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What remains of the twenty-fourth chapter beginning from the middle of verse 20, together with chapters twenty-five and twenty-six entire, he sets forth chiefly in a moral sense.


[i]                                       [ALLEGORICAL INTERPRETATION]


As often as in the history of the holy man we betake ourselves in a new book to unravel the mystery of the typical explanation, it must be either from that man’s name or course of suffering that we mainly draw out the mystical interpretation, so that after the manner of dwelling houses, whilst we set forth a superscription of the title on the very front of the door post, whereas it is known whose house it is, one may enter with greater security.  Now I remember that I have often said that blessed Job, both by his course of suffering and his name, marked out the sufferings of our Redeemer, and of His Body, i.e. Holy Church.  For ‘Job’ is by interpretation ‘Grieving.’  And who else is represented in this grieving one saving He, concerning Whom it is written, Surely He hath born our griefs and carried our sorrows. [Is. 53, 4]  Concerning Whom again it is written, And with His bruise we are healed? [ib. 5]  But his friends bear the likeness of heretics, who, as we have often said already, while they set themselves to defend, only offend God.  Thus let the holy man by words and wounds so tell things of his own as at the same time to set forth ours also, and most often, by the spirit of prophecy, relate things to come, surmount things present, yet sometimes so tell of those present as to be silent touching those future, The keeping then of this exercise of discernment being understood in accordance with the altering of his voice, let our understanding likewise turn about, that it may agree the more truly with his ideas in proportion as it also shifts itself with his accents. Thus by the preceding words the holy man, in sentences eloquently formed by the art of wisdom, set forth the offences of the bad man of whatever kind, and represented how damnable his conduct was, of whose punishment he directly adds, saying,

Let him not be in remembrance; let him be crushed like an unfruitful stump.


[ii]                                              [MORAL INTERPRETATION]


2.  For he is not brought back into the ‘remembrance’ of his Creator, whosoever to the very end of his life is in subjection to evil habits.  Since if the recollection of the regard from Above did make itself felt on such an one, assuredly it would recall him from his wickedness.  For his deserts require that he should be utterly blotted out from his Maker’s remembrance.  But it is to be borne in mind that God can never strictly be said to ‘remember;’ for One Who cannot forget, in what way is it possible for Him to remember?  But whereas it is our way that those whom we remember we embrace, but those whom we forget we part far from, after the usage of man God is both said to ‘remember,’ when He bestows gifts, and to forget, when He forsakes one in guilt.  But because He weighs all things, views all without any alternating of intermission, He both remembers the good, whom still He never forgets, and no wise remembers the bad, whom nevertheless in judgment He does ever behold.  For He as it were returns to the recollection of the good, which same nevertheless He never quitted, and as it were He never regards the bad, whose deeds howsoever He has an eye on, but reserves for the last scene the judgment of condemnation thereupon.  For hence it is written, The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good. [Prov. 15, 3]  Hence it is said by the Psalmist, The face of the Lord is upon them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. [Ps. 34, 16]  Therefore the persons for Him to punish He does regard, but those very persons before He did not see, in that He ‘knows them not.’  For He shall say to some at the end, I know You not whence ye are; depart from me, ye that work iniquity. [Luke 13, 27]  Thus, in a wonderful way, He both beholds and forgets the life of bad men, in that those whom by severity of sentence He judges, as regards the remembrance of mercy He is ignorant of.


3.   And these same, because they do not come into His remembrance, like an unfruitful slump are broken to pieces by His judgment.  For the earth supported them with a temporal outfitting, the shower of preaching poured down on them from above.  But because their life never put forth the fruit of good works, the husbandman in anger cut it clean away, that according to the sentence of Truth it might not cumber the space, which another may occupy for fruit.  Of which same ‘unfruitful stump’ it is said by John, And now also the axe is laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit shall be hewn down, and cast into the fire. [Matt. 3, 10.  Luke 3, 9]  But in this place, in order that the eternal punishments of the lost sinner may be denoted, the tree is not said to be cut away, but to be broken to pieces, in that the death indeed of the flesh cuts off the reprobate, but the punishment ensuing breaks them in pieces.  For here it is as it were cut down, when he is severed from the present life.  But in hell it is broken in pieces, when he is tortured with everlasting damnation.  But the holy man, as he set forth the strict punishment of the froward one, at once falls back to the sin, that by the immensity of the unjustness he may effectually teach that that excessive damnation of him was not unjust.  It goes on;

Ver. 21.  For he fed the barren and her that beareth not, and to the widow he did not do good.




4.  Who is it in this place that is denominated ‘barren’ saving the flesh, which while it goes after things present alone is not able to engender good thoughts?  and who is styled ‘a widow’ but the soul, which same because the Maker was minded to unite to Himself, He came to the marriage chamber of the carnal womb, as the Psalmist testifies, who saith, Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber? [Ps. 19, 5]  And she is rightly called ‘a widow,’ in that her Husband underwent death in her behalf, and now in the retreats of heaven hidden from her eyes as in the tract of another region He lives.  Thus the wicked man ‘feeds the barren’ and scorns to ‘do good to the widow,’ because in obeying the desires of the flesh, he makes little of the care of the soul and its life.  For with the whole bent and with every effort he considers how without necessities of any kind the flesh which is to die may be made to hold on, and he is indifferent to concern himself for the life of the soul, which either in death or in bliss most surely lives for evermore.  Now it is rightly done that when it is said, He fed the barren, it is directly added, and her that beareth not.  For certain women we know from sacred history were found ‘barren,’ but yet in the end of their days brought forth.  But the flesh is not only called barren, but also she that beareth not, in that of her own wit not even at the last is she capable of begetting good thoughts.  For from her own vigour she is now already going off, and yet things transitory she still ceases not to long for, and being now spent of original force, is well nigh thrown off by that very world which she loves, yet by mischievous endeavour still strives to acquire what is temporal.  She now no longer has the ability to do wicked things, yet does not a whit cease to mind in thought even the things which she does not in act.  Rightly therefore is she called not only ‘barren,’ but also ‘one that beareth not,’ in that of her own wit, as we said, for the offspring of good thought, not even when she has become powerless does she conceive.


5.  Which same may likewise be understood of heretical persons preaching.  For every single preacher of error, while he teaches a people set without the pale of the Church’s unity, is surely ‘feeding the barren, and her that cannot bear,’ seeing that he is bestowing the serviceableness of his labour upon her, who never makes any return of spiritual fruits.  ‘Neither does he do good to the widow,’ forasmuch as for that Holy Church Universal, whose Husband suffered the adverse treatment of death, he scorns to live to and to serve.  For to ‘do good to the widow’ is to take much pains in the consoling of her, who by the love of her dead Husband is crushed to the ground.  And hence by the voice of the Psalmist this same widow, i.e. Holy Church, makes complaint, saying, I looked for comforters, but I found none.  Since then only does she ‘find a comforter,’ when from that death which her husband underwent, she beholds many within herself arise to life.  Now very often the preacher of error is allied with the rich of this world, who for this reason, that they strain over earthly employments, are too blind to detect the crafty tricks of the things delivered, and whereas they go about to be powerful without, they are taken without labour by the noose of froward preaching.  Hence too it is added;

Ver. 22.  He took away the mighty in his might.


6.  Since in the might of his wickedness the mighty he severally takes away, whilst by the craftiness of his error he carries off the great ones of this world.  In opposition to whom it is said by Paul, God hast chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty. [1 Cor. 1, 27]  Now the ‘might’ of the corrupt preacher is the high-flown science of his speaking, puffed up with which he despises all the rest of the world, and in contempt of all men, as being preeminently proficient in himself, he swells big.  Who whilst thinking what is great of himself, and not knowing what is true of God, is parted far from knowledge of the faith, and yet endeavours to make himself appear a preacher thereof.  Whence it is further added;

And when he standeth, he will not believe his like.




