same Being hereby, viz. that He is our Head, aids, Who by our good deeds in His members is aided.  Yet further Eliphaz adds what there is no man but is aware of, saying,

Ver. 4.  Will He reprove thee for fear of thee?  Will He enter with thee into judgment?




3.  Who that was out of his senses even would think this, that from fear the Lord reproves us, and from dread sets His judgment against us?  But they who do not know how to mete their words, doubtless slip down to idle discourse.  Wherein if they never at all take themselves to task, without delay they leap forth to words mischievous and insulting.  Hence Eliphaz, who brought in idle words, immediately burst out into abusive ones, saying,

Ver. 5.  Is it not for thy wickedness that is great, and thine iniquities that are infinite?




4.  Observe how from a deadened heart he came to idle words, and from idle words in the heinousness of lying he blazed out into insults.  For these are the descents of increasing sin, that the tongue when not restrained should never there where it has fallen lie still, but be always descending to what is worse; but these things that are subjoined, because they are very plain taken after the history, do not need to be set forth after the letter.


5.  But whereas we have said that the friends of blessed Job bear the likeness of heretics, but that he himself bears the representing of Holy Church, the words of Eliphaz how they fit the falseness of heretics, let us now at once point out.  For it proceeds;

Ver. 6-8.  For thou hast taken a pledge from thy brother for nought, and stripped the naked of their clothing.  Thou hast not given water to the weary, thou hast withholden bread from the hungry.  In the might of thine arm thou didst possess the land, and as the most powerful thou didst hold it.



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6.  In Holy Scripture by the term of ‘a pledge’ sometimes the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and sometimes the confession of sin, are denoted.  Thus pledge is taken as the gift of the Holy Spirit, as where it is said by Paul, And given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts. [2 Cor. 1, 22]  For we receive a pledge for this, that we may hold an assurance touching the promise that is made to us.  And so the gift of the Holy Spirit is called a pledge, in that by this our soul is strengthened to assuredness of the inward hope.  Again by the name of a ‘pledge’ confession of sin is used to be intended, as it is written in the Law; If thy brother oweth thee aught, and thou takest away a pledge from him, restore the pledge before the setting of the sun. [Ex. 22, 25. 26.]  For our brother is made a debtor to us, when any fellow-creature is proved to have done any thing wrong against us.  For sins we call ‘debts.’  Whence it is said to the servant when he sinned, I forgave thee all that debt. [Matt. 18, 32]  And in the Lord’s Prayer we pray daily, Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. [Matt. 6, 12]  Now we ‘take a pledge’ from our debtor, when from the lips of him who is found to have sinned against us, we have now gotten a confession of his sin, whereby we are entreated to remit the sin, which was committed against us.  For he that confesses the sin that he has done, and begs pardon, has already as it were given a ‘pledge’ for his debt, which pledge we are bidden to ‘restore before the sun set,’ because before that in ourselves through pain of heart the Sun of righteousness shall set, we are bound to render back the acknowledgment of pardon to him, from whom we receive the acknowledgment of transgression, that he who remembers that he has done amiss towards us, may be made sensible that what he has done amiss is by us at once remitted.  Therefore whereas Holy Church, when it receives back any returning from heretics to the truth of the faith, first persuades them that they must confess the sin of their error, it is said by Eliphaz as under the likeness of heretics; For thou hast taken away a pledge from thy brother for nought, i.e. ‘From those, that come to thee from us, thou didst exact a confession of error to no purpose.’  But, as we said before, if we suppose a ‘pledge’ the gifts of the Holy Spirit, heretics say that Holy Church has ‘taken away the pledge of her brothers,’ because they imagine that those that come to her, lose the gifts of the Spirit.  Hence it follows, And stripped the naked of their clothing.


7.  Those whom they draw after them by their perverted preaching, heretics count to have the precepts of their teaching as a kind of garments, and they esteem them to be clothed so long as the things which they themselves preached they witness observed by them, and when any persons return to Holy Church from them, they immediately fancy that they have lost the garments of instruction.  But whereas one that is naked cannot he spoiled, we have to enquire how they are first mentioned as ‘naked,’ and afterwards as ‘stripped?’  Now it is necessary to know that every one that enjoys purity of mind, by the very circumstance that he has not the cloak of double-dealing, is ‘naked.’  And there are some among the Heretics, who have purity of heart indeed, but yet take up the corrupt tenets of their teaching.  These same are at once by their own purity ‘naked,’ and by the preaching of those persons they are as it were clothed.  And whereas all such are easily brought back to Holy Church, for this reason that they do not use the wickedness of doubledealing, those persons heretics acknowledge as naked, whom they call stripped by her of their clothing, because they look upon all the simple-minded as slow and dull, who, they see, have parted with their own corrupt tenets.


8.  It follows; Thou hast not given water to the weary, and thou hast withholden bread from the hungry.  Heretics in proportion as they hold not the solid substance of truth, so sometimes they busy themselves, that they may appear full of discourse, and against the faith of Catholics they are boastful as of the knowledge of learning; all that they see they seek to draw to them by their wicked discoursings, and by the very same act, whereby they are joining others to themselves for destruction, they think themselves doing something conducive to life.  Now we call those ‘weary’ that are worn down under the wearisome load of this world. And hence Truth saith by Himself, Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and will give you rest. Matt. 11, 28] And so whereas heretics never cease to preach their own doctrines, they mock at Holy Church as if for ignorance.  Thou hast not given water to the weary, and thou hast withholden bread from the hungry.  For themselves they think they ‘give water to the weary’ when to persons travailing under their earthly load they supply the cup of their own error.  And they look upon it that they themselves have not ‘withholden bread from the hungry,’ in that when questioned even touching things invisible and incomprehensible, they answer with pride and boldness; and they then set themselves down as learned above all men, when they most miserably presume to speak on things unknown.  But Holy Church when she sees anyone hungering for that which it would not be for his good to get, either on the one hand if they be things already known to her keeps them back with reserve, or if they appear to be unknown as yet, confesses it with humility; and such she recalls to a sense of well-regulated humility, when she bids everyone of them by her Preacher, not to be wise of himself above that he ought to think, but to think soberly. [Rom. 12, 3]  And again, Be not highminded, but fear. [Rom. 11, 20]  And again, Seek not out the things that are too deep for thee; neither search the things that are above thy strength. [Ecclus. 3, 21]  And again, Hast thou found honey? eat so much as is sufficient for thee, lest perchance thou be filled therewith, and vomit it. [Rrov. 25, 16]  For to ‘find honey,’ is to taste the sweetness of holy intelligence.  Which is eaten enough of then, when our perception according to the measure of our faculty is held tight under control.  For he is ‘filled with honey, and vomits it,’ who in seeking to dive deeper than he has capacity for loses that too from whence he might have derived nourishment.  And so, seeing that Holy Church forbids it to feeble minds to dive into deep truths, it is said to blessed Job, And thou hast withholden bread from the hungry.


9.  And her greatness also because heretics envy, because she keeps the companies of people every where in the true faith, when they meet with a season of earthly prosperity, they launch out against her in terms of pride, and by their upbraiding disclose how greatly before they secretly envied her power.  Thus it follows; For in the might of thine arm, thou didst possess the earth, and as the most powerful thou didst hold it.  As if he said in plain words, ‘Whereas thou didst take possession of the earth every where in thy preaching, it was the power of might, and not the reasonableness of truth.  For whereas they see that Christian princes hold fast her preaching, all the credit which is given to her by the people, they look upon not as the efficacy of righteousness, but the account of secular power.  It goes on;

Ver. 9.  Thou hast sent widows away empty, and the arms of the fatherless hast thou broken.




10.  The common multitudes that are brought under to heretics on their preaching by a carnal understanding conceive the corrupt seeds of their false doctrine, and are joined to them in their condemnation.  But when the preachers of errors themselves, Holy Church either receives into her bosom subdued by reason, or binds in under the fetters of her discipline, being hardened by attachment to evil; heretics, being deserted, when they see that the people remain left with themselves without preachers, what else do they but lament the ‘widows’ left empty by Holy Church?  And whereas when the masters of heretics are withdrawn, they imagine that their disciples are enfeebled in their practice, they complain that the arms of the fatherless are broken by Holy Church as it were.  Or in another way, because when Holy Church receives persons coming to her from heretics, it is plain without a doubt that she stands up against their former error.  Thus there are some that are so attached to virginity of the flesh, that they condemn marriage, and there are some who so extol abstinence, that they abhor those that take necessary nourishment.  Concerning whom it is said by Paul, Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain, from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe. [1 Tim. 4, 5]  Those persons then seeing she recalls from the carnal bias of their superstitious belief, when heretics see such living otherwise than they taught them, they bear witness that to the way of acting which they before maintained, their ‘arms are broken’ by Holy Church.  And hence in this period of discipline, if any piece of misfortune chance to befall her, they suppose that it has come in meet retribution for her sins.  For it is added;

Ver. 10.  Therefore snares are round about thee; and sudden fear troubleth thee.




11.  That man ‘sudden fear doth trouble,’ who neglects to consider what there is hanging over his head from the severity of the Judge, when He comes.  Therefore, whereas heretics look upon the faithful people as borne down by sins of misbelief, they make it a charge that ‘snares are round about them.’  And because they believe that it does not foresee the future, they suppose this people under the smiting to be ‘troubled with sudden fear;’ which persons adding yet further insult subjoin,

Ver. 11.  And thou thoughtest [V. And thoughtest thou?] thou wouldest not see darkness; and that thou wouldest not be borne down with the force of overflowing waters.


As if he said in plain speech; ‘Thou didst promise thyself security of peace in hope, and therefore thou wast glad for thine assurance as for the light, nor ever thoughtest for thyself to be oppressed with tribulation.  But see, whilst thou art afflicted with evils coming upon thee, whether what thou maintainest be right, the very darkness of trouble which weighs upon thee makes plain; which same troubles Eliphaz compares to ‘overflowing waters,’ in that whilst one set rushes in over another, as in swoln waters waves follow waves.  It goes on,

Ver. 12-14.  Dost thou bethink thee that God is in the height of heaven, and high above the height of the stars?  And thou sayest, How doth God know? and, He judgeth as in the dark.  Thick clouds are a covering to Him, that He seeth not our matters; and He walketh in the circuit of heaven.




12.  There are very many so dull that they cannot dread aught, saving what they see in a bodily form.  Whence it is brought to pass that they do not fear God, in that they cannot see Him.  But heretics because they think themselves wise utter words of insult against Catholics, and imagine that He is not feared by them, because they are unable to see Him in a bodily shape, so that as it were from deadness of perception they think that their Maker, because He is higher than heaven and exalted above the tops of the stars, is not able to see from a distance, and that because between ourselves and the seat of heaven the regions of the air are interposed, He, ‘as it were buried in a cloud passes judgment out of the darkness,’ and intent upon things above, the less considers those below, and whilst He holds together the binges of heaven by encircling them, doth not see into the interior parts.  But who that was out of his right mind even, could suspect such things of God.  Who indeed, whereas He is always Omnipotent, so minds all things that He is present to each one individually, and so present to each that His Presence is never wanting to all together.  For though He forsakes persons when they sin, yet to those very persons He is present in respect of judgment, to whom He is seen to be wanting in respect of aidance.  Therefore He so encircles what is without that He yet fills what is within, so fills what is within that He yet encircles what is without, so rules the heights above that He does not quit the depths below, is in such sort present to the parts beneath that He does not depart from those above, is so concealed in His own appearance that nevertheless He is known in His working, so known in His work that yet He cannot be comprehended by the calculation of the person knowing Him; He is in such a way present that yet He cannot be seen, in such a way impossible to be seen that yet His very own judgments bear witness to His Presence, so yields Himself to be understood by us that yet the very ray of the perception of Himself He overclouds to us, and again so holds us in by the darkness of ignorance that notwithstanding He shines into our minds with the rays of His brightness, so that at once by being lifted up it may see something, and made to recoil may tremble all over, and because such as He is it is impossible to see Him, may yet know Him by seeing Him some little.  But all this heretics do not reckon Holy Church to be acquainted with, because by a foolish judgment they suppose that they alone are wise.  In a type of whom it is yet further added;

Ver. 15.  Wouldest thou mark the old way, which wicked men have trodden?