7.  Every evil preacher ‘standeth’ in this world, so long as he lives in an earthly body.  But he refuses to ‘believe his life,’ because he is too proud to open his eyes to what is true relating to God.  For he would ‘believe his life,’ if he had right notions concerning the Substance of his Creator.  These things, then, we were describing above as spoken of every bad man, but we suddenly made the meaning turn to the preacher of error.  Whence it is to be noted, that we are so drawn on to the special case as not yet in any wise to be quite taken off from the general.  For every bad man, even if he seem to maintain the faith in the bosom of the Church Universal, ‘standeth and believeth not his life,’ because they are right things indeed which by faith he understands of his Creator, yet the works of faith he cares not to maintain; and he is convicted of unbelief, in that, even from that which he sets forth as his creed, by his way of living he is condemned.  For hence it is said by John, He that saith he knoweth God, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar. [1 John 2, 4]  Hence Paul saith, They profess that they know God, but in works they deny Him. [Tit. 1, 16]  Hence James saith, Faith without works is dead. [Jam. 2, 20. 26.]  But amidst all this the Creator by a wonderful economy of counsel at once has an eye to offences, and bestows periods of living, that the lengthened portions of temporal life may to the person either being converted be turned into the furtherance of reward, or not being converted to the heightening of condemnation.  Hence it is yet further subjoined,

Ver. 23.  God hath given unto him room for repentance, and he abuseth it in pride.




8.  Whosoever commits sin and lives, such a person Divine Appointment for this reason bears with in iniquity, that it may withhold him from iniquity.  But he that is borne with for a longer time, and yet is not withholden from iniquity, is vouchsafed indeed the benefit of the patience Above, yet with the chains of his guilt is by that very benefit binding himself the tighter.  For because the times of repentance vouchsafed he diverts to sin, the strict Judge in the end converts the instances of mercy bestowed into punishment.  Hence it is said by Paul; Or knowest thou not that the longsuffering of God leadeth thee to repentance?  But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God. [Rom. 2, 4.5.]  Hence Isaiah saith, For the child shall die an hundred years old, but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed. [Is. 65, 20]  As though he deterred us in plain words, saying, ‘The life of a child indeed is drawn to a great length, in order that he may be corrected of childish doings, but if he be not even by length of time restrained from the commission of sin, this very length of life, which he received in pitifulness, is made to grow to him into an aggravation of cursing.’  Whence it is necessary that the longer time that we see ourselves to be waited for, we fear the very seasons of pitifulness before granted [praerogatae] as the grounds of condemnation, lest by the clemency of the Judge the punishment of the sinner should be heightened, and by the same means whereby anyone might have been rescued from death, he should tend to death in a manner the more disastrous.  Which is for this reason very often brought to pass, because the eye of the mind is not in the least degree weaned from things present.  For the sinner is careless to regard the ways of the Redeemer, and so he grows old in his own paths without stopping.  Hence it is added;

For his eyes are upon his ways.




9.  For the sinner ‘regards his own ways,’ because he sets himself to mind only, to have an eye only for, things which may stand him in stead for temporal advantage.  Thus it is hence Paul saith, All seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s. [Phil. 2, 21]  For the way of the highminded is pride; the way of the robber, avarice; the way of the lecherous, carnal concupiscence.  Thus every bad man bends his eyes down on his own ways, in that he is intent on vicious pursuits alone, that by these he may satisfy his mind.  Whence it is said by Solomon, The eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth; because that only they regard with the whole bent of the heart, whereby they may attain to the end of earthly desire.  Now the sinner would never fix the gaze of his looking on earth, if he lifted up the eyes of the mind to the holy paths of his Redeemer.  Whence it is again said by Solomon, The wise man’s eyes are in his head; [Eccl. 2, 14] in this way, viz. that with undivided intentness the wise man regards Him, of Whom he reflects by faith that he is a member.  For these ways of man’s walk and conversation, he had deemed it little worth to have in his eye, who said, I will meditate in Thy statutes, and have respect unto Thy ways. [Ps. 119, 15]  As if he gave his word in plain terms, saying, ‘The things which are mine own I henceforth eschew the seeing of, in that by the path of the imitating of Thee I burn to go on in the steps of behaviour.’  For he who henceforth withstands the present world, by the continual inciting of love presents the ways of his Redeemer to the eyes of the heart, that so the mind may eschew what is prosperous, be in readiness for what is adverse, desire nought that soothes down, dread nought that is supposed to dismay, account sorrow joy, estimate the delights of the present life as the ills of woe, not fear the diminutions of a state of scorn, but thereby-seek room for enduring glory.  For these ways Truth shewed to the eyes of those that were following Him, when He said, If any man serve Me, let him follow Me. [John 12, 26]  To these ways he recalled the swelling hearts of the Disciples, when they were already seeking room for glory, but knew not the pathway of that glory, saying, Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of?  For they had been seeking the height of that session with Him on the right hand and on the left hand, but how great the narrowness of the pathway thereunto they did not see; and hence the cup of the Passion is at once presented to their eyes as a thing for them to imitate, that, surely, if they were making for the joys of exaltedness, they should first find the way of humility.  And therefore because the sinner is careless to have an eye to the ways of God, but is bent on those only wherein he may be made to delight in a carnal manner, it is rightly said in this place, For his eyes are upon his ways.  It proceeds;

Ver. 24.  They are exalted for a little while, but they shall not hold on.




10.  The glory of bad men, whilst it is for the most part extended into a multitude of years, is by the minds of the weak reckoned to be long and as it were stable; but when an instantaneous end cuts it off, surely it proves to its face that it was short, because the end by putting a limit makes it known that that which was capable of passing away was little.  And so ‘they are exalted for a little while, and do not hold on,’ because from the mere circumstance that they seek to appear high, they are by self-exalting made far removed from the true essence of God.  For they are not able to hold on, because they are severed from the solid basis of the Eternal Essence, and they undergo this first ruining, that by glorying in self they fall in themselves.  For hence it is said by the Psalmist, Thou castedst them down, when they were lifted up [Ps. 73, 18]; because they are brought down within, in proportion as they arise wrongly without.  Regarding this shortness of temporal glory, he saith again; I have seen the wicked above measure exalted, and lifted up like a cedar of Libanus; I passed by, and lo, he was gone. [Ps. 37, 35]  Hence again he saith, For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be. [ib. 10]  Hence James says, For what is Your life? it is even a vapour that appeareth for a little time.  Hence the Prophet reflecting on the shortness of carnal glory, tells it forth, saying, All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of hay. [Is. 40, 6]  For the power of the wicked is likened to the ‘flower of hay,’ because the glory of the flesh, whilst it shines bright, it falls, whilst it is exalted in itself, cut off by a sudden end it is brought to a close.  For in the same way by the blowing of breezes the stubble is caught on high, but by an instantaneous fall it is brought back to earth below.  Thus the smoke is lifted up to the clouds, but suddenly whilst swelling out it is scattered to nought.  Thus the vapour from beneath thickening lifts itself on high, but the ray of the sun when risen clears it away, as though it had not been.  Thus on the surface of the herbs the moisture of the dew of night is sprinkled, but by the sudden heat of the light of day it is dried away.  Thus the foamy bubbles of water, raised on showers beginning, come forth racing from within, but being burst asunder they come to nought the more quickly in proportion as being inflated they are raised higher, and when they grow to a head, so as to appear, in growing they make it that they should ‘not hold on.’  Therefore concerning the wicked that are swoln with the exaltation of temporal glory, and yet not enduring with any stedfastness in this glory, let it be rightly said, they are exalted for a little while, but they shall not hold on.  Of whom it is yet further added;

And they shall be brought low as all things, and shall be taken away.




11.  Such should be the advancement of contemplation, that it should be carried off from few things to the taking a view of many, from many to taking a view of all things, so that being led forth step by step it should advance; and whilst judging all things transitory should by comprehending itself grow forth well nigh incomprehensibly.  Hence the holy man, whilst he was sifting the glory and the failing of the wicked, stretched to ‘all things’ presently the eye of the mind, saying, they shall be brought low as all things, and shall be taken away; ‘all things’ earthly assuredly.  As though he said in plain words; ‘They cannot any way stand, because the very things flee away as well whereon they rest for support, and while they are in love with things temporal, along with these by the currency of time they run to an end.’  But it may be asked, whereas it is said by Solomon, One generation passeth away, and another  generation cometh; but the earth abideth for ever [Eccl. 1, 4]; why does blessed Job declare that all things ‘are brought low, and taken away?’  Yet this we easily sift out, if we keep distinct how earth and heaven either pass away or remain.  For both these in respect of that figure which they now have pass away, yet in respect of their essence they are held in being without end.  Hence it is said by Paul, For the fashion of this world passeth away. [1 Cor. 7, 31]  Hence Truth saith by Itself, Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away. [Mat. 24, 35]  Hence it is told John by the voice of the Angel, There shall be a new heaven and a new earth. [Rev. 21, 1]  Which indeed are not to be created other things, but these very same are renewed.  And thus heaven and earth at once ‘pass away’ and ‘shall be,’ seeing that both by fire from that fashion which they now have they are clean wiped out, and yet in their own nature are ever preserved.  Hence it is said by the Psalmist, Thou shalt change them, and they shall be changed. [Ps. 102, 26]  Which same final changing of themselves they do now announce to us by those very successions, whereby for our services they unceasingly shift about.  For the earth by the dryness; of winter falls off from its fashion, by the moisture of spring it is made green.  Heaven is every day overlaid by the darkness of night, and renewed by the brightness of day.  Hence, then, hence let every believer gather that these things both perish, and yet by renewal are restored, which it is plain are now perpetually as it were from decay being refitted.  In the midst of all this then the holy man, whilst he beholds the course of the wicked, makes it known with what a visitation they are one day to come to nought, when he forthwith adds;

And as the tops of the ears of corn they shall be crushed.