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13.  As the ‘way’ of our Redeemer is humility, so the way of the world is pride.  And so wicked men tread the way of the world, in that by the desires of this world they walk in self-exaltation.  Of which same wicked persons it is yet further added;

Ver. 16.  Which were taken away before their time, whose foundation was overflown with a flood.




14.  Whereas the period of our life is assuredly foreordained for us in the foreknowledge of God, it is a very important question on what principle it is said now, that the wicked are withdrawn from the present world ‘before their time.’  For Almighty God though He often change His sentence, yet His counsel never.  At that time, then, is every man ‘taken away’ from this life, at which by Divine power he is foreknown to be before all times.  But it is necessary to be known, that Almighty God in creating and disposing of us, according to the deserts of each one also appoints his bounds too, so that either that bad man should live a short time, lest he do mischief to numbers doing right; or that this good man should last longer in life, that he may prove a helper of good practice to numbers; or again that the bad man should be detained longer in life, to add yet more to his wicked deeds, purified by the testing whereof the righteous may live a truer life; or that the good man should be withdrawn more speedily, lest if he were to live long here, wickedness should spoil his innocence.  Yet it is to be borne in mind, that it is the loving-kindness of God, to vouchsafe to sinners space for repentance.  But because the times vouchsafed they do not turn to the fruits of penance, but to the service of iniquity, what by the mercifulness of God they might have obtained, they let go out of their hands.  Although Almighty God foreknows that time of each individual for death, at which his life is brought to an end; nor could any one ever have died at any time, saving at that actual time when he does die.  For if to Hezekiah fifteen years are related to have been added for life, the time of his life was increased from that end, indeed, in which of himself he deserved to die; for God’s providence foreknew his time at that point whereat He afterwards withdrew him out of the present life.  This then being so, what does it mean that it is said, that the wicked were cut down before their time, but that all they that love the present life, promise to themselves longer periods of that life?  But when death coming on withdraws them from the present life, the spaces of their life, which they were wont as it were in imagination to draw out to themselves longer, it cuts asunder.  Of whom it is rightly said, whose foundation was overflown with a flood.


15.  For the wicked while they neglect in heart to go on to the things of eternity, and do not observe that all things present are fleeting, fix their heart on the love of the present life, and as it were therein construct for themselves the foundation of a long abode, because by desire they are established in earthly things.  Thus Cain is described the first to have constructed a city upon earth, who thereby is plainly proved an alien, in that the same set a foundation upon earth, who was alien to the stedfastness of the eternal world; for being a stranger to the things above, he has settled his foundation in things beneath, who has placed the settling of his heart in earthly delight.  And hence, in the stock of that man, Enoch, which is by interpretation ‘dedication,’ is born the first.  But in the offspring of the Elect Enoch is described to have been the seventh, in this way, because the sons of perdition by building dedicate themselves in this life which comes first, but the Elect await the dedication of their building up in the end of time, i.e. the seventh number.  For one may see great numbers minding temporal things alone, seeking after honours, open-mouthed after the compassing of good things, look out for nothing after this life.  What then do these but ‘dedicate themselves’ in the first generation?  One may see the Elect seeking nothing of present glory, gladly bearing want, undergoing the ills of this life with a composed mind, that they may be crowned at the end.  And so to the Elect Enoch is born in the seventh generation, in that the dedication of their joy they look for in the glory of the last retribution. [Gen. 5, 21]  And whereas by the daily lapse of time the mortal state in the present life itself runs to an end, and destroys the dedication of the children of perdition by removing those very children of perdition, it is rightly said of the wicked, Whose foundation was overflown with a flood; i.e. the mere course of changeableness overthrows in them the settlement of wicked rearing.  It goes on;

Ver. 17.  Which said unto God, Depart from us.




16.  That this too blessed Job had said, who can doubt?  But what we have unfolded in his words, on account of wearying the reader, we forbear to repeat. [Job 21, 14]  It goes on;

And as though the Almighty could do nothing, so reckoned concerning Him.


In this part likewise the wording, and not the statement, is changed.  For what was expressed by blessed Job; What is the Almighty that we should serve Him? [Job 21, 15]  is expressed by Eliphaz, And as though the Almighty could do nothing, so reckoned concerning Him.  It goes on;

Ver. 18.  Yet He has filled their houses with good things.




17.  The Lord ‘filleth the houses of the wicked with good things,’ in that even to the unthankful He refuses not His gifts, that either they may blush at the loving-kindness of their Creator and be brought back to goodness, or altogether despising to return thereto, may from the same cause be there worse punished, that here they rendered an evil return for God’s more bounteous good, so that severer woes should there chastise those whose wickedness here not even gifts overcame.  It goes on;

But let their sentence be far from me.


This too was expressed by blessed Job.  For he says, Whose counsel be far from me. [Job 21, 16]  Though ‘sentence’ may be taken for one thing and ‘counsel’ for another; for ‘sentence’ is in the mouth, ‘counsel’ in the thoughts.  And so whereas Eliphaz wished himself far from the ‘sentence’ of the wicked, and blessed Job from the ‘counsel,’ it is plain without denial, that the first desires to be unlike the words of the wicked, but the other unlike their way of thinking even.  It goes on;

Ver. 19.  The righteous shall see it and be glad; and the innocent one shall laugh them to scorn.




18.  The righteous when they see the unrighteous erring here cannot be glad for the error of persons ruining themselves.  For if they rejoice in errings, they cease to be righteous.  Again, if in the feeling of triumph they be glad, for this that they are not such as they see others are, they are altogether full of pride.  Hence the Pharisee lost his justification, because being glad he set himself above the merits of the Publican, saying, I thank Thee that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this Publican.  Again, if we say that the righteous can triumph with a perfect joy over the death of the wicked, what sort of thing is joy for vengeance on sinners in this world, wherein the life of the righteous is still uncertain?  Let us then distinguish between the times of trembling and exulting.  For the righteous see the unrighteous now, and pine at their wickedness; and when they see those smitten, they are made distrustful touching their own life too.  When then shall the righteous see the destruction of the wicked and be glad, saving when with the strict Judge they incorporate henceforth with perfect sureness of triumphing, when in that final Inquest they shall see the condemnation of those, and shall now no longer have aught to fear for themselves?  Now therefore they see the children of perdition and groan, then they shall see them and laugh them to scorn, because in triumphing they shall set at nought those, whom now they neither see doing wickedness without groaning nor dying for their wickedness without fearing.  Hence by that which is added it is proved that the thing is spoken as concerning their final condemnation.  For the sentence is directly introduced,

Ver. 20.  Is not their erecting cut down, and the remnant of them the fire hath consumed [al. shall comsume]?




19.  For here the wicked are erected, in that they are lifted up in bad deeds.  For they both do wickedly, and yet for their wicked deeds they are not stricken.  They sin and thrive, they add to their sins, and multiply earthly good.  But ‘their erecting is cut down’ then, when they are either dragged from the present life to destruction, or from the sight of the Eternal Judge to the eternal burning of hell.  Which people, though here they quit their dead flesh, yet that same in the resurrection they receive again, that together with that flesh they may burn, in which flesh they did their sin.  For as their sin was in mind and body, so the punishment shall be in spirit and flesh alike.  Therefore, whereas not even that shall be quit of torment to them, which here they leave dead, it is rightly said now, the remnant of them the fire hath consumed.  It goes on;

Ver. 21, 22.  Be at one then with Him, and be at peace; thereby thou shalt have the best fruits.  Receive, I pray thee, the law from his mouth, and lay up his words in thine heart.




20.  There is the sin of pride in teaching one better than one’s self, which heretics are often guilty of, who touching things which they have wrong notions of, take upon them as if to instruct Catholics.  For such they think are then ‘at one with God,’ if it chance for them to assent to their bad ways; and to those thus ‘at one’ they promise peace in that they henceforth cease to quarrel with those who agree with themselves.  Now ‘the best fruits’ they promise to those agreeing with themselves, in that they believe that they only do good works, whom they triumph in themselves drawing in to their own tenets; which persons this also suits that he adds, Receive, I pray, the law out of His mouth; because the things they think of their own heads, they fancy proceed from the mouth of God.  And lay up His words in thine heart; as if he asserted it in plain words, saying, ‘which up to this present time in thy mouth thou hast held, and not in thine heart.’  For because he [al. Holy Church] rejected their corrupted tenets, they allege against him [al. her, &c.] that the words of God he had held not in the feeling, but in the shewing off.  Whence, as if under a certain appearance of sweetness, they insinuate the poison of pestilent persuading, so as to admonish the Church to lay up the words of God in the heart; which words, if they had ever departed from her heart, from those persons she would never have heard such things.  It follows;

Ver. 23.  If thou return to the Almighty, thou shalt be built up, thou shalt put away iniquity far from thy tabernacle.




21.  That the faithful people have gone away from God is the opinion of heretics, because they see it opposed to their preachings; which same, when they see it afflicted with present calamities, they endeavour, as if by admonition, to draw to their Maker’s Grace, saying, If thou return to the Almighty, thou shalt be built up.  As if they said in plain words; Whereas by gainsaying our doctrines thou hast gone away from the Lord, therefore to the building up of righteousness thou art undone.  Now by a tabernacle we understand sometimes the habitation of the body, and sometimes the habitation of the heart; for as by the soul we inhabit the body, so by the thoughts we inhabit the mind.  Therefore ‘iniquity in the tabernacle’ of the mind is an evil bent in the attachment of the thought.  But ‘iniquity in the tabernacle’ of the body is carnal doing in the fulfilment of the deed.  Thus Eliphaz, forasmuch as he was the friend of a blessed person, seeing some things true, and yet in those points in which he departs from the right line, holding the likeness of heretics, not knowing that it was in consequence of good qualities blessed Job was stricken, fancied that he had erred whom he saw smitten, and makes him promises if he would return to Almighty God, saying, Thou shalt put away iniquity far from thy tabernacles.  As if he said in plain speech, ‘Whosoever after erring ways is brought back to God, is purified both in thought and in deed together.’  It follows;

Ver. 24.  He shall give the flint for earth, and for the flint golden torrents.


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22.  What is denoted by ‘earth’ but weakness in conduct, what by the hardness of the flint but strength, what do we understand by ‘the golden torrents,’ but the instruction of interior brightness?  Now to those that turn themselves to Him Almighty God ‘gives for earth the flint,’ in that for weak conduct He bestows the strength of vigorous practice.  He also gives ‘for the flint golden torrents,’ in that for vigorous practice He redoubles the instruction of bright preaching, that every converted sinner may from weak be enabled to prove strong, and in his strength rise up even to the uttering forth words of the inner brightness, so that in that person, both weakness of conduct, in which like earth he is crumbled, by strength of good living may be firmly settled, and whereas perception is derived from the life, from that same firmness torrents of gold may run out, seeing that in the mouth of those that live well brightness of teaching runs over. It follows;

Ver. 25.  Yea the Almighty shall be against thine enemies, and thou shalt have heaps of silver.