12.  For the tops of the ears of corn are the beards; now the beards come out joined in an ear of corn, but going on growing little by little they are separated from one another bristly and rough.  Thus, verily, thus, as to this world’s glory do the evil-minded rich ones rise up.  For by a fellowship of nature they are joined to one another, but going on increasing they are in turn divided against one another.  For one looks down upon another, and a second is inflamed against a third with the torches of envy; they then who by the swelling of the mind separate themselves from the unity of charity, as it were after the way of beards stand bristling against one another.  What then might I have called the evilminded rich ones of this world but a kind of beards of the human race, who while they are lifted high against one another, but with one consent press hard upon the life of the good, are indeed divided against themselves, yet with one accord bear down the grains beneath.


13.  At this present time then the beards spring up on high, the grains lie hidden; because both the power of lost sinners towers high, and the glory of the Elect does not appear.  The one shew themselves off in the high estate of honours, the others lower themselves in humility.  But the time of winnowing will arrive, which is calculated both to break the bristling of the beards, and not to bruise the solid grains.  For then the pride of the wicked is broken in pieces, then the life of the Elect is shewn to view, with what faultlessness it shines bright; in that while the unrighteous are undone, by this very crushing of the beard it is brought to pass that the grains should appear, which were holden out of sight; and when the beards are broken, the whiteness of the grains is made to appear, because upon the wicked falling into everlasting punishments, the righteousness of the Saints is manifested, with what truth it is shining white.  Whence too it is rightly said by John, Whose fan is in His hand, and He will throughly purge His floor, and gather His wheat into the garner: but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. [Matt. 3, 12]  So let blessed Job mark with what awful visitation the pride of bad men shall be broken, and comparing them to beards that perish, let him say, Like the tops of ears of corn they shall be crushed.  Surely because the bristling of the proud is broken by the stress of the final winnowing, whereas now looking down upon the life of the Elect it is lifted up.  It proceeds;

Ver. 25.  And if it be not so now, who will convict me of having lied, and set my words before God?




14.  If it be not so as he tells, then surely all people are able to convict him of falsehood.  Why then is it said, And if it be not so now, who will convict me of having lied?  i.e. whilst we know that, one who is false, it is allowed anyone to find fault with?  But if we sift out the sense of the speaker with exact questioning, how light the things are that he put forth, we speedily discover.  For the righteous man, though he does ever speak any thing wrong, yet it is far from meet that he should be judged by the unrighteous and ill living.  Whence the holy man lowering the pride of his friends, not even if it be so, but even ‘if it be not so’ as he set forth, is confident that he can never be found fault with, because assuredly those are able rightly to reprove things that are false, who are not taught to do things that are false.  For the daring of reproof against deceit those persons lose, who still live on principles of deceit.  Therefore he says, And if it be riot so now, who will convict me of having lied?  As if he said in plain words; ‘All things are so as I have set forth, but if they were not so, I could not a whit be charged home with them by you; for whilst ye still give way to your own deceit, ye are not able to find fault with the deceit of another.’


15.  In which place it is fitly added; And to set my words before God.  For whoever really finds fault with false sayings in the true way, in thinking on the things he has heard and estimating them by the rule of truth ‘sets words before God,’ because to himself in the eye of Truth he makes proof what he should outwardly decree against falsehood.  Since ‘to set words before God’ is with the interior Judge kept in view to estimate the exterior sayings.  Thus the holy man does not reckon it possible for his ‘words to be set before God’ by friends behaving with pride.  As if he said in plain terms, ‘The things which I utter ye are for this reason unable to set before the Judge, because by committing sin ye hide His face from you?’  Which same, however, nothing hinders from being understood in type of Holy Church as well, which whilst for her weak members she is found fault with by the scoffing of heretics, laughs to scorn that same craftiness of their scoffing, because with God it is more tolerable that a man should be prostrated in weakness and in ignorance, in conjunction with humility, than that he should compass high themes with self-exaltation.  But forasmuch as the holy man had uttered many words against those, who by transitory power are made proud, and with windy honours swell themselves out; by his rebuke Bildad the Shuhite gaining ground has his eyes opened to see with Whom true power is deposited; saying,

Ver. 2.  Dominion and fear are with Him; Who maketh peace in His high places.


[xii]                                         [LITERAL INTERPRETATION]



16.  As though he expressed himself in plain words; ‘He only truly terrifies the hearts of mortals, who by the power of His Divine nature truly possesses these.’  For what terror does the power of man infuse, which knows not when it may lack the light of that power?  Now it is rightly said, He maketh peace in His high places.  Because there are many things at variance with themselves below, but they run answerably to the harmonious fulness of things above, and by the causing of the interior peace it is brought to pass, that oftentimes the things that are without are ordered without peace.  Thus the good, Almighty God is advancing to merit, when He permits the bad to rage against their life; and things above are made to fit together in harmony, whilst those below are thrown into confusion; because in the heavenly world He joins His Elect to the choirs of the Angels by the same means, whereby in the earthly and lowest scene of things, He bears the practices of lost sinners opposing His behests.


17.  But herein it is of interest to us to enquire, if the highest peace is maintained ‘in the high places,’ what that is which is said to Daniel by the Angel, I am come for thy words; but the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me. [Dan. 10, 13]  And a little afterward; And now will I return to fight with the prince of the Persians.  For when I was going forth there appeared the prince of the Greeks coming. [v. 20]  Whom else then but Angels does he call the ‘Princes’ of the nations, that could have had the power to resist him as he went forth?  Accordingly what peace can there be ‘in the high places,’ if even among the Angelical spirits themselves also there is a conflict of warring carried on, who are always standing present to the view of Truth?  But because there are fixed charges of the Angels set to superintend the regulating of the several particular nations, when the practices of the subject peoples deserve the assistance of the presiding spirits against one another, the spirits themselves that are set in charge are said to come against one another.  Thus the Angel that spake to Daniel is known to have been appointed over the captives of the Israelitish People established in Persia, but Michael is ascertained to be the ruler of those who remained in the land of Judaea from among the same people.  And hence it is said a little afterwards to Daniel by this same Angel; And there is none that holdeth with me in these things, but Michael, your prince. [v. 21]  Concerning whom he says this too which we have before said, but, to, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me.  Who whereas he is never said ‘to be with,’ but to ‘come to help’ is plainly seen to be set over that people which was held captive in another part.  What then is it for the Angel to say, I am come for thy words, but the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me, but to tell his doings to those under him?  As if he said in plain words; ‘The claims [merita] of thy prayers indeed demand that the Israelitish People should be loosed from the yoke of their captivity, but there is still in that same people that which must be purged by the dominion of the Persians; so that touching the liberation of that people the prince of Persia should by rights withstand me, though to thy prayers the tears of those too who were left in Judaea come in aid.’  Whence he subjoins that too which we said; But, lo, Michael, your prince, came to help me.  And when he goes forth in order to fight against the prince of the Persians, there appeareth to him the prince of the Greeks coming towards him.  By which circumstance it is implied that against the Greeks too Judaea had been guilty of somewhat, on account of whom without a doubt it was that he withstood the rescuing of her.  So the Angel hears effectually the prayers of the Prophet, but the prince of Persia withstands, because though the life of the righteous one making supplication already claims the rescue of the People, yet the life of that same People still withstands, that whereas those that had been brought into captivity were not yet completely purified, Persia should rightfully have the dominion over them still.  Michael gives aid, but the prince of Greece comes to battle, because that lengthened captivity of the People suffering oppression might indeed have merited pardon, but to the benefit of their liberation that also stood opposed, which they had done wrong against the Greeks.  Therefore it is rightly said that the Angels come against each other, because the claims of the nations under them are reciprocally at odds with one another.  For the lofty Spirits that are princes to those nations never fight in behalf of those that act unjustly, but justly judge and try their deeds.  And when either the guilt or guiltlessness of each separate nation is brought into the debate of the Court Above, the ruling Spirit of that nation is said to have won in the conflict or not to have won; the one identical victory of all of whom, however, is the Supreme Will of their Maker above them, which Will whilst they ever have before their eyes, what they have not the power they have not the mind to obtain.  Therefore it is well said, Who maketh peace in His high places.  It follows;

Ver. 3.  Is there any number of His soldiers?