23.  What other enemies are we more subject to than evil spirits, who in our thoughts besiege us, that they may break into the city of our minds, and hold it, taken captive, under the yoke of their dominion?  Now by the name of ‘silver,’ the Psalmist testifies the sacred oracles are denoted, when he says, The words of the Lord are pure words, as silver tried in a furnace of earth. [Ps. 12, 6]  And often when we apply ourselves to the sacred oracles, we are more grievously subject to the artifices of evil Spirits, in that they sprinkle upon our mind the dust of earthly thoughts, that the eyes of our heeding they may darken to the light of the interior vision.  Which same the Psalmist had undergone when he said, Depart from me, ye evil ones, and I will search into the commandments of my God; i.e. plainly teaching us that he could not search into the commandments of God, when he was suffering in mind the snares of the evil spirits.  Which thing in the work of Isaac too we know to he represented under the evil doing of the Philistines, who with a heap of earth filled up the wells which Isaac had dug.  For these very same wells we ourselves dig, when in the hidden meanings of Holy Scripture we penetrate deep.  Which wells however the Philistines secretly fill up, when to us advancing to deep things unclean spirits bring in earthly thoughts, and as it were take away the water of divine knowledge which has been discovered.  But because no one can overcome these enemies by his own power, it is said by Eliphaz, Yea the Almighty shall be against thine enemies, and thou shalt have heaps of silver.  As if it were said in plain words; ‘While the Lord drives away from thee the evil spirits by His power, the shining talent of divine revelation within gains growth.’  It proceeds;

Ver. 26.  Then shalt thou abound with delicacies over the Almighty.




24.  To ‘abound with delicacies over the Almighty’ is in the love of Him to be filled to the full with the banquet of Holy Scripture.  In Whose words surely we find as many delicacies, as for our profiting we obtain diversities of meaning, so that now the bare history should be our food, now, veiled under the text of the letter, the moral allegory refresh us from our inmost soul, and now to the deeper things contemplation should hold us suspended, already, in the darkness of the present life, shining in upon us from the light of eternity.  And it is necessary to be known, that whosoever ‘abounds with delicacies,’ is released in a kind of loosening of himself, and slacks from devotion to labour as it were from weariness, because the soul when it has begun to abound with the interior delicacies, henceforth consents not ever to give itself to earthly employments, but being captivated by the love of the Creator, and by its captivity henceforth free, for the contemplating of His likeness fainting it draws breath, and as it were wilst giving over, is invigorated; because whereas sordid burthens it is now no longer able to bear, unto Him through rest it hastens Whom it loves within.  Hence also in admiration of the spouse it is written, Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness abounding with delicacies? [Cant. 8, 5. Vulg.] in that truly except Holy Church ‘abounded with the delicacies’ of God’s words, she could not mount up from the deserts of the present life to the regions above.  Thus she ‘abounds with delicacies and comes up,’ in that whilst she is fed by mystical senses, she is lifted up for the contemplating day by day the things above.  Hence likewise the Psalmist says, Even the night shall be light about me in my delicacies; [Ps. 139, 11. Vulg.] in that while by mystical perception the earnest mind is regaled, henceforth the darkness of the present life is lighted up in her by the radiance of the day to come.  So that even in the blindness of this state of corruption the force of the future light should break out into her understanding, and she being fed with delicacies of words, might learn by thus foretasting what to hunger for of the food of truth.  It goes on;

And shall lift up thy face unto God.




25.  To ‘lift up the face to God’ is to raise the heart for the searching into what is loftiest.  For as by the bodily face we are known and distinguishable to man, so by the interior figure to God.  But when by the guilt of sin we are weighed to the earth, we are afraid to lift the face of our heart to God; for whereas it is not buoyed up by any of the confidence of good works, the mind is full of affright to gaze on the highest things, because conscience of itself accuses self.  But when by the tears of penance sin is now washed out, and things committed are so bewailed that nothing to be bewailed is any more committed, a great confidence springs up in the mind, and for the contemplating the joys of the recompensing from above ‘the face of our heart is lifted up.’  Now these things Eliphaz would have spoken aright, if he had been admonishing one that was weak; but when he looks down upon a righteous man on account of his scourges, what is this, but that he pours out words of knowledge in not knowing?  Which same words if we bring into a type of heretics, they are they that with false promises engage for us to ‘lift our face to God.’  As if they said plainly to the faithful people, ‘As long as thou dost not follow our preaching, thine heart thou sinkest down in things below.’  But whereas Eliphaz charged blessed Job to return to God, from Whom observe that same blessed man had never departed, he yet further subjoins, as promising;

Ver. 27.  Thou shalt make thy prayer unto Him, and He shall hear thee.




26.  For they make their prayer to God, but never obtain to be listened to, who set at nought the precepts of the Lord, when He enjoins them.  Whence it is written, He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination. [Prov. 28, 9]  So long then as Eliphaz believed that blessed Job was not heard, he determined that that person had surely done wrong in his practice.  And hence he adds further,

And thou shalt pay thy vows.


He that has vowed vows, but is unable from weakness to pay the same, has it dealt to him in punishment of sin, that whilst willing good, the having the power should be taken away from him.  But when in the sight of the interior Judge, the sin which hinders is done away, it is immediately brought to pass, that the being able attends upon the vow.  It goes on;

Ver. 28.  Thou shalt also decree a thing, and it shall be established unto thee.




27.  This is used to be the special conclusion of those going weakly, that in such proportion they esteem a man righteous as they see him obtain all that he desires; whereas in truth we know that earthly goods are sometimes withheld from the righteous, while they are bestowed with liberal bounty upon the unrighteous; seeing that to sick persons also when they are despaired of, physicians order whatever they call for to be supplied, but those whom they foresee may be brought back to health, the things which they long for they refuse to have given them.  Now if Eliphaz introduced these declarations with reference to spiritual gifts, be it known that ‘a thing is decreed and is established’ to a man, when the virtue which is longed for in the desire, is, by God’s granting it, happily forwarded by the carrying of it out as well.  And hence it is yet further added;

And the light shall shine upon thy way.


[xxiii]                            [LITERAL AND MORAL INTERPRETATION]


28.  Since for ‘light to shine in the ways’ of the righteous, is by extraordinary deeds of virtue to scatter the tokens of their brightness, that wherever they go in the bent of the mind, from the hearts of those beholding them they may dispel the night of sin, and by the example of their own practice pour into them the light of righteousness; but whatever justness of practice there may be, in the eye of the interior Judge it is nothing, if pride of heart uplifts it.  Hence it is added;

Ver. 29.  For he that has been abased shall be in glory, and he that has bent down his eyes, the same shall be saved.




29.  Which same sentence is not at variance with the mouth of ‘Truth,’ when It says, For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. [Luke 14, 11] And hence it is said by Solomon, Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, and before honour is humility. [Prov. 18, 12]  But it is properly said, For he that has bent down his eyes, the same shall be saved; in that so far as it is to be discovered through the ministering of the members, the first manifestation of pride is used to be with the eyes.  Hence it is written, And wilt bring down high looks. [Ps. 18, 27]  Hence it is said of the very head himself of those that behave proudly, He beholdeth all high things. [Job 41, 34]  Hence it is written concerning her, who by unbelief attached herself to him, There is a generation, O how lofty are their eyes! and their eyelids are lifted up. [Prov. 30, 13]  So to ‘bend down the eyes, is no man on looking upon him to look down upon, but one’s self to look upon as inferior and below all one sees.  He then that ‘bends down his eyes shall be saved’; because he who quits the false height of pride, scales the loftiness of truth.  It goes on;

Ver. 30.  The innocent shall be saved, but he shall be saved by the cleanness of his hands.




30.  Which same sentence now if it be delivered touching the recompense of the kingdom of heaven, is supported by truth, in that whereas it is written concerning God, Who rendereth to every man according to his deeds [Rom. 2, 6], that man in the Last Inquest the justice of the Judge Eternal saveth, whom here His pitifulness sets free from impure deeds.  But if a man is to this purport supposed to be here saved by the cleanness of his own hands, that by his own powers he should be made innocent, assuredly it is an error; for if Grace above do not prevent him when faulty, assuredly it will never find anyone faultless to recompense without fault.  Whence it is said by the truth-telling voice of Moses; And no man of himself is innocent in Thy sight. [Exod. 34, 7]  And so heavenly pity first works something in ourselves without the help of ourselves, that, our own free will following it up as well, the good which we now desire, it may do along with ourselves; yet the good coming by grace bestowed, in the Last Judgment, He so rewards in ourselves, as if it had proceeded only from ourselves.  For whereas the Goodness of God prevents us to make us innocent, Paul says, But by the grace of God I am what I am. [1 Cor. 15, 10]  And whereas our free will follows that grace, he adds, And His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain, but I laboured more abundantly than they all.  Who whereas he saw that he was nothing of himself, says, Yet not I, and yet forasmuch as he saw that he was something in union with grace, he added, but the grace of God with me.  For he would not have said, with me, if together with preventing grace he had not had free will following it up.  Therefore in order to shew that he was nothing without grace, he says, Yet not I, but that he might shew that along with grace he had worked by free will, he added, but the grace of God with me.  Thus ‘the innocent man shall be saved by the cleanness of his hands,’ in that he who is here prevented by the gift, that he may be made innocent, when he is brought to judgment, is rewarded of merit.  All which things, as was before said, Eliphaz though he delivered rightly, yet to whom he was delivering them he knew not; because one better than himself it was not his business to teach, but to hear.  All which particulars however agree in a figure with the promises of heretics, who when they find any of the faithful afflicted in the present life suppose them stricken for the sin of misbelief, and promise them if they will follow their doctrine the saving health of innocency by cleanness of good works.  But the mind of the faithful looks down upon them so much the deeper down, in proportion as it does not see them to possess the innocency which they promise.  Whence it is well said by Solomon, Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any winged fowl.  For the ‘winged fowl’ are the spirits of good men, which whilst in the hope of truth they soar up to the higher regions, shun the nets of bad men set for their deceiving.  It goes on;

Chap.  xxiii. 1, 2.  Then Job answered and said, Now also is my complaint bitter: and the hand of my stroke is heavier than my groaning.


[xxvi]                                 [ALLEGORICAL INTERPRETATION]


31.  In his own way blessed Job sets out with the plainer sort of words, but his declaration he closes by the deep following on of mystery.  For the pain of the afflicted man ought to have been healed by the consoling of his friends, but because their consoling broke out into the soothings of deceit, the pain of the stricken man was made harsher.  For whereas Eliphaz was not afraid to promise him better things on being converted, it was as if by a poisonous remedy the wound were increased.  Hence it is rightly said, Even to-day is my complaint bitter, and the hand of my stroke is heavier than my groaning, in this respect, viz. that the straining of unregulated consoling increased the stroke manifold, which it ought to have diminished; by which same words taken in a type of Holy Church, the pain of the faithful is likewise set forth, who groan the more, the more they see the wicked using the acts of flattery, who, according to the declaration of Paul, by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.


32.  Which words may also be rightly applied to the viewing with greater exactness the mind of the faithful, who can never be without bitterness even if they seem to prosper in this world.  Which persons when adversity too befalls, it redoubles that pain which it finds.  Whence it is rightly said, Now also is my complaint bitter, that it might be plainly shewn that even in prosperity the mind of the Elect should not be without bitterness.  And it is well said, And the hand of my stroke is heavier than my groaning.  For ‘the hand of a stroke,’ is the force of the striking.  For their first striking the Elect see to be, that from the vision of their Creator they are parted, that the brightness of the interior illumining they never enjoy, but groan as being banished in the exile of the present life as in a place of darkness.  Thus they always have their groaning in this ‘hand of their stroke;’ but when over and above adversities also befall them in this life, ‘the hand of their stroke is heavier than their groaning.’  For there was groaning for the stroke even when the adversities of the present life were away.  But the bitterness of the original stroke is increased over and above by the trial of adversity.  Therefore he says, And the hand of my stroke is heavier than my groaning?  In that any just man adversity did not smite whilst happy in this life, but came to redouble in him the pain of the wound.  Yet it happens by the extraordinary governance of Almighty God, that when in this life the spirit of the righteous man travails most in adversities, he thirsts the more ardently after the beholding of his Maker’s face.  Hence it is fitly subjoined here,

Ver. 8.  O that one would grant me that I might know and find Him, that I might come even to His seat!