18.  In the cognizance of human reason there is not any number of the spirits above, in that it cannot tell how great is that concourse of the Invisible Host, whereof it is said by Daniel, Thousand thousands ministered unto Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. [Dan. 7, 10]  The number of the citizens above is represented as infinite and definite, in order that that which relatively to God is capable of being numbered may be shewn relatively to man to be incapable of being numbered.  Though it is one thing ‘to stand before,’ and another thing to ‘minister to.’  For those Powers stand before Him without a doubt, which never go forth for the communicating things to men.  But those ‘minister to’ Him, who come for discharging the offices of bearers of tidings; yet these same beings also, by the act of contemplation, are not withdrawn from the interior world.  And because they are more in number that ‘minister’ than those that preeminently ‘stand before Him,’ the number of those so ‘standing in presence’ is represented as being definite, but of those that ‘minister’ as indefinite.


19.  Now the Angelical spirits we rightly call ‘the soldiers’ of God, because we are not unaware that those war against the powers of the air, which same conflicts however they carry on not by labour but by authority; for whatsoever thing, in acting against impure spirits, they desire for, by the aid of Him Who ruleth all things, they are equal to.  So of this army when our King was born it is written, And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host. [Luke 2, 13]  Unto which same heavenly host the number of the Elect of men too is joined, who by the lofty aspirations of the mind are set free from the bondage of an earthly conversation.  Concerning whom it is said by Paul, No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life.  Which same though now they be shewn few in number, yet in the invisible country they reign innumerably many, in that though by comparison with the evil-minded they are few, yet in the concourse of their assemblage they cannot be any way measured.  But because the goodness of those soldiers is set firm not by their own powers, but by the inspiration of grace from Above, it is rightly added,

And upon whom doth not His light arise?




20.  For ‘the light’ of God is preventing grace, which if it never arose of free gift in our heart, assuredly our mind would remain dim in the darkness of its sins.  And hence it is added;

Ver. 4.  Can a man be justified being compared with God?  or can he be found clean that is born of a woman?




21.  This verse is spoken above by blessed Job, and is now repeated in the upbraiding of him; since every just man is just by illumination from God, not by comparison with God.  For man’s righteousness when compared with the Maker is unrighteousness, since, even although man had held fast in his own estate of creation, the creature could never be equalled to the Creator.  To which creature howsoever, unto heavier burthens of deficiency, there accrued sin also, which the serpent by plotting brought in, and woman proving frail recommended.  Hence now, forasmuch as man is born by the agency of woman who is made subject to sin, the frailty of the first guilt is inherited in the offspring; and because the branch of the human race was made rotten in the root, it does not hold up in the greenness of its creation.  Hence it is rightly said now, Can a man be justified being compared with God?  or can he be found clean that is born of a woman?  As if it were expressed in plain terms, ‘Let not man entertain pride against his Creator, let him reflect whence he came hither, and understand what he is.’  But observe, there are those that when by the gift of the Spirit they are holpen against the frailty of their flesh, are made to erect themselves, gleam forth in virtues, yea, flash out in the marvels of miraculous signs as well, yet is there no man who may pass through life free from sin, so long as he bears upon him flesh of corruption.  Whence it is yet further added;

Ver. 5.  Behold even to the moon, and it shineth not; yea, the stars are not pure in His sight.




22.  What is denoted by ‘the moon’ but the whole Church together?  what by ‘the stars’ but the souls of the several persons that live rightly?  who amidst the practices of wicked men, whilst they are conspicuous by rare virtues, as it were shine in the darkness of night.  Whence likewise it is said by Paul to the disciples; Among whom ye shine like lights in the world. [Phil. 2, 15]  For that Holy Church is represented by the designation of ‘the moon,’ the Prophet bears witness, saying, The sun was lifted up, and the moon stood in her order. [Hab. 3, 11]  For on ‘the sun being lifted up, the moon is established in her order,’ in that on our Lord ascending into the heavens, Holy Church is thereupon made strong in the authoritative function of preaching.  And that by the title of ‘stars’ the Elect are represented, Paul again informs us, by saying, For one star differeth from another star in glory. [1 Cor. 15, 41]  So ‘the moon doth not shine, and the stars are not clean in His sight,’ because neither doth Holy Church by her own power shine forth in so many miracles, except the gifts of preventing grace fall in showers upon her, nor are the minds of the several persons that live rightly clean of the stains of sinful practices, if they be judged apart from pity; because in the eyes of the strict Judge every single individual his own proneness to corruption doth pollute, unless the grace of One sparing day by day wipe this away.  For the mind of the Elect strives to go forth to the liberty of righteousness, but is still bound and tied with the fetters of frailty, and it longs indeed perfectly to get the better of offences, but so long as it is fettered by the corruption of the flesh, it is tied with the chains thereof, even when it would not be.  Hence therefore let him collect with what a load of sins they are borne down, who neglect to war against the same, if not even they entirely get the better of evil doing, who strenuously fight against it.  And hence it is said, Behold even to the moon, and it shineth not, and the stars are not pure in His sight; it is directly added;

Ver. 6.  How much more is man rottenness, and the son of man a worm?




23.  As if it were in plain words; ‘If those very persons also cannot be void of contagion, who amidst the darkness of the present life shine bright by virtuous attainments, with what guilt of wickedness are they bound, who still live after the flesh?  If those persons cannot be free from sin, who are already walking in the way of heavenly desires, what they who still lie under the loads of sinful habits?  who whilst they are abandoned to the gratifications of their fleshly part, still bear the yoke of rottenness?  Hence Peter saith; And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? [1 Pet. 4, 18]  Hence it is said by Isaiah, Upon the land of My people shalt come up thorns and briars; how much more upon all the houses of joy in the joyous city. [Is. 32, 13]  For by ‘the land of His People,’ the Lord meaneth the mind of all of the Elect.  Upon which He tells of ‘thorns and briars coming up;’ because He sees that not even that very mind is free from the prickles of bad habits.  But ‘the house of joy in the joyous city’ is the mind of the wicked, which whilst it neglects to regard the punishments that are destined to come, in the gratification of the flesh going away from itself, revels in empty mirth.  Thus he saith; Upon the land of My people shalt come up thorns and briars, how much more upon all the houses of joy in the joyous city.  As if He said in plain words; If evil habits sink low even the minds of those, who for desire of the heavenly country put themselves to pain, what guilty courses are they brought under, who without any apprehension abandon themselves in the gratification of the flesh?


24.  But it is a point to be noticed in his discourse how Bildad observed the order of our creation and of our birth, in that he calls ‘man’ not ‘a worm,’ but ‘rottenness,’ but ‘the son of man’ ‘a worm.’  For the first parent of the human race was ‘man,’ not ‘the son of man;’ from whom whosoever came forth, was not only ‘man,’ but ‘the son of man’ as well.  As then from man springs the son of man, so from rottenness springs the worm.  Whence man is lightly called ‘rottenness,’ but the son of man ‘a worm.’  For the first man was ‘rottenness’ not ‘a worm,’ in that though by death he turned to ‘rottenness,’ yet he did not come by a birth out of rottenness.  But he that is the son of man is called ‘a worm,’ because he is henceforth propagated from the corruption of mortal bodies.


25.  Therefore because the words of his friends are concluded, blessed Job sets on with a more penetrating acuteness of the suing, and his words are proportionably strong as they are the last; seeing that even in the same way it is the usage of lawyers, that the argument, by which they beforehand see that they are above their adversaries, they reserve for the conclusion of the suit.  It follows;

C. xxvi. 1, 2.  But Job answered and said, Of whom art thou the helper?  whether of one that is powerless? or dost thou sustain the arm of him that is not strong?