33.  An elect person if he did not know God, assuredly would not love Him.  But it is one thing to ‘know’ by faith, and another to know by His own Form, one thing to find by trustfulness, another to find Him by contemplation.  In consequence whereof it is brought to pass that Him Whom they know by faith, all of the Elect long to see by His own Form as well.  With the love of Whom they burn and glow because the honey of His sweetness they already taste of in the mere certainty of their faith.  Which that person in the country of the Gerasenes cured of the devils well represents, who wishes to depart with Jesus; but by the Master of health it is, told him, Return to thine own house, and shew what great things God hath done unto thee. [Luke 8, 39]  For on him that loves delay is still imposed, that by the longing of love delayed the title to rewarding may be heightened.  And so to us Almighty God is made sweet in miracles, and yet in His own loftiness remains hidden from our eyes, that both by shewing something of Himself, He may by secret inspiration set us on fire in the love of Him, and yet by hiding the gloriousness of His Majesty may increase the force of that love of Him by the heat of longing desire.  For except the holy man sought to see This Being in His Majesty, surely he would not bring in the words, that I might come even to His seat?  For what is the ‘seat’ of God but those angelical Spirits, who as Scripture testifies are called ‘Thrones?’  He then that desires to ‘come to the seat of God,’ what else does he long for but to be among the Angelic spirits, that no failing moments of the periods of time he henceforth be liable to, but rise up to abiding glory in the contemplation of eternity.




34.  Which words nevertheless are likewise appropriate to the righteous whilst placed in this life.  For when they see any thing done against their wish and desire, they have recourse to the hidden judgments of God, that therein they may read that that is not irregularly ordered within, which seems to pass irregularly without.  For when they behold with the eyes of faith the Creator of all things, ruling over the Angelical Spirits, then they ‘come to His seat.’  And whereas they observe that He, Who rules the Angels in a wonderful manner, does not dispose of man in any way contrary to justice, then indeed the principles of cases they see to be as just as they are, whilst the cases themselves externally seem to be unjust.  And whereas they do this with humility, they often lay blame to themselves in their will, and their own wishes they sometimes judge in themselves, whilst they ponder that those things are better which the Creator appoints.  Hence it is well added in addition,

Ver. 4.  I will order my cause before Him, and fill my mouth with reproaches.




35.  To ‘order our cause before God’ is within the secret depth of our mind by the contemplating of faith to open the eyes of our view to the awful inquisition of His Majesty, to mark what man as a sinner deserves, of the now hidden and secret Judge to take thought how terrible He will hereafter appear.  In consequence of which it happens, that the soul is recalled to the knowledge of itself with greater exactness, and in proportion as it sees its secret Judge the greater object of alarm, is so much the more horribly wrung with fears for its actions.  It trembles with anxious alarm; its offences it prosecutes with lamentation; in repenting it charges home what it remembers itself to have been; whence now too after it had been said, I will order my cause before Him, it is rightly subjoined, And fill my mouth with reproaches.  For he who ‘orders his cause before God,’ does ‘fill his mouth with reproaches,’ in that while he beholds the exact scrutiny of the awful Judge directed against himself, he pursues himself with the charges of bitter repentance.  Now it often happens that whilst we neglect to take account of our faults, what blaming of them may follow in the Judgment we are left ignorant of: but whilst we pursue them by exercising repentance what the Judge in His Inquisition may say to us concerning them, we find out.  Whence it is further added with propriety,

Ver. 5.  That I may know the words that he will answer me, and understand what he will say unto me.




36.  For we then bewail our sins, when we begin to weigh them; but we then weigh them the more exactly, when more anxiously we bewail them, and by our lamentations it rises up [one Ms. ‘is known’] more perfectly in our hearts, what the severity of God threatens those with that commit sin, what will be those rebukings upon the children of perdition, what the terror, what the abhorrence of the unappeasable Majesty.  For so great things shall the Lord then being angry ‘say’ to the lost, as great as He permits them of justice to undergo.  Which same words of His visitation, the righteous, because now they anxiously fear them, escape free from.  But who in that inquisition might be found righteous, if God according to the Majesty of His Might, so sifted the life of man?  Therefore it is fitly subjoined,

Ver. 6.  I would not that He should contend with me with great power, nor oppress me with the weight of His mightiness.




37.  For the soul of one however righteous, if he be judged with strictness by Almighty God, is borne down by the weight of His mightiness.  In which same words this is likewise to be understood, that whereas the holy man shews the might of God, what else of Him does he desire, but His weakness?  And it is written, the weakness of God is stronger than men. [1 Cor. 1, 25]  Whence too he directly adds,

Ver. 7.  Let Him put forth equity against me, and my judgment shall come unto victory.




For who else saving the Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus, is denoted by the title of ‘equity?’  Concerning Whom it is written, Who of God is made unto us wisdom and righteousness. [I Cor. 1, 30]  And whereas this same righteousness came into this world against the ways of sinners, we get the better of our old enemy, by whom we were held captive.  So let him say, I would not that He should contend with me with great power, nor oppress me with the weight of His mightinessLet Him put forth equity against me, and my judgment shall come unto victory.  i.e. ‘for the rebuking of my ways, let Him send His Incarnate Son, and then the plotting foe, by the sentence of mine absolving, I as victor will turn out.’  For if the Only-begotten Son of God had so remained invisible in the strength of the Divine Nature, as not to have admitted aught derived from our weakness, when could weak men ever have found the access of grace to Him?  For the weight of His greatness, being considered, would rather have oppressed than aided him; but the Strong above all things came weak among all things, that whereas He agreed with us by assumed weakness, He might elevate us to His own abiding strength.  For in Its loftiness the Divine Nature could never have been apprehended by us, inasmuch as being too little, but He bowed Himself down to man through human nature, and we as it were mounted up on Him laid low; He rose, and we were lifted up.  Whence this too is added directly, whereby the Divine Being may be shewed invisible and incomprehensible.  Thus it goes on;

Ver. 8, 9.  If I go to the East, He appeareth not; if I go to the West, I shall not understand Him; if I go to the left hand, what shall I do?  I shall not comprehend Him; if I turn myself to the right hand I shall not see Him.




38.  For the Creator of all things is not in a part, inasmuch as He is every where.  And then He is found the less, when He, That is whole every where, is sought in a part.  For the Incomprehensible Spirit containeth all things within Itself, Which at the same time both while filling encompasseth, and while encompassing filleth, both in supporting overtops, and in overtopping supports; and it is well that after it had been said, if I go to the East, He appeareth not; if I go to the West, I shall not understand Him; if I go to the left hand, what shall I do?  I shall not comprehend Him; if I turn myself to the right hand I shall not see Him; he thereupon added, But He knoweth the way that I take.  As if he said in plain words, ‘I am unable to see Him, Who seeth me, and Him that beholdeth me most minutely, I have no power to behold:’ that is to say, that he might shew that He is so much the more heedfully to be feared, in proportion as He is not discernible.  For He Who so beholds us that He may not be by us beheld, is so much the more to be dreaded in proportion as in seeing all things He is not seen in the least degree.  For when we believe that there is anyone hidden in ambush to assault us, we dread him the more that we do not at all see him; and when we do not at all discover his ambush where it is placed, we apprehend it even there where it does not exist.  And our Creator, Who is whole every where, and while discerning all things is not discerned, is the more to be dreaded in proportion as continuing invisible, what He may determine concerning our actions and at what time is not known.  Which words, too, may be understood in another sense also.  For we ‘go to the East,’ when we lift up our mind in thinking of His Majesty.  But ‘He appeareth not,’ seeing that such as He is in His own Nature, by mortal thought He cannot be seen to be.  If I go to the West, I shalt not understand Him; we ‘go to the west,’ when the eye of the heart that is lifted up in God, but made to recoil by the mere immensity of the light, we bring back to our own selves, and being spent with labour, we learn that the thing is very much above us which we were seeking; and viewing our own mortal condition find out that as yet we are creatures unfit to have the power to behold One that is Immortal.  If I go to the left hand what shall I do?  I shalt not comprehend Him.  To ‘go to the left hand’ is to yield one’s self to the enjoyments of our sins.  And it is surely plain, that he cannot ‘apprehend God,’ who still in the gratification of sin lies prostrate along the left side.  If I turn myself to the right side I shall not see Him.  He truly is ‘turned to the right hand,’ who is lifted up on the ground of virtuous attainments.  But he cannot see God, who is glad with selfish joy for his good deeds; because in that man the swelling of pride weighs down the eye of the heart.  Whence it is well said elsewhere, Thou shalt not decline to the right hand nor to the left. [Deut. 17, 11]  In all which particulars the soul very often searches out itself, nor yet is able perfectly to find out itself.  Whence it is fitly added here,

But He Himself knoweth the way that I take.


[xxxii]                                    [LITERAL INTERPRETATION]


39.  As if he said in plain terms, ‘I for mine own part both search myself strictly, and am not able to know myself thoroughly; yet He, Whom I have not power to see, seeth most minutely all the things that I do.’  It goes on; And He shall try me like gold which passeth through the fire.


Gold in the furnace is advanced to the brightness of its nature, whilst it loses the dross.  And so like ‘gold that passeth through the fire’ the souls of the righteous are tried, which by the burning of tribulation through and through, both have their defects removed, and their good points increased.  Nor was it of pride that the holy man likened himself as set in tribulation to gold, in that he who, by the voice of God, was pronounced righteous before the stroke, was not for this reason permitted to be tried that bad qualities might be cleared off, but that excellences might be heightened; but gold is purified by fire; less then than he was did he think of his own self, in that, being delivered over to suffer tribulation, he believed that he was being purified, whereas he had not any thing in him to be purified.


40.  Now it is necessary for us to know, that though the mind of the righteous entertains humble thoughts touching itself, yet the several things that they do, they see to be as right as they are, while they never presume on the rightness of them.  Whence it is yet further added; My foot hath held his steps, his way have I kept and not declined.  Neither have gone back from the commandment of his lips, and I have hid the words of his mouth in my bosom.  But in the midst of all this let us see whether he thinks himself to be any thing.  It follows; But He is Himself alone.  By the subjoining of which sentence, he shews that amidst all the good things which he had done he believed himself to be nothing.  But taking up these same words from the beginning, let us run over them as well as we are able.

Ver. 11.  My foot hath held His steps.




41.  For as a kind of footsteps of God are His doings which we see, by which doings both the good and bad man is governed, by which the righteous and unrighteous are arranged in their classes, whereto both everyone that is subject is led on day by day to better things, and he that is in rebellion against them is borne with going headlong into worse.  Concerning which same footsteps the Prophet said, Thy goings have been seen, O God. [Ps. 68, 24]  And so we, when we behold the efficacy of His long-suffering and pitifulness, and upon so beholding strive to imitate the same, what else do we but follow the ‘footsteps of His goings,’ in that we imitate some outskirts of His method of proceeding.  Thus these footsteps of His Father ‘Truth’ gave it in charge to imitate when He said, Pray for them which persecute you and falsely accuse you; that ye may be the children of your Father Which is in heaven.  For He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good. [Matt. 5, 44. 45.]  It may be too that blessed Job who had already said with assured faith, I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that I shall arise at the latter day from the earth [Job 19, 25]; so dwelt on the future working of Wisdom Incarnate to be, in like manner as we behold by faith the works of that Wisdom now past, how that the Mediator between God and man should be kind to give, humble to bear, patient to afford an example.  Whose life while blessed Job, filled with the Spirit from above, regarded with heedful intentness, foreseeing the future lowliness of His mild character, he refers as it were to a pattern set before him, so that whatever he did in this life he might bind fast to His footsteps in imitating, that so he who was incapable of seeing the high things of His secret ordering, as it were looking on the ground, might keep His footsteps for imitation.  Of which same ‘footsteps’ of Him it is said by Peter, Because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His footsteps. [1 Pet. 2, 21]  Concerning whom it is yet further added;

Ver. 11.  His way have I kept, and not declined.




42.  For he ‘keeps the way and does not decline,’ who practises the thing whereon his mind is bent.  Since to ‘keep’ in the bent is ‘not to decline’ in the practice.  For this is the anxiety of the righteous, that day by day they should try their actions by the ways of truth, and proposing these as a rule to themselves, they should not decline from the track of their right course.  Thus day by day they strive to get above themselves, and in proportion as they are lifted up upon the summit of virtues, they judge with heedful censure, whatever there is of themselves left remaining below themselves.  And they are in haste to draw the whole of themselves there, where they find that they have been brought in part.  It goes on;

Ver. 12.  Neither have I gone back from the commandments of His lips.




43.  As servants that serve well are ever intent upon their masters’ countenances, that the things they may bid they may hear readily, and strive to fulfil; so the minds of the righteous in their bent are upon Almighty God, and in His Scripture they as it were fix their eyes on His face, that whereas God delivers therein all that He wills, they may not be at variance with His will, in proportion as they learn that will in His revelation.  Whence it happens, that His words do not pass superfluously through their ears, but that these words they fix in their hearts.  Hence it is here added;

I have hid the words of His mouth in my breast.




44.  For we ‘hide the words of His mouth in the bosom of our heart,’ when we hear His commandments not in a passing way, but to fulfil them in practice.  Hence it is that of the Virgin Mother herself it is written, But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.  Which same words even when they come forth to the practising lie hidden in the recesses of the heart, if through that which is done without, the mind of the doer be not lifted up within.  For when the word conceived is carried on to the deed, if human praise is aimed at herein, the word of God assuredly is not ‘hidden in the bosom of the mind.’  But I would know, O blessed man, wherefore thou examinest thyself with so much earnestness, wherefore thou takest thyself to task with so much anxiety?  It goes on,

Ver. 13.  But He is Himself alone, and no man can turn away His thought.




45.  Are there not angels and men, the heavens and the earth, the air and the waters of the ocean, all the winged creatures, quadrupeds, and creeping things?  And surely it is written, Which God created that they should be. [Gen.2, 3]  Whereas then there is such a multitude of things in the circle of nature, wherefore is it now said by the voice of the blessed man, He is Himself alone?  Why, it is one thing to be, and another thing to BE primarily, one thing to be subjectly to change, and another thing to BE independently of change.  For these are all of them in being, but they are not maintained in being in themselves, and except they be maintained by the hand of a governing agent, they cannot ever be.  For all things subsist in Him by Whom they were created, nor do the things that live owe their life to themselves, nor are those that are moved, but do not live, by their own caprice brought to motion.  But He moveth all things, Who quickens some with life, whilst some that are not so quickened He preserves, disposing them in a wonderful way for last and lowest being.  For all things were made out of nothing, and their being would again go on into nothing, except the Author of all things held it by the hand of governance.  All the things then that have been created, by themselves can neither subsist nor be moved, but they only so far subsist, as they have obtained that they should be, are only so far moved, as they are influenced by a secret impulse.  For see the sinner is ordained to be scourged by human accidents; the earth is parched in his toilings, the sea tossed in the shipwreck of him, the air on fire in his sweating, the heavens are darkened in floods upon him, his fellow creatures burn with fire in oppressions of him, and the angelical powers are made active in his troubling.  Are all these things which we have named being inanimate, or which we have named endued with life, put into activity by their own instincts, or rather by impulses from God?  Whatever therefore it be that is arrayed against us outwardly, in that thing That Being is to be regarded Who ordains it inwardly.  In every case then He is to be regarded as alone, Who IS primarily, Who also saith to Moses, I AM THAT I AM, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, He that IS hath sent me unto you. [Ex. 3, 14]  And so, when we are scourged by the things that we see, we ought anxiously to fear Him Whom we do not see.  And so let the holy man look down upon all that alarms him without, all that in respect of its being would go on to nothing except it were ruled, and with the eye of the mind, all else being kept back, let him see Him only in comparison with Whose Being for ourselves to be is not to be, and let him say, He only is Himself alone.


46.  Concerning Whose unchangeableness it is directly after added with propriety, No man can turn away His thought, for as He is unchangeable in Nature, so He is unchangeable in Will.  For ‘none turneth away His thought,’ in that no man has power to resist His secret judgments.  Since though there have been persons who might seem to ‘have turned away His thought,’ yet His interior thought was this, that they should by praying have power to avert His sentence, and that they should obtain from Him what to effect with Him.  So let him say, and no man turneth away His thought, in that His judgments once fixed can never be altered.  Whence it is written, He hath made a decree which shall not pass. [Ps. 148, 6]  And again, Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. [Mark 13, 31]  And again, For My thoughts are not as your thoughts, neither are your ways as My ways. [Is. 55, 8]  And so whenever outwardly the sentence appears to be altered, inwardly the counsel is not altered, in that in relation to each particular thing that is unalterably established within, whatever is done alterably without.  It goes on;

And what His soul desireth, even that He doeth.




47.  Whereas God is exterior to all bodies, interior to all minds, that identical power of His, whereby He penetrates all things, and regulates all things, is called His ‘soul.’  Whose will not even those things oppose, which appear to be done contrary to His will, seeing that even what He does not order, to this end He sometimes suffers to be done, that so through this thing that which He does order may be the more surely done.  For the will of the Apostate Angel is bad, yet by God it is wonderfully ordered, so that even his very artifices as well should promote the welfare of the good, whom they purify whilst they try.  So then ‘whatever His soul desireth, that He doeth,’ that from the same source as well He might fulfil His will, whence there seemed to be a resisting of His will.  Therefore let the holy man be filled with alarm, and contemplating the weight of that great Majesty, let him find himself out to be weak.


48.  But it is well to put the question amidst these words, and to say, ‘O blessed Job, wherefore in the midst of such scourges dost thou dread still further afflictions?’  Thou art already encompassed with sorrows, by innumerable calamities thou art already straitly beset.  Misfortune is to be apprehended, which is not yet entered upon.  Thou being in the midst of such great sorrow, what dost thou apprehend?  But mark how the holy man satisfying our questioning adds;

Ver. 14.  For when He hath accomplished His will in me, there are many other such things with Him.




49.  As if he said in plain words, ‘Already I weigh well what I am suffering, but I still dread things that I may undergo.’  For He accomplishes His will in me, in that He afflicts one with many strokes, but ‘there are many like things with Him,’ in that if He is minded to strike, He sees yet further where the stroke may be added to.  Hence we may collect how fearful he was before the scourge, who even after being scourged still dreads lest he should be farther stricken.  For seeing the incomprehensible force both of power and penetration that resides in Him, the righteous man would not even on the ground of the scourge upon him be secure.  And hence fearing still more He adds;

Ver. 15.  Therefore am I troubled at His presence; when I consider I am afraid of Him.




50.  He is rightly ‘troubled at the presence of the Lord,’ who sets before the view of his eyes the terribleness of His Majesty, and is throughly shaken by dread of His Righteousness, whilst he sees that he is not fit to render his accounts if he be judged with severity.  Now it is rightly said, When I consider I am afraid of Him, because the force of the Divine visitation when a man considers little, He dreads but little, and in this life is as it were secure, in proportion as he is a stranger to the consideration of the interior strictness.  For the righteous are ever turning back into the secret chamber of the heart, contemplating the power of the hidden strictness, presenting themselves to the judgment of the interior Majesty, that they may one day be the more secure, in proportion as they would not make themselves secure here so long as they lived.  For when the minds of evildoers refuse to consider what they have to fear, sooner or later by rejoicing they are brought to that, which they do not by fearing in any way escape.  But see in regard to blessed Job, we know that he was devoted to frequent sacrifices to God, that he was given up to acts of hospitality, to the necessities of the poor, that he was humble towards his own dependants even, kind towards those that opposed him, and yet he received such numberless scourges, nor now became secure amidst them, but still entertained fear, still thinking of the power of the Divine strictness he is made to tremble.  What then shall we miserable creatures say?  what shall we sinners say, if he so fears, who so acted?  But let him make known whether the weight of this great fear he has from himself.  It goes on;

Ver. 16.  For God maketh my heart soft, and the Almighty troubleth me.




51.  By divine gift the heart of the righteous man is said to be made soft, in that it is penetrated with the fear of the judgment from Above.  For that it is soft, which is capable of being penetrated, but that is hard, which cannot be penetrated.  Whence it is said by Solomon, Happy is the man that feareth always, but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief. [Prov. 28, 14]  And so the merit of his dread he ascribes not to himself but to his Creator, who says, For God maketh my heart soft, and the Almighty troubleth me.  Now the hearts of good men are not secure but troubled, in that whilst they think of the heavy weight of the future reckoning, they do not seek to enjoy rest here, and they interrupt their security by the thought of the interior severity.  Which persons nevertheless, in the midst of the very chastenings of fear, often recall their mind to the gifts, and that by comforting they may cheer themselves, amidst this which they fear, they bring back the eye to the gifts which they have received, that hope may buoy up him whom fear bears down.  Hence too it follows;

Ver. 17.  Because I have not perished on account of the overhanging darkness; neither hath the darkness covered my face.




52.  For he, being set under the scourge, dies off from the health of the body ‘on account of the overhanging darkness,’ who is for this reason smitten for the past that he may be shielded from future punishments.  For scourges inflicted on the good either wipe out evil things done, or parry off future ones which might have been done.  But blessed Job, forasmuch as when set under the rod he was neither purified from foregoing sins nor shielded from those that threatened, but only had his goodness increased under the stroke, says with confidence, Because I have not perished on account of the overhanging darkness, neither hath the darkness covered my face.  For he that always had before his eyes the weight of divine dread, the face of his heart the darkness of sin never covered.  And he whom no punishments followed, did not lose the health of the body ‘on account of the overhanging darkness.’


53.  And it is to be noted, that in his own person telling what had gone before, he never says ‘neither hath darkness touched my face,’ but ‘neither hath darkness covered my face;’ for often even the hearts of the righteous do thoughts arising defile, and affect them with the gratifications of things earthly, but whereas they are speedily put away by the hand of holy discretion, it is quickly brought to pass that darkness should not cover the face of the heart, which was already touching it by unlawful enjoyment; for often in the very sacrifice of prayer urgent thoughts press themselves on us, that they should have force to carry off or pollute what we are sacrificing in ourselves to God with weeping eyes.  Whence when Abraham at sunset was offering up the sacrifice, he was subject to birds setting on, which he diligently drove away, that they might not carry off the sacrifice which had been offered.  So let us, when we offer to God a holocaust upon the altar of our hearts, keep it from unclean birds, that the evil spirits and bad thoughts may not seize upon that which our mind hopes that it is offering up to God to a good end.  It goes on;

C. xxiv. 1.  Times are not hidden from the Almighty; they that know Him, know not His days.




54.  What are called ‘the days’ of God, save His very Eternity itself?  which is sometimes described by the announcement of ‘one day,’ as where it is written, For one day in Thy courts is better than a thousand. [Ps. 84, 10]  But sometimes on account of its length it is represented by the expression of a number of days, whereof it is written, Thy years are throughout all generations. [Ps. 102, 24]  We then are wrapped up within the divisions of time, through this that we are created beings.  But God, Who is the Creator of all things, by His Eternity encompasses our times.  And so he says, Times are not hidden from the Almighty; they that know Him, know not His days; seeing that He, indeed, sees all of ours to the comprehending thereof, but all that is His we are in no degree able to comprehend.  But whereas the nature of God is simple, it is very much to be wondered at why he should say, They that know Him, know not His days.  For it is not that He Himself is one thing and His ‘days’ another; since God is that thing which He hath.  For He hath eternity, yet He is Himself Eternity.  He hath Light, yet He is Himself His own Light.  He hath brightness, yet He is Himself His own Brightness.  And so in Him it is not one thing to be, and another thing to have.  What does it mean then to say, They that know Him, know not His days, except that even they that know Him, do not know Him as yet?  For even they who already hold Him by faith, as yet know Him not by appearance.  And whereas He, Whom we truly believe, is Himself eternity to Himself, yet in what way there is that eternity of Him we know not.  For in the thing that we hear touching the power of the Divine Nature, we are sometimes used to imagine such things as we know by experience.  Thus every single thing that begins and ends, is bounded by the beginning and ending.  And if it be by any little delay stayed from being ended, it is called long; on which same length whilst a man carries back the eyes of his mind in recollection, and stretches them out before in anticipation, as it were over a space of time he expands them in imagination.  And when he hears the eternity of God mentioned in human sort, to his mind on the stretch he sets forth long spaces of life, in which same he may ever measure both what has gone away in the rear as a thing to be retained in the memory, and what remains before as a thing to be looked forward to in the intention.