26.  To help one that is weak is an act of charity, to wish to help one that is powerful, of Pride; and so because his friends, whilst bearing the likeness of heretics, on the plea of helping God, endeavoured to make a display of their own wisdom, Bildad is justly found fault with, that it should be said, Of whom art thou the helper? whether of one that is powerless? or dost thou sustain the arm of him that is not strong?  As if he said in plain words; ‘While thou settest thyself to help Him, under Whose greatness thou dost sink to the earth, all the encouragement which thou affordest comes of ostentation, not of piety.’


27.  But herein it is requisite to be known, that even God, Who surely is not ‘powerless,’ we help whilst acting with humility.  And hence it is said by Paul, For we are helper’s of God. [1 Cor. 3, 9]  For when to him, whom He doth Himself by interior grace pervade, we by the voice of exhortation contribute, this which He through the Spirit brings to pass within, we outwardly by the office of the voice do assist, and then only is our exhortation brought to completion, when God was in the heart, to be aided.  Hence He saith elsewhere; So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. [ib. 7]  For to ‘plant’ and ‘water’ is to ‘help,’ both which will be but a void ministration, if in the heart God ‘giveth not the increase.’  But they who have high thoughts of their own power of mind, will not be helpers of God with humility; because whilst they reckon themselves to be of use to God, they are making themselves strangers to the fruit of usefulness.  And hence it is said to the disciples by the voice of Truth, When ye shall have done all those things that are commanded you say, We are unprofitable servants, we have done that which was our duty to do. [Luke 17, 10]  It proceeds;

Ver. 3.  To whom hast thou given counsel? perchance to him that hath not wisdom?




28.  To ‘give counsel to one that is foolish’ is an office of charity, to give it to one that is wise, of ostentation; but to give it to Wisdom Itself, of wrongmindedness; and because those who we have said bear the likeness of heretics, by their mode of speech, were administering to ostentation rather than to usefulness, it is yet further added rightly against Bildad,

And shewn thine own prudence overmuch.


To one to whom there is right prudence it is not overmuch, because according to Paul’s declaration, he seeketh not to be wise above the degree that he ought to be wise.  But to whomsoever there is overmuch prudence, there is not right prudence.  For whilst it is carried beyond due measure, it is made to turn off on one side or another of offence.  Now they shew their prudence to be ‘overmuch,’ who aim to appear fuller of prudence in comparison of others; whence it very frequently happens that whilst they have not the art to be wise in moderation, they even speak things that are foolish.  On account of which circumstance, the actual excess of prudence is yet further subjoined, that it should be said,

Ver. 4.  Whom wouldest thou have taught?  Was it not Him Who made the breathway?




29.  By the ‘breathway’ we live, by prudence we are wise.  But it is ours first to live, and afterwards to be imbued with wisdom; because in order that we have the power to be wise, it is first brought to pass that we should have being.  He, then, Who bestowed life, the same doubtless gave prudence as well.  But because Bildad thought blessed Job was scourged for sin, that secret judgment of God which he should have adored in humility, he set himself with overweening temerity to penetrate to the bottom.  And so that very One he preferred himself before in respect of prudence, Whose judgment without understanding it he judged.  That very One he preferred himself before in prudence, from Whom he received the breathway of life, as though he were wise more than He, the very Being from Whom he had it given it him that he should be.  But because blessed Job whilst bearing a type of Holy Church delivered a few things in the rebuking of proud men, who, he was not ignorant, bore a likeness of heretics, according as he said above; I desire to reason with God; first shewing that ye are forgers of lies, and followers of wrong tenets [Job 13, 3. 4.]; he suddenly lifts himself up to instruction, and in opposition to the ignorance of the highminded, he opens wide the breadth of his knowledge in sentences, saying,

Ver. 5.  Lo, the giants groan under the waters.




30. For it was fitting that by rebuking he should first beat down the swelling of earthly wisdom, and by instruction afterwards pass on to words replete with mysteries.  Thus by ‘giants,’ either apostate Angels, or all proud men may without objection be understood.  For hence it is said by the Prophet, The dead shall not live, the giants shall not rise up again. [Is. 26, 14]  For whom does he call ‘the dead’ saving sinners, and whom does he designate ‘giants’ save those, who over and above take pride in sin.  Now the former do ‘not live,’ because by sinning they have forfeited the life of righteousness; these latter too ‘cannot rise up again’ after death, because, after their transgression being swoln with pride, they do not have recourse to the remedies of penitence.  Hence it is written again, The man that wandereth out of the way of understanding shall remain in the congregation of the dead. [Prov. 21, 16]  For whosoever forsakes the way of righteousness, to whose number does he join himself, saving to the number of the proud spirits?  Now it is well said in opposition to the high-minded, Lo, the giants groan under the waters.  As if it were expressed in plain speech; ‘Wherefore on the score of knowledge should man be proud, when the abyss of ignorance keeps at the bottom the very proudest of the spirits of the Angels?’


31. But if by the name of ‘the giants’ the powerful ones of this world are denoted, in ‘the waters’ we may have the multitudes represented, as John beareth witness, who saith, The waters, which thou seest, are peoples. [Rev. 17, 15]  Now against him that is filled with pride it is well spoken; Lo, the giants groan under the waters; because all that are high and lifted up, while in this life they long to attain the highest pitch of honours, groan under the burthens of peoples.  For in proportion as a man is the higher lifted up here, he is burthened with so much the heavier cares.  And to those very same people in mind and thoughts he is put under, whom in dignity he is put over.  And by these words it is well shewn in brief that all pride lies prostrate on the ground by the mere act by which it lifts itself up on high, so as to be the more effectually bowed down beneath all things from the same cause, that it would fain be set above all.  For man when he is lifted up in high stations, bears so many in number over him, as he rules persons put beneath him.  But those, that are associated with such persons, are by fellowship in their labour themselves also weighed to the ground.  For together with them they likewise bear the toilsomeness of the burthen, whilst along with them they go after the gloriousness of the honour.  Hence whereas he said, Lo, the giants groan under the waters; he directly added;

And they that dwell along with them.




32.  As though he said; ‘Equally with them do they groan,’ who by taking delight are associated to their glory.  Now the very employment of worldly dignities is borne down with readier vices in proportion as it is charged with heavier cares.  For would that the mind of man even at rest might be able to see and eschew sins!  And so because he saw that the longed for heights of affairs cannot be administered without sins, and because it is not hidden from the wrath of God, whatsoever is committed of an unlawful kind, he fitly subjoined in pursuance;

Ver. 6.  Hell is naked before Him, and destruction hath no covering.




33.  Which same Paul likewise saith, But all things are naked and opened unto His eyes. [Heb. 4, 13]  But by the title of ‘hell’ and ‘perdition’ he denoted the devil and all the associates of his condemnation; but Who that One is before whom ‘hell is naked,’ he goes on with telling;

Ver. 7.  He stretcheth out the north over the empty place.


[xxiv]                                    [MYSTICAL INTERPRETATION]


34.  By the title of the ‘north,’ in Holy Writ the devil is used to be designated, who with the thought to bind up the hearts of the nations with the iciness of insensibility, said, I will sit also upon the mount of the Covenant, in the sides of the north. [Is. 14, 13]  And he is ‘stretched over the empty place,’ because he has possession of those hearts, that are not filled with the grace of the love of God.  Yet is it competent to Almighty God, that even those vessels of the devil, empty of every virtue, He may fill with the gift of His grace, and deposit the solid substance of Divine fear in those persons, whom He does not see stablished by any conduct of righteousness.  Hence it is fitly added;

And hangeth the earth upon nothing.




35.  For what is denoted by the title of ‘earth,’ saving Holy Church; who, whilst she receives the words of preaching, renders back the fruit of good works?  Whereof it is said by Moses, Let the earth hear the words out of my lips, let my speech be looked for like the rain. [Deut. 32, 1. 2.]  And what but the several gentile peoples are denoted by ‘nothing,’ of whom it is spoken by the Prophet, All nations before Him are as nothing, and they are counted to Him less than nothing. [Is. 40, 17]  In that ‘nothing,’ then, is ‘the earth hung suspended,’ which before, being a void place, was occupied by the ‘north;’ because those hearts of the Gentiles became filled with the love of God, which had been aforetime weighed down by a deadness of the devil.  But it may be that both by this ‘empty place,’ the infidelity of Judaea is denoted, and by ‘the earth,’ as we said, the propagation of Holy Church.  Thus let the holy man look at the fall of Judaea in her perishing, and espy the privileges of the gentile world brought back to pardon, and let him say, He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing.  For because the hearts of the Gentiles, being void of faith, were made subject to the devil, ‘He stretched the north over the empty place;’ and because, there being no merits forthcoming, (as it is said, For nothing shalt Thou save them, [Ps. 56, 7. Vulg.]) upon the Gentiles the Lord founded His Church, which same Gentiles are by the Prophet called ‘nothing,’ in pursuing the subject he rightly adds, And hangeth the earth upon nothing.  Now in what order this thing was done, he continues in subjoining with wonderful method.  For he saith,

Ver. 8.  He bindeth up the waters in his thick clouds, that they should not burst forth alike beneath.