55.  But as often as in the case of eternity we have such thoughts, we do not as yet know eternity.  For that which is neither commenced by a beginning nor finished by an ending, is there, where neither is there looked forward to that which shall come, nor does there pass by that which may be recalled to mind, but that alone is, which is everlasting BEING.  Which though we and the Angels with a beginning begin to see to be, yet we see it to be without beginning, where it is to be always without end, in such a way, that the mind never extends itself to things following in a sequence, as if things that are were multiplied and made long.  For though by the Spirit of Prophecy it is said, The Lord shall reign for ever and [LXX so.] for worlds and further [Exod. 15, 18]; after the manner of Holy Writ, the Spirit spoke in man’s way to men, so as to speak of ‘further’ there, where looking forward could not enter.  For eternity has no ‘further,’ which has it always to be, wherein no part of its length goes by that another part should take its place, but the whole at once is Being, that nothing should seem to be wanting to it, which it may not see, in which eternity every thing that is the mind sees to be at once not slow and long.  But in speaking such things of the days of eternity we are trying to see something more than we do see.  And so let it be rightly said, They that know Him know not His days; in that though we already know God by faith, yet how His Eternity is at once without a past before all ages, without a future after all ages, long without delay, and everlasting without looking forward, we do not see.  Thus blessed Job, whilst bearing a type of Holy Church, (because he restrains himself under a great bridling of knowledge, so as not to be wiser than he ought to be,) and testifying that the days of God can never be understood, directly brings back the view of the mind to the pride of Heretics who aim to be deeply enlightened, and what they are incapable of taking in at all, they boast that they know in perfect measure, Thus it goes on;

Ver. 2.  Others remove the landmarks; they violently take away flocks, and feed them.


[xliv]                                [ALLEGORICAL INTERPRETATION]


56.  Whom does he denote by the title of ‘others,’ saving Heretics, who to the bosom of Holy Church are strangers?  For they the same persons remove landmarks, in that the constitutions of the Fathers they by walking awry do overstep.  Concerning which same constitutions it is written, Remove not the ancient landmark which thy fathers have set. [Prov. 22, 28]  And these violently take away the flocks, and feed them, in that all the inexperienced, by wicked persuasions, they draw to themselves, and with baneful lessons nourish them for slaughtering.  For that the ignorant multitudes are represented by the designation of ‘flocks,’ the words of the Spouse bear witness, Who addresses His Espoused, in the words, Except thou know thyself, O beautiful amongst women, depart forth, and go after the footsteps of the flocks; i.e. ‘excepting that by living well, thou knowest thine honour whereby thou art created after the likeness of God, depart forth from the sight of the contemplation of Me, and follow the life [al. ‘the way’] of the uninstructed multitudes.  It goes on;

Ver. 3.  They drive away the ass of the fatherless, they take the widow’s ox for a pledge.




57.  Whom do we understand by the fatherless in this place, but the Elect of God, who are set in tenderness of mind, are nourished with the efficacious grace of faith, and do not yet see the face of their Father, Who has already died in their behalf.  And there are very many in the Church, who see certain persons aiming at the things of heaven, having all earthly things in contempt, and though they themselves are toiling with all their strength in this world’s labours, yet to those whom they see panting after heavenly things, from the goods which they possess in this world, they bring this life’s aid and support.  And though they cannot themselves follow a spiritual life, yet to those reaching forth to the things above they gladly yield means of support.  For an ass is used to bear the burthens of men.  He then is as it were a kind of ass of the Elect, who whilst yielding himself to earthly courses, carries loads for the uses of men.  And often when Heretics turn aside any such person from the bosom of Holy Church, they are as it were driving off the ass of the fatherless, in that when they force him into their own misbelief, they drive him away from tendance on the good.


58.  But who is to be understood by the ‘widow’ saving Holy Church, who is bereft in the mean seas out of the sight of her slain Husband?  Now ‘the ox’ of this ‘widow’ is every individual preacher.  And it often chances that Heretics by their perverted tenets draw over even those very persons that appeared to be preachers.  And so they ‘take the widow’s ox,’ when they carry off from Holy Church even a person preaching.  And it is rightly added here for a pledge.  For when a pledge is taken away, one thing indeed is held in our hands, but another yet further is sought for.  And very often Heretics for this reason try to carry off those that preach, that they may draw to them their followers likewise.  Thus ‘the widow’s ox is taken away for a pledge,’ when the same person that practised preaching is for this reason carried off, that others may follow after him.  By whose downfall it is very often brought about, that they also go forth from the bosom of Holy Church, who, imbued with godly habits in her, seemed to be meek and humble.  Hence it is added;

Ver. 4.  They have turned the needy out of the way; and have oppressed together the meek of the earth.




59.  For by the term of ‘poverty,’ humility is very often denoted, and very often they that appear gentle and humble, if they have not learnt to maintain discretion, fall by the examples of other men.  But there are some Heretics, who eschew to mix themselves with the multitudes, and seek the retirement of a life of greater privacy, and these very often with the bane of their persuasion poison those that they meet with the more, in proportion as by the claims of their life they the more seem deserving of respect.  Concerning whom it is subjoined;

Ver. 5.  Others as wild asses in the desert go forth to their work.




60.  For the ‘onager’ is a wild ass; and in this place Heretics are rightly likened to ‘wild asses,’ in that being let loose in their pleasures, they are strange to the fetters of faith and reason.  Hence it is written; A wild ass used to the wilderness that snuffeth up the wind of his love at his pleasure.  For he is a wild ass used to the wilderness, who whilst he does not cultivate the ground of his heart with excellence of discipline, there dwells, where there is no fruit.  Since he ‘snuffeth up the wind of his love at his pleasure,’ in that the things that from the desire of knowledge he conceives in his mind, are efficacious to puff up but not to edify.  Against whom it is said, Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. [1 Cor. 8, 1]  Hence here too the words are suitably brought in; they go forth to their work.  For it is not the work of God, but their own work that they do, whereas they follow not right doctrines, but their own desires.  For it is written, He that walketh in a perfect way, he served me. [Ps. 101, 6]  So he that does not walk in a perfect way, serves himself more than the Lord.  It goes on;

Watching for a prey, they provide bread for their children.




61.  They ‘watch for a prey,’ who are always trying to seize the words of the righteous according to their own perception, that by them they may provide the bread of error for evil minded children.  Of which some bread it is said in Solomon, in the words of the woman that bears the figure of heretical wickedness, Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant. [Prov. 9, 17]  It goes on ;

Ver. 6.  They reap a field not their own, and the vineyard of him whom they have oppressed by violence they gather.




62.  By the name of a ‘field’ may be denoted the wide compass of Holy Scripture, and Heretics ‘reap’ it not being their own, in that they carry away from it sentences which are infinitely removed from their own notions; which same is furthermore described by the title of a ‘vineyard,’ in that through the sentences of truth it puts forth the clusters of the virtues; the owner of which vineyard, i.e. the originator of Holy Scripture, they as it were ‘oppress with violence,’ because they endeavour violently to twist and turn a sense of His upon [L. only reads ‘in the words’] the words of Holy Writ; as He saith, But thou hast made Me to serve with thy sins, thou hast given Me labour in thine iniquity. [Is. 43, 24]  And they ‘reap the vintage of that vineyard,’ in that they heap together therefrom clusters of sentences after the bent of their own understanding.  It may be that by the title of a ‘field’ or of a ‘vineyard’ the Church Universal is set forth, which corrupt preachers ‘reap,’ and by oppressing in His members the Author of it, ‘gather the vintage,’ in that in bearing down upon the grace of our Creator, whilst they seize off therefrom persons who seemed to be righteous, what else is this but that they carry off ‘ears’ or ‘clusters’ of souls?  Of whom it is yet further added;

Ver. 7.  They send men away naked, taking away their garments, who have no covering in the cold.




63.  As garments cover the body, so do good works the soul.  Whence it is said to one, Blessed is he that watcheth and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. [Rev. 16, 15]  So Heretics, when in the minds of any they destroy good works, manifestly take away the garments of clothing; and it is well said, who have no covering in the cold.  For ‘covering’ has relation to righteousness, ‘cold’ to sin.  And there are some that in some points commit sin, but in some points follow good works.  He then that does wrong by one set of actions, and practises righteousness by another, what is this man but clothed in the cold?  He is cold, and he is covered, in that in one part of practice he is made warm for righteousness, in another he is made cold for sin.  But whenever Heretics take away their good works from such persons, they bring it to pass that they have not in the cold wherewith to clothe themselves.  Therefore it is rightly said, They send men away naked, taking away their garments, who have no covering in the cold; that is, for the cold of sin by itself to kill those whom the warmth of a different practice in some degree covered.  But it may be, that by the cold there is denoted desire, by the garment practice.  And there are great numbers who are still agitated with wrong desires, but striving with themselves in the spirit, they fight against themselves by right works, and with good actions cover that which they perceive through temptation to spring against them of the wrong sort.  And so these from the cause that they desire what is evil are cold, and by the act by which they practise what is good, they are clothed.  But when Heretics by wrong statements do away with the works of a right faith, what else do they bring to pass but that those that still feel the cold of carnal desires should die without the clothing of good works?  It proceeds;

Ver. 8.  They are wet with the showers of the mountains, and embrace the stones for want of a garment.




64.  ‘The showers of the mountains’ are the words of the learned.  Of which same ‘mountains’ it is delivered by the voice of Holy Church; I lifted up mine eyes unto the hills: and so those persons, ‘the showers of the mountains wet,’ in that the streams of the holy fathers fill them to the full.  But as we have already said before, ‘the garment’ we take for the covering of good practice, with which a man is covered, that in the eyes of Almighty God the filthiness of his depravity should be clothed over.  Whence it is written, Blessed are they whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. [Ps. 32, 1]  Whom do we understand by the title of ‘the stones’ but the strong ones within the bounds of Holy Church, to whom it is declared by the first shepherd; Ye also as lively stones are built up a spiritual house. [1 Pet. 2, 5]  And so those who on the grounds of their own practice have no reliance, fly to the protection of the holy Martyrs, at their sacred bodies set themselves to tears, and entreat, at their intercessions, to obtain pardon [a]. What then do these do by such self-abasement, but because they lack the covering of good practice ‘embrace the stones?’  It goes on;

Ver. 9.  They have done violence in preying on the fatherless, and have spoiled the common folk of the poor [vulgus pauperum].