36.  For what does he call ‘the waters’ in this place but knowledge; what ‘clouds’ but the Preachers?  For that in Holy Writ ‘water’ may sometimes be a term used for knowledge, we have been taught by Solomon bearing witness to it, who says, The words of a man’s mouth are as deep waters, and the well-spring of wisdom as a flowing brook. [Prov. 18, 4]  That, by water knowledge is denoted, the Prophet David bears witness, saying, Dark water in clouds of the sky, [Ps. 18, 11] i.e. secret knowledge in the Prophets, who before the Advent of the Lord, whilst, pregnant with secret sacraments, they were bearing in them boundless mysteries, to the eyes of beholders had their meaning obscured.  But by the name of ‘clouds,’ what else is denoted in this passage but the holy Preachers, i.e. the Apostles, who being dispatched in every direction through the regions of the world, both knew how to shower in words, and to flash forth [coruscare] in miracles?  Whom the Prophet Isaiah beholding long before, said, Who are these that fly as clouds? [Is. 60, 8]  Thus because this man, filled with the spirit of prophecy, in this utterance of his voice longs that for the praise of God the rise of Holy Church may commence, he betakes himself to tell the order of her rise from the preaching of the Apostles, who took the greatest pains to preach to uninstructed people what was plain and comprehensible, not what was high and arduous.  For holy knowledge, which is here set forth by the title of water, if in the same way that they drew it from the heart, so they poured it forth from the lips, by the immensity thereof they would overwhelm rather than water their hearers.  Hence his knowledge being unbound within, that it should not burst forth alike beneath, in nourishing his hearers with the dropping of words, that ‘cloud’ spake, saying, And I brethren could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.  I have fed you with milk and not with meat. [1 Cor. 3, 1. 2.]  For who could have borne it if he that was caught up to the third heaven, that was caught into paradise, even hearing unutterable words, which it was not permitted to man to speak, had opened such unbounded depths of celestial knowledge?  or what hearer’s power would he not overwhelm, if all that he might have been able to draw within, as far as tongue of flesh may suffice, overflowing without the mighty flood of this water had poured forth?


37.  But that uninstructed hearers might be comforted not by an inundation of knowledge, but by the tempered dropping of preaching, God tieth up the waters in the clouds, that they may not burst forth alike beneath.  Because He tempers the preaching of the teachers, that so the infirmity of the hearers, being nourished by the dew of the things spoken, may be made strong.  Which is well described in the Gospel by a mystical mode of representation, where it is said, Jesus entered into the boat of Peter, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land; and he sat down thus, and taught the people. [Luke 5, 3]  By Peter’s ship what else is denoted but the Church committed to Peter? and that the Lord may preach to the crowds flocking together out of this ship, He orders it to be ‘thrust out a little from the land.’  Which same he neither bids to be carried into the deep, and yet does bid that it be thrust out from the land, signifying, surely, that to uninstructed people His preachers ought not to preach either what is too deep relating to the heavenly world, nor yet what is earthly.  And so ‘water is bound up in the clouds,’ because the knowledge of the Preachers, speaking to the minds of the frail, is forbidden to teach as much as it is able to see.


38.  Since, for the most part, if the heart of the hearers is spoilt by the vastness of the utterance, the tongue of the persons teaching is mulcted in the damage of indiscretion.  Whence it is written; And if a man shall open a cistern, or if a man shall dig a pit and not cover it, and an ox or an ass fall therein, the owner of the pit shall make it good. [Ex. 21, 33. 34.]  For what is it ‘to open a cistern,’ saving with strong understanding to penetrate the mysteries of Holy Writ?  And what is understood by an ‘ox’ and an ‘ass,’ viz. a clean and an unclean animal, save every believer and unbeliever?  Accordingly, let him that ‘diggeth a cistern cover it, lest an ox or an ass tumble headlong therein,’ i.e. let him, who already makes out deep things in Holy Writ, by silence cover over his lofty perceptions before those that do not reach that compass, lest by a stumbling-block to the soul he kill either the believing little one, or the unbelieving, who might have been led to believe.  For upon the death of the beasts of burthen there are damages due, plainly because he is convicted of having done that, whereby he is held a debtor for the exercising of penance [a].  Accordingly, ‘the cistern must be covered,’ in that before little minds, deep knowledge requires to be veiled, lest by the same cause that the heart of the teachers is lifted up to the highest things, the infirmity of the hearer fall away to the lowest.  Accordingly let it be said with justice, He bindeth up the waters in His clouds, that they should not burst forth alike beneath.  For ‘the waters would burst forth alike,’ if, in the presence of weak hearers, the knowledge came forth from the lips of the speaker as great as it is, if all the whole fulness of preaching poured itself out at once, and reserved nought to itself together with those making progress.  For it is fitting that he that preaches should have an eye to the measure of him that hears him, so that the preaching itself may grow with his hearers’ stages of growth.  For so does it behove every single preacher to do, as it is dealt with himself from heaven; never to tell to the weak all that he has the perception of, because he himself too, so long as by flesh of mortality he is weak, does not perceive all those things that belong to heaven.  And therefore he ought not to preach to the ignorant as much as he is acquainted with, because even he himself, touching heavenly mysteries, cannot have his eyes open to see how great they are.  For hence it is that Paul the Apostle, after he was admitted to the mysteries of heaven, saith, For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face. [1 Cor. 13, 12]  And hence it here follows in continuation;

Ver. 9.  He holdeth back the face of His Throne, and spreadeth His cloud upon it.


[xxvii]                                     [LITERAL INTERPRETATION]


39.  In the face there is wont to be shewn forth acquaintanceship.  Thus ‘the face of His Throne is held back,’ in that by us in this life the gloriousness of His kingdom is not perceived, so great as it is had within; ‘upon which the cloud’ is rightly said ‘to be stretched;’ because that glory of the heavenly kingdom is not seen such as it is.  For the corruptible body presseth down the soul; and the earthy tabernacle weigheth down the mind that museth upon many things. [Wisd. 9, 15]  And so against seeing it we are besprinkled with a mist, for we are darkened by the mere cloudiness of our ignorance.  Whence it is rightly said by the Psalmist, And darkness was under His feet; and He rode above the Cherubim, and did fly; He did fly above the wings of the wind: He made darkness His secret place. [Ps. 18, 9–11]  For there is ‘darkness to Him under His feet,’ in that by those beneath He is not seen in that brightness, wherewith He exercises dominion among those above.  For He ‘rode above the Cherubim, and did fly;’ since the ‘Cherubim’ is a term used for the fulness of knowledge.  By consequence he is said above the fulness of knowledge to have ‘ridden, and to have flown,’ because the loftiness of His Majesty there is no knowledge doth compass.  ‘He did fly,’ because He transported Himself on high, far from the reach of our understanding.  ‘He did fly above the wings of the wind,’ because He transcended the knowledge of souls.  He made darkness too His secret place, because whereas we are dimmed with the mists of our infirmity, by virtue of our ignorance He is hidden from us, that He should not be seen by us now in eternal and interior Brightness.  Hence in the Song of Songs also it is said to Him by the Spouse, Escape, my Beloved, escape. [Cant. 8, 14]  ‘It escapes us,’ we say, as often as that does not occur to our minds which we wish to remember.  ‘It escapes us,’ we say, when that which we wish we do not retain in our recollection.  So Holy Church, after that she sets forth the Death and Resurrection and Ascension of our Lord, cries out to Him, full of the Spirit of Prophecy, Escape, my Beloved, escape.  As though she said; ‘Thou That art made by the flesh comprehensible, do Thou by Thy Divine Nature transcend the comprehension of our perception, and in Thine own Self remain to us Incomprehensible.’  And so He ‘holdeth back the face of His throne,’ because He hideth the power of His Majesty from mortal beings.