65.  When Heretics lack the good fortune of the present life, to weak minds they recommend by words of soft persuasion things that are wrong; but if the good fortune of the present time at all smiles upon them, they do not cease even by violence to draw those they are able.  So that by the title of ‘fatherless’ they are denoted who are still delicate, being set within the pale of Holy Church, whose life their merciful Father by dying preserved, who are already brought forward to a good purpose of mind, but are not yet confirmed with any efficacy in good deeds.  The Heretics, then, ‘do violence in preying on the fatherless,’ in that upon the weak minds of the faithful they make assault with violence in words and deeds.  But ‘the common folk of the poor’ are the uninstructed multitude, which, if it had the riches of true knowledge, would never part with the covering of its faith.  For genuine teachers are like a kind of senators within the bounds of Holy Church, who, while they multiply knowledge in the heart, abound in the true riches in themselves.  But Heretics ‘spoil the common sort of the poor,’ in that whilst the learned they cannot, all the unlearned by their pestilent preaching they strip naked of the covering of the faith.  It goes on;

Ver. 10.  From the naked, and those going without clothing and a hungered, they have taken away the ears of corn.




66.  What he calls naked he repeats in the words without clothing, but it is one thing to be naked and another thing to go naked.  Thus every person that does neither what is good nor what is bad is naked and idle; but he that does what is evil ‘goes naked,’ in that without the covering of good practice he is going by the road of wickedness.  But there are some who, as knowing the evil of their wickedness, are in haste to be filled with the bread of righteousness, and hunger to receive the sayings of Holy Scripture; and these, as often as they turn over in thought the sentences of the Fathers for the improvement of the mind, as it were from a good crop they carry ears of corn.  And so ‘from the naked and those going without clothing and a hungered, Heretics take away ears of corn;’ in that whether any persons be idle and never exercise themselves in any thing good, or whether they are going by the way of shamelessness without the covering of good practice, even if they at any time have now the desire to return to repentance, and long for the food of the word, from those same being a hungered they take away the ears of corn, because in the minds of those persons by mischievous persuasions they destroy the sentences of the Fathers.  Nor do we improperly say that the ears of corn signify the sentences of the Fathers, in that often whilst they are delivered in forms of figurative diction, we remove the covering of the letter from them like the chaff of corn, that we may be regaled with the marrow of the Spirit.  It goes on;

Ver. 11.  They rest at mid-day amid the heaps of those that thirst with the winepresses being trodden.




67.  All those that persecute Holy Church, what else do they but ‘tread the winepress?’  Which is allowed to be by the Divine appointment, that the clusters of souls may flow out into spiritual wine, and being divested of the corruptible flesh run into the heavenly realms as into a receptacle.  For whilst the unrighteous bear down the righteous, they as it were put clusters of the grape beneath their feet.  And the clusters being squeezed run over for the fulness of the heavenly feast, which were before as if hanging in the freedom of this air.  Thus David the Prophet, regarding the chastening of Holy Church [b], writes the Psalm ‘for the winepresses.’  Now all that bear hard upon the life of the faithful, tread and thirst, in that by doing things that are cruel they are rendered the more savage; being blinded by just deserts of their ungodliness, they go about to do things more grievous the more they have already done grievous things.  But Heretics, when they have not themselves the power of persecuting, stir up the men of this world that have power, and incline their minds for the exercising persecution, and inflame them with what persuasions they are able.  And when they see these pursuing cruel measures against the lives of the Catholics, they as it were rest in the very fervour of the sun.  Therefore it is well said now, They rest at mid-day amidst the heaps of those that thirst with the winepresses being trodden, in that they join the multitude of those whom they see already employed in hard measures and still thirsting after harder ones.  And whilst the fervour of these satisfies their desires, they rest in the deeds of such as in the mid-day.  It goes on ;

Ver. 12.  They have caused men to groan out of the cities.




68.  Whereas cities (civitates) are so called from the people living together, (conviventes,) by the designation of ‘cities’ the churches of the true faith are not unfitly represented, which being settled in the different parts of the world constitute one Catholic Church, in which all the faithful thinking what is right concerning God live together in harmony.  For this very harmony of people living together the Lord even by the distinguishing of places set forth in the Gospel, when being about to satisfy the people with five loaves, He bade them lie down by fifties or hundreds in ranks, so that the crowd of the faithful might take its food at once separate in places, and united in ways.  For the rest of the jubilee is contained in a mystery of the number fifty, and fifty is carried twice to be brought to a hundred.  Therefore because there is first rest from bad practice, that the soul may afterwards rest more perfectly in the thoughts, some lie down by fifties and some by hundreds, since there are some that already enjoy the rest of practice from evil deeds, and there are some that already enjoy the rest of the soul from evil thoughts.  Wherefore since Heretics often, attaching themselves to the powerful evil-doers of this world, bear down upon the united life and harmony of the good, it is rightly said in this place, They have caused men to groan from the cities.  Whom blessed Job rightly describes as ‘men,’ in that Heretics rather go about to put an end to those, who with perfect steps run in the way of God not effeminately and loosely but manfully; who when they see the wound of misbelieve inflicted in the mind of the faithful little ones, always fall back to crying out and groaning.  And hence it is rightly said,

And the soul of the wounded crieth, and God suffereth him not to go unavenged.




69.  For the soul of the righteous is ‘wounded,’ when the faith of the weak is unsettled, unto whom this identical thing ‘to cry’ is to be now consumed for the downfall of another.  But God does not suffer him to go unavenged, in that though by just appointment he suffers an unjust thing to be done, yet He does not let that unjust thing go unavenged which He has justly permitted to be done, seeing that at once by the injustice of the sons of perdition He smites certain sins of the Elect, which He sees to be in them, and yet by Eternal Justice does not neglect to smite the injustice of those smiters.  It goes on,

Ver. 13.  They are rebellions against the light.


[lvii]                                     [LITERAL INTERPRETATION]


70.  Very often wicked people at once know the right things that they ought to follow, and yet neglect to follow what they know; and so they are ‘rebellious against the light,’ in that following their desires, they contemn the good that they know.  They then that do wrong not from ignorance, but pride, present the shield of their exaltation against the darts of truth, that they may not be stricken in heart to their good.  By which same pride of theirs it is brought to pass, that whereas they will not do the things that they know, neither do they now know the good they should do, but that their own blindness should utterly exclude them from the light of truth.  And hence it is fitly subjoined,

They know not the ways thereof, nor have returned by the paths thereof.




71.  For they that are first rebels knowing it, are afterwards blinded so as not to know; as it is said of certain, Because that when they knew God they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful. [Rom 1, 21]  Of whom it is added a little while afterwards, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient. [v. 28]  For because they would not glorify Him Whom they knew, being given over to a reprobate sense, they were left to this fate, that they should not any longer know how to estimate the evil things they did.  And it is well said, They know not the ways thereof, neither have returned by the paths thereof.  For a ‘path’ is narrower than a ‘way.’  Now those that care not to do the plainer good works, never attain to the understanding of the more refined.  But Almighty God waited that they might go ‘by the paths thereof.’  And would that they had been minded even to have ‘returned’ by them, that the paths of life which they would not keep by innocency they might at least keep by repentance.  Wherein of what great mercifulness are the bowels of God is shewn, in that those whom He sees departing from Him, He seeks that they may return.  Hence after the sins; of those doing wrong having been enumerated, He calls back the Synagogue by the voice of Prophecy, saying; Therefore at least from this time cry unto Me, My Father, Thou art the guide of my youth. [Jer. 3, 4]  It proceeds;

Ver. 14.  The murderer rising with the light killeth the poor and needy, and in the night is as a thief.


[lix]                                    [MYSTICAL INTERPRETATION]


72.  Whereas the murderer in the killing of his neighbours is wont to come upon them chiefly in the silence of the night, why is it that he is said in this place to ‘rise with the light’ in order to ‘kill the poor and needy,’ whilst ‘in the night’ he is described ‘to be as a thief?’  Now forasmuch as the letter in the bare words alone is not consistent with itself, we are called back for the investigating the hidden meanings of the Spirit.  In Holy Scripture the ‘morning’ is sometimes used to be put for the coming of the Lord’s Incarnation, sometimes for the coming of the henceforth dreadful and searching Judge, sometimes for the prosperity of the present life.  Thus the coming of the Lord’s Incarnation proved a ‘morning,’ as the Prophet saith, The morning cometh, and also the night; [Is. 21, 12] in that both the beginnings of the new light shone forth in the appearing of our Redeemer, and yet the shades of their misbelief were not cleared off from the hearts of the persecutors.  Again, by the ‘morning’ the coming of the Judge is denoted.  Whence it is said by the Psalmist, Early I will destroy all the wicked of the land. [Ps. 101, 8]  As also when personating the Elect, he says, In the morning will I stand in Thy presence, and will look up. [Ps. 5, 3]  Again, by the ‘morning’ this life’s prosperity is represented.  as where it is said by Solomon, Woe to thee, O land, when thy King is a child, and thy princes eat in the morning. [Ecc. 10, 16]  For whereas the morning is the first part of the day and the evening the last, we ought not ever to be regaled by this life’s prosperity which goes first, but by those things which at the end of the day, that is at the termination of the world, follow after.  Thus those ‘eat in the morning,’ who by this world’s successes are lifted up, and whilst they passionately interest themselves with present things, pay no heed to the things of the future.  For whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer. [1 John 3, 15]  So the ‘murderer rises up with the earliest dawn,’ in that every wicked man is set up in the glory of the present life, and bears down the life of those, who whilst they thirst after the glory to follow, as it were anxiously look out to be filled in the evening.  For the bad man in this world whilst seizing on the dignity of transitory power spreads himself out the more cruelly for the enacting of what is evil, in proportion as there is no man he loves in the bowels of charity.  For as often as in the thoughts of his heart he is maddened against the good, so often does he kill the life of the innocent.


73.  And if, God ordaining it, he suddenly lose the glory of the power he has gotten, he changes his place but not his disposition, for he directly falls away to that, which is subjoined, And in the night is as a thief.  For in the night of his tribulation and sunkenness, though he has no power to put forth the hand of cruelty, yet to those whom he sees to be empowered, he recommends counsels of wickedness, and goes about hither and thither, and prompts whatever things he is able toward the injuring of the good.  And he is rightly called ‘as a thief,’ because in all those very evil counsels of his he dreads lest he should be caught out.  He then that towards the poor and needy is a murderer in the morning, in the night like a thief is hidden out of sight, in that every bad man, who in this life’s prosperity by bearing down kills the life of the humble, being in adversity and abasement, by evil counsels does mischief in a concealed way, and what he is unable to accomplish by himself, that he puts in practice by attaching himself to the powerful ones of this world.  It goes on;

Ver. 15.  The eye also of the adulterer waiteth for the twilight, saying, No eye shall see me.




74.  There is nothing to hinder but that this may be understood even after the latter, seeing that he who desires to commit adultery, seeks out the dark.  But whereas it is a sentence uttered against Heretics, it is meet that this thing which is declared be understood in a mystical sense.  Thus Paul says, For we are not as many that adulterate [Vulg. adulterantes] the word of God. [2 Cor. 2, 17]  For the adulterer seeks not offspring, but pleasure in the act of carnal copulation.  And every bad man, and that is also a slave to vain-glory, is rightly said to ‘adulterate’ the word of God, because by the sacred word of Revelation he desires not to beget children to God, but to exhibit his own knowledge.  For he that is drawn to speak by lust of glory, bestows his pains rather on gratification than the production of children.  And it is rightly added there, No eye shall see me; because the adultery which is committed in the interior is very hard indeed that it should be penetrated by the eye of man.  Which same the froward soul commits with the more assurance, in proportion as it does not fear being seen by men, whom it may blush at.  Moreover it is to be known that as he that commits adultery joins to himself unlawfully the flesh of another man’s wife, so all heretics, while they carry off the faithful soul into their own error, are as it were bearing off another’s wife, in this way; because the soul which is spiritually wedded to God and joined to Him as if in a kind of bridechamber of love, when by wicked persuasions it is led on into corruptness of doctrine, is as it were like the wife of another defiled by the corrupter.  And it is well added;

And disguiseth his face.