40.  But if we render His ‘throne’ the Angelical Powers, for on these same Powers He sitteth enthroned as on a royal seat, ‘He keeps back the face of His Throne’ from us, because so long as we have our subsistence in this mortal flesh, what and how wonderful those ministrations of the Angels are, we do not perceive.  ‘And He spreadeth His cloud upon it’ assuredly because He both lifts up our heart for making search, and yet it is brought to pass by a secret mode of control, that by the very endlessness of its searching it is kept back.  Whence it is written, The deep uttered its voice at the loftiness of its imagining. [Hab. 3, 10]  For the mind of man is forced to cry out in admiration, when, in loftiness of survey, it is straitened in its searchings by the very act by which it is enlarged.  Or, surely, because we are ourselves the ‘throne’ of God, He is said not unjustly to ‘keep back the face of His throne,’ when our knowledge is prevented advancing to things of a higher range.  Upon which same throne God is said ‘to spread His cloud,’ because remaining Himself invisible, He puts forth secret judgments upon us, that at once a thing should be done in prominency, that we should be able to see, and yet the origin of the deed be hidden in concealment, so that the reason wherefore it be done, we should needs not know.  Hence too it is fitly added;

Ver. 11.  He hath compassed the waters with bounds, until the light and darkness come to an end.




41.  Because very often in Holy Writ, as we said above, by the name of ‘waters’ peoples are denoted; the Lord compasseth the waters with bounds; because He so tempers the knowledge of mankind: that until the successions of the changing seasons pass away, it cannot perfectly attain to the knowledge of the Interior Brightness.  But if by the name of ‘light’ we understand the righteous, and by the designation of ‘darkness’ sinners; (and hence Paul saith, For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light, [Eph. 5, 8]) there is nothing to hinder this same thing that we said being understood, ‘that the perfect knowledge of eternity is vouchsafed to no one, until the course of the righteous and of the unrighteous is brought to an end.’  But because it is not wonderful that carnal people know nothing of things above, the holy man lifts himself up in astonishment at that same Divine power, and considers that it surpasses the very knowledge of Angels and perfect men as well, saying,

The pillars of heaven tremble, and are astonished at his nod.


[xxix]                                     [MYSTICAL INTERPRETATION]



42.  What else does he call ‘the pillars of heaven’ but the holy Angels, or the principal preachers of the Church, over whom in the heavenly world the whole structure of the spiritual edifice increasing arose, as Holy Scripture elsewhere bears witness, saying, Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God. [Rev. 3, 12]  For whoever is established firmly by a right purpose of mind in the work of God, is set up as a pillar in the structure of the spiritual edifice; that being placed in this temple, which is the Church, he should be both for usefulness and ornament.  But Job calls those ‘pillars of heaven’ whom the Apostle calls ‘pillars’ of the Church, saying, Peter, and James, and John, which seemed to be pillars, gave me the right hand. [Gal. 2, 9]


43.  We may also not inappropriately interpret the ‘pillars of heaven’ the Churches themselves, which being many in number, constitute one Catholic Church spread over the whole face of the earth.  Hence too the Apostle John writes to the seven Churches, meaning to denote the one Catholic Church replenished with the Spirit of sevenfold grace, and we know that Solomon said of the Lord, Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars. [Prov. 9, 1]  And the same, to make known that it was of the seven Churches he had spoken that, in going on sedulously introduced the very Sacraments themselves too, saying, She hath killed her sacrifices, she hath mingled her wine, she hath also set forth her table; she hath sent forth her maidens, that they may cry to the citadel and to the walls of the cityIf any be a little one, let him come to me. [Prov. 9, 2–4]  For the Lord ‘killed the sacrifices’ by offering Himself on our behalf.  He ‘mingled the wine,’ blending together the cup of His precepts from the historical narration and the spiritual signification.  Whence it is elsewhere written, For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup, and the wine is red; it is full of mixture. [Ps. 75, 8]  And ‘He set forth His table,’ i.e. Holy Writ, which with the bread of the word refreshes us when we are wearied, and come to Him away from the burthens of the world, and by its effect of refreshing strengthens us against our adversaries.  Whence too it is elsewhere said by the Church; Thou preparest a table before me, against them that trouble me. [Ps. 23, 5]  He ‘sent forth His maidens,’ i.e. the souls of the Apostles, being in their actual beginning infirm [i.e. thence called maidens, see on Job 1, 2 Bk I. §. 20. T. 1.], ‘that they might cry to the citadel and the walls of the city;’ in that whilst they tell of the interior life, they lift us up to the high walls of the City Above, which same walls, surely, except any be humble they do not ascend.  Whence it is there added by that same Wisdom; If any be a little one, let him come unto Me.  As if she said in plain words; ‘Whosoever accounts himself great in his own eyes, contracts the avenue of his approach unto Me; for there is a loftier reaching unto Me in proportion as the mind of each one is in himself the more truly abased.’


44.  But with whatever degree of goodness a man may be advanced, with whatever knowledge he may be made to grow, he cannot fathom to the bottom, what a governance of judgments the Lord rules us with.  Therefore let him say, The pillars of heaven tremble, and are astonished at his nod; because in most things not those even are able to reach the lofty height of His will, who whilst announcing see the rewards of that will.  Which, as we said above, there is nothing hinders being interpreted of the Holy Angels as well; because the very Powers of the heavenly world themselves, which behold Him without ceasing, in that very contemplation of theirs are made to tremble.  But that that should not be a trembling of woe to them, it is one not of fear, but of admiration.  Now because he had brought in how great the consternation of his wonderment was, he now relates the order of our salvation.  It follows;

Ver. 12.  In His might the seas are suddenly gathered together, and His wisdom hath struck the proud one.




45.  What else is denoted by the title of the sea save the present world, wherein the hearts of men seeking after earthly things swell with the diverse billows of the thoughts? which same being stirred up by the exaltation of pride, whilst with cross sway they thwart one another, do as with confronting waters dash themselves together.  But henceforth ‘the seas are gathered together in His might,’ because on the Lord being made Incarnate, the discordant hearts of worldly men believe in agreement.  Henceforth Peter ‘walks on the sea,’ because to the preachers of Christ, these once swelling hearts are by lowly hearing bowed down to the earth, so that in the Gospel too it justly represented the gentleness of this world, that the stormy water of the sea, its swelling being forced down, was trodden by the feet of the Lord.  Now in what manner that was done is disclosed, when it is said, His wisdom hath struck the proud one.


[ii]                                    [PROPHETICAL INTERPRETATION]


46.  Who else is here called ‘proud,’ saving he who said, I will ascend above the height of the clouds, I will be like the Most High [Is. 14, 14]; and concerning whom it is spoken by the voice of God, Who is made that he should fear none, and himself is king over all the sons of pride. [Job 41, 24. 25.]  With reference to whom moreover the prophet David agrees with this sentence, saying, Thou hast abased the proud man, like one wounded. [Ps. 89, 10]  But though to the simple nature of Deity it is not one thing to be, and another thing to be wise, nor one thing to be wise, and another to be strong, forasmuch as the strength is identically the same that the wisdom, and the wisdom that the essence of the Deity is, yet I consider it a thing to be regarded with lively attention, that this man being filled with the prophetic spirit, chose to describe the proud devil as stricken by ‘the wisdom’ rather than the power of God.  For he saith not, ‘His might,’ but, ‘His wisdom hath struck the proud one.’  For, as we have said, although by right of simple Nature, the Might of God is the Wisdom of God, yet as to the appearance, the Lord overcame the devil, not by power, but by reason; for the devil himself, by overthrowing us in that root of our first parent, as it were rightfully held man under his thraldom, who whilst he was created with free will, yielded consent to him, when he prompted what was unjust.  For when created to life in the freedom of his own will, he was of his own accord made the debtor to death.  Therefore such a transgression was to be done away; but saving by sacrifice it could not be done away.  A sacrifice was to be sought after, but what sacrifice could be found "for the setting men free?  For neither was it just that for reasoning man there should be slain sacrifices of brute beasts.  Whence the Apostle says, It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. [Heb. 9, 23]  And so if brute creatures on behalf of a rational animal, i.e. in the stead of man, were not proportionate victims, a man was to be sought out, who should be offered for men, that for a reasoning being committing sin there might be offered a reasoning victim.  But what of the fact, that a man without sin could not be found?  And the victim offered in our stead, when could it cleanse us from sin, if the actual victim itself was not without sin’s contagion?  Since it being defiled could never have cleansed the defiled.  Therefore that it might be a rational victim, Man was to be offered, but that it might cleanse man from his sins, Man and that Man without sin.  But who might there be man without sin, if he was descended from a combination in sin?  Thereupon in our behalf the Son of God came into the womb of the Virgin; there for our sakes He was made Man.  Nature, not sin, was assumed by Him.  He offered a sacrifice in our behalf, He set forth His own Body in behalf of sinners, a victim void of sin, that both by human nature He might be capable of dying, and by righteousness be capable of purifying.  This One, then, when the ancient enemy saw after the Baptism, then directly fell upon Him with temptations, and by diverse avenues strove to insinuate himself into His interior; he was overcome and laid prostrate by the mere sinlessness of His unconquerable mind.