75.  It is for this reason that the adulterer ‘disguises his face;’ that he may not be known.  Now every man who either in thinking or in acting lives badly, ‘disguises his face,’ because by corruptness in doctrine or in practice he is tending to this, that he should not be able to be recognised in the Judgment by Almighty God.  Hence He shall say to certain persons at the end, I never knew you; depart from Me, ye that work iniquity. [Matt. 7, 23]  And what is the ‘face’ of the human heart, save the likeness of God?  which same face the bad man ‘disguiseth,’ that he may not be able to be known, when his life discomposes either by bad deeds, or by the error of misbelief.  But every such person when he sees the righteous upheld by this world’s good fortune, never ventures to prompt what is wrong to them, but if any storm of adversity falls upon those persons, he directly breaks out into words of pestilent persuasion.  And hence it is added;

Ver. 16.  In the dark they dig through houses, which they had marked for themselves in the day time; they know not the light.




76.  For what is there here denoted by the title of ‘houses’ but consciences, wherein we dwell, when we do any thing, busying ourselves with it?  Whence it is said to one on being healed, Return to thine own house, and shew how great things God hath done unto thee [Luke 8, 39]; i.e. henceforth, secure from the evil habit of sin, turn back to thy conscience, and be thou roused into the voice of preaching.’  And so when in the present world the righteous are brightened by the day of prosperity, to those persons the leaders of false tenets are afraid to recommend what is wrong.  But they search out counsels, with all care they await the abasement of their prosperity, that in the darkness of adversity they may by their persuading dig through the minds of those, to whom whilst living prosperously they never presumed to speak wrong things, whom as soon as they see under adversity they rise up and maintain, that no otherwise saving in desert of their sins those suffer such things; because loving the glory of the present life alone, the stroke they take for condemnation.  So ‘in the dark they dig through houses,’ in that the minds of the good by their mere misfortune alone to corrupt is their endeavour.  Now it is well said, which they had marked in the day time, in that when they saw the righteous to have been made to shine with the light of prosperity, because they were prevented speaking, they were only at liberty for concocting malevolent designs against them.  But whether it be heretics or any bad persons, they rejoice when they see the righteous in a depressed condition, whereas when they see those break forth to the height of power for ruling, they are confounded, they are filled with fears, they are consumed with misery.  And hence it is added,

Ver. 17.  If the morning suddenly appear, it is to them even as the shadow of death.




77.  For the wicked look for the afflicting of the righteous, and long to see them in distress, and ‘in the dark they dig through houses,’ when the heart of the innocent but weak ones they corrupt in the season of their casting down by the worst mode of discourse.  But it commonly happens that when they see the good in a sunken state, on a sudden, by the secret appointment of God, any righteous one that seemed to be borne down is upheld by some share of the world’s power, and the prosperity of the present life smiles on him, whom the darkness of adversity before overlaid.  Which same prosperity of that man when the wicked behold, as it has been said, they are troubled.  For directly they turn back to their own hearts, they bring back before their minds’ eye whatever they remember themselves to have done amiss, they fear for every particular sinful habit to be avenged in them, and by the same means by which he that receives power is made to shine the bad man who dreads to be corrected is darkened in sorrow.  And so it is well said, If the morning suddenly appear, they think it is the shadow of death.  For ‘the morning’ is the mind of the righteous man, which quitting the darkness of its sin, now breaks out unto the light of eternity, as it is said of Holy Church likewise; Who is she that looketh forth as the morning? [Cant. 6, 10]  Therefore in the same measure that every righteous person shining with the light of righteousness is in the present life reared to a height with honours, in the same measure before the eyes of the wicked comes the ‘darkness of death,’ in that they who remember that they have done bad things are in fear of being corrected.  For they desire always to have a loose given them in their iniquities, to live free from correction, and from sin to have delight; whose fatal mirth is itself appropriately described in the words that are directly introduced,

And they walk so in darkness, as in the light.




78.  For with a froward mind they delight in deeds of wickedness, through their sin they are day by day being dragged to punishment, and are full of assurance.  Hence it is said by Solomon, And there are wicked men that are as secure as if they had the deeds of the righteous.  Concerning whom it is written again, Who rejoice to do evil, and delight in the most wicked doings.  Thus ‘they walk in darkness as in the light,’ in that they so delight in the night of sin as if the light of righteousness spread around them.  Or otherwise, whereas darkness not inappropriately represents the present life, wherein the consciences of other men are not seen, whilst our light is the eternal land, in which when we look at faces, our hearts within us we mutually see; and because the wicked so love the present life, and embrace these times of exile, as if they already reigned in their native country, it is rightly said, They walk in darkness as in the light, in that they are as full of gladness in the present state of blindness, as if they already enjoyed the light of the eternal country.  It goes on;

He is light above the face of the water.




79.  From the plural number he returns to the singular because most frequently one person begins what is bad, and numbers by imitating him follow after, but the fault is primarily his, who to the bad men following after furnished examples of wickedness; and hence the sentence frequently returns to him who was the leader in sin.  Now the surface of water is carried hither and thither by the breath of the air, and not being steadied with any fixedness is put in motion every where.  And so the mind of the wicked man is ‘lighter than the surface of water,’ in that every breath of temptation that touches it, draws it on without any retarding of resistance.  For if we imagine the unstable heart of any bad man, what do we discover but a surface of water set in the wind?  For that man one while the breath of anger drives on, now the breath of pride, now the breath of lust, now the breath of envy, now the breath of falsehood forces along.  And so he is ‘light above the surface of the water,’ whom every wind of error when it comes drives before it.  Whence too it is well said by the Psalmist, O my God, make them like a wheel, as the stubble before the wind.  For the wicked are ‘made like a wheel,’ in that being sent into the round of labour, whilst the things that are before they neglect, and those which ought to be given up they follow, in the hind parts they are lifted up, and in the fore parts they fall.  And they are likewise rightly compared to ‘stubble before the face of the wind,’ in that, when the breath of temptation comes upon them, having no principle of gravity to rest upon, they are only lifted up to be dashed to the ground, and they often account themselves of some merit in proportion as the blast of error bears them on high.  It goes on;

Let their portion be cursed in the earth; and let him not walk by the way of the vineyards.


[lxvi]                                     [LITERAL INTERPRETATION]


80.  Whoever in the present life does what is right and meets with misfortunes, is seen indeed to travail in adversity, but for the blessing of the everlasting inheritance he is finished complete; but whoever does what is bad and yet meets with good fortune, and does not even by the bountifulness of blessings withhold himself from wicked deeds, is seen indeed to prosper, but is tied fast by the bond of everlasting cursing.  Hence it is rightly said now, Let their portion be cursed in the earth, in that though he is blessed for a time, yet he is held fast in the bond of cursing.  Concerning whom too it is fitly added, He walketh not by the way of the vineyards.  For ‘the way of the vineyards,’ is the rightness of the Churches.  Wherein nothing hinders but that we understand either the heretic or every carnal man, because ‘the way of the vineyards,’ i.e. the rightness of the Churches, is parted with, when either the right faith or the right rule of just living is not held.  For he ‘walks by the way of the Vineyards,’ who taking to heart the preaching of the Holy Catholic Church, deviates neither from the right line of faith nor of good deeds.  Since to ‘walk in the way of the vineyards’ is to behold the Fathers of Holy Church as hanging clusters of the vine, whose words whilst he heeds in the toils of the journey, he is intoxicated with the love of Eternity.  It goes on;

Ver. 19.  Let him pass to excessive heat from the snow waters.




81.  Iniquity is on this account likened to cold, because the mind that sins it binds up with insensibility.  Hence it is written; As a fountain has made her waters cold, so she has made her wickedness cold.  Contrariwise charity is ‘heat,’ in this respect that it fires the soul it fills.  Of which ‘heat’ is written, Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.  And there are some who while they shun the cold or their wickednesses come to true faith or to the wearing of sanctity, but because they presume on their own faculties for perceiving more than should be, oftentimes in the faith which they receive they are minded to pry curiously into the things that they do not take in, so as to be held fast in God rather by reason than by faith.  But because the mind of man has not power to dive into the mysteries of God; all that they cannot get to the bottom of by reason, they care not to believe, and by overmuch investigation they fall into error.  So these, when they did not as yet believe, or were still busied for works of wickedness, were ‘snow waters;’ but when abandoning carnal deeds, in the faith to which they have been brought they aim to dive deeper than they have capacity for, they are hot beyond what they ought to be.  And so touching this wicked kind of person the sentence of one prophesying only and not wishing the thing is rightly delivered.  Let him pass in overmuch heat from the snow waters.  As if it were said in plain speech; ‘he that is not restrained in humility under the fetters of self-discipline, from his unbelief, or from the coldness of bad practice, through immoderate wisdom falls into error.  Whence too the great Preacher getting quit of this excessive heat of too refined wisdom from the hearts of his disciples saith well, Not to be wise of himself above that he ought to be wise; but to be wise unto sobriety. [Rom. 12, 3]  Lest perchance excessive heat might destroy those, of whom ‘snow waters,’ i.e. unbelief, or the fruits of deadened actions, held possession in the way to die.  And because it is very difficult for him who accounts himself wise to bring down his mind to humility and believe those that preach right things, and reject the view of his own wrong thought, it is rightly said;

Ver. 19.  And his sin even to hell.




82.  For sin is ‘brought even to hell,’ which before the end of the present life is not by chastening reformed unto repentance.  Of which same sin it is said by John, There is a sin unto death, I do not say that he shall pray for it.  For ‘a sin unto death’ is a sin even until death in this way, that the pardon of that sin is sought in vain which is not corrected here.  Concerning which same it is yet further subjoined;

Ver. 20.  Let mercy forget him.


Almighty God’s mercy is said to ‘forget him,’ who has forgotten Almighty God’s justice, in that whoever does not fear Him now as just, can never find him merciful afterward.  Which same sentence is not only held out against him, who abandons the preachings of true faith, but against him likewise, who being in the right faith lives a carnal life, in that the vengeance of eternal condemnation is not got quit of, whether sin lie in faith or practice.  For though the kind of condemnation be unequal, yet guilt which is not wiped away by repentance, there is no means supplied for the absolving thereof.  It goes on;

The worm is his sweetness.




83.  Whoever desires to make his way prosperous in this world, to surpass the rest of the world, to swell high with substance and honours, to this man no doubt worldly business is a delight, and repose a labour.  For he is very much tired if the business of the world be lacking wherewith to be tired.  Now because it belongs to the nature of worms to be put in motion unceasingly every moment, restlessness of thoughts is not unjustly denoted by the name of ‘worms.’  And so ‘the worm is the sweetness’ of the wicked soul, in that he is fed to his satisfaction from the same source whence he is unceasingly agitated in restlessness.  Moreover it may be that by the title of the ‘worm’ the flesh may be more plainly denoted.  Hence it is said further on, How much less man that is a worm? or the son of man which is a worm? [c.17, 14. and 25, 6]  And so of everyone that is full of lust and devoted to the pleasures of the flesh, how great is the blindness is shewn, when it is said, The worm, is his sweetness.  For what is our flesh but ‘rottenness’ and ‘the worm?’  And whosoever pants with carnal desires, what else does he but love ‘the worm?’  For what the substance of the flesh is, our graves bear witness.  What parent, what faithful friend can bear to touch the flesh of one however beloved fraught with worms?  And so when the flesh is lusted after, let it be considered what it is when lifeless, and it is understood what it is that is loved.  For nothing has so much efficacy to subdue the appetite of carnal desire, as for every one to consider, what that which he loves alive will be when dead.  For when we consider the corruption of the flesh, we see in a moment, that when the flesh is unlawfully lusted after, corruption is desired.  Therefore it is well said of the mind of the lustful man, the worm is his sweetness, in that he who is on fire with the desire of carnal corruption, pants after the stink of rottenness.


All this, as I remember that I promised in the beginning of this third part, I have run over in brief, that the things which follow after in this work, as they are involved in great obscurity, may with God’s aid be more fully gone into.