47.  But because to the interior his strength did not reach, he betook himself to His outward man, that because he was subdued by the prowess of the soul, Him, Whom he had not the power to deceive by temptation, he might at all events by the death of the flesh seem to vanquish.  And, as it has been said before us, he had leave granted to him against that, which the Mediator had taken from us mortals.  But where he had power to do something, there he was vanquished utterly on every side; and from the same cause that he obtained the power outwardly to kill the flesh of the Lord, his interior power, whereby he held us fast, was killed.  For he was himself vanquished within, whilst in seeming he vanquished without; and he, who of right held us the debtors of death, of right lost in us the right of death; because by means of his ministers, he sought for the flesh of Him to be done to death, in Whom he found no whit of the debt of sin.  Thus our Lord did in our behalf pay death not due, that death due might not injure us; and so it is well said, And His wisdom hath struck the proud one; because our old enemy by the excess of his presumption lost even him, whom by the law of wicked persuasion he got possession of; and whilst he audaciously went after Him, in Whom there was nought at his command, by right he lost him, whom he as it were justly held bound.  Therefore he was ‘stricken by wisdom,’ and not by power, in that while he is let loose for the tempting God, he is unfastened from possessing man; so that him that was under him, he should lose by the same act, whereby he had ventured to come to an encounter with Him, Who is over him.  But upon the Lord being killed in the flesh, what gloriousness of powers came upon his Preachers is related, when it is added,

Ver. 13.  His Spirit garnished the heavens.


[xxxi]                                       [MYSTICAL INTERPRETATION]


48.  What ‘heavens,’ saving those concerning whom it is written, The heavens are telling the glory of God? [Ps. 19, 1]  Which ‘heavens His Spirit garnished’ then, when It ‘filled’ them.  Which we have learnt by Luke’s relating, who saith, Suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting; and there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. [Acts 2, 2–4 ]  From Him, then, they received the adornments of prowess, whom an exceeding disfigurement of fear before had possession of.  For we know that first one of the Apostles, i.e. of the ‘heavens,’ how often, before the grace of the Holy Spirit was vouchsafed, whilst he feared to die, he denied ‘the Life;’ who not by punishments, not by inflictions, not by the dreadful power of anyone, but by the simple interrogation of a single slave, was brought to the ground.  And truly that that slave the sterner sex might not exhibit as an object to cause alarm, it was by a maidservant putting the question that he was tried.  Again, that the weakness of such a sex, by the lowness of her office as well might be made contemptible, he was questioned not by a maidservant only, but by a maidservant keeper of the door.  See how contemptible the person is that is sought out for the purpose of trying him, that it might be plainly brought to light, what excessive weakness of fear possessed him, who even before the voice of a maidservant of the door could not stand fast.


49.  But this one a little before so full of affright, what after the Coming of the Holy Spirit he became, let us now see.  Surely we have learnt by Luke’s attesting it, with what an authoritativeness he preached the word, in opposition to the priests and rulers.  For when upon a miracle being wrought inquiry had arisen, and the rulers from among the priests, the elders, and the scribes laid their hands together in the persecution of the Apostles, setting those persons in the midst, they busied themselves to ask in what power they had wrought the miracle.  Unto whom Peter being filled with the Holy Spirit spake, Ye rulers of the people and elders; if we be this day examined of the deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, Whom ye crucified, Whom God raised from the dead, even by Him doth this man stand here before you whole. [Acts 4, 8. &c.]  And when the rage of the persecutors against this grew to a head, and the priests and rulers forbade those men to preach Jesus, with what independent power Peter rose in height against the wrath of the rulers, is made plain, when it is there added directly, But Peter and the Apostles answered and said unto them, It is right to obey God rather than man. [v. 19]  But when the commands of those withstanding did not repress the influence of the persons preaching, it comes to scourges.  For it is added, And when the chief priests had beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the Name of Jesus, and let them go. [Acts 5, 40]  But that the prowess of the Apostles not even scourges had power to restrain, is openly shewn, when it is immediately introduced next, And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the Name of Jesus.  And immediately even after the rejoicing of their scourges what they did we have pointed out; And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and to preach Jesus Christ.  Mark, that man, a little while before full of fears, now speaks with tongues, flashes forth with miracles, with free voice rebukes the unbelief of the priests and rulers, gives to the rest for the preaching of Jesus an example of independence.  That he should not speak in His Name, he is restrained by scourgings, and yet is not withheld.  He sets at nought the strokes of those that scourged him, who a little while back had dreaded the words of those that questioned him.  And he that when asked a question shrunk in consternation from the powers of a maidservant, when beaten with the rod forces back the powers of the rulers.  For being henceforth established by the efficacy of the Holy Spirit, the heights of this world he trod down with the heel of liberty, that he should see that that was low down on the earth, whatever it was that swelled high against the grace of the Creator.


50.  These are the ornaments of the heavens, these are the gifts of the Spirit, that are used to be manifested by divers powers, which as divided by the bestowal of secret distribution Paul reckons up, saying, For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same’ Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues. [1 Cor. 12, 8–10]  All which directly afterwards including in one by a general statement he says, But all these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will.  Of these ‘heavens’ too it is said in the Psalm, By the word of the Lord were the heavens set fast. [Ps. 33, 6]  Of these ornaments of the Spirit also it is added, And all the power of them by the Spirit of His mouth.  Therefore it is well said, His Spirit hath garnished the heavens; because the holy Preachers, except they received the gifts of the Paraclete, that were promised to them, would not have shone with any comeliness of might.  But because when the Holy Apostles were beautified with the grace of the gifts of virtue, the preaching of life gained ground against the hearts of unbelievers, and our old enemy being expelled by the voices of the preachers, abandoned the minds of the unbelievers, which he had close beset; after the ornaments of the heavens it is fitly subjoined;

And by the midwifery of His hand the crooked serpent is brought forth.


[xxxii]                                [PROPHETICAL INTERPRETATION]


51.  For who is described by the designation of the ‘serpent,’ but our old enemy, at once slippery and crooked, who for the deceiving of man spake with the mouth of a serpent?  Of whom it is said by the Prophet, Leviathan the bar-serpent, the crooked one [Is. 27, 1]; who was for this reason allowed to speak with the mouth of a serpent, that by that very vessel of his man might learn what he was that dwelt within.  For a serpent is not only crooked but slippery as well; and so because he stood not in the uprightness of truth, he entered into a crooked animal, and because if to his first suggestion resistance be not made, in a moment whilst it is not perceived he slips in entire into the interior of the heart, he made speech to man by a slippery animal.  Now ‘the dens’ of this serpent were the hearts of wicked men.  Which same because he drew on to his own depravity, he as it were rested in the dwelling place of them.  But ‘by the midwifery of the Lord’s hand, the crooked serpent is driven out of his own dens,’ in that whilst the Divine grace heals us, he that had held possession of us, our old enemy, is cast out of us, as Truth Incarnate says, Now shall the prince of this world be cast out. [John 12, 31]  Hence all the Saints now already he does not possess by holding, but persecutes by trying.  For because he does not reign in them within, he fights against them without, and because he has lost his dominion in the interior, he sets on foot wars in the exterior.  For him That One drove forth from the carnal hearts of men, Who for the sake of men came to the state of Incarnation; and whereas He took seisin of the hearts of unbelievers, He as it were put His hand to the dens of the serpent.  Whence it is rightly said by the Prophet; And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice den.  They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My Holy Mountain. [Is. 11, 8. 9.]  For whom does he call ‘the sucking child,’ or ‘the weaned child,’ saving the Lord?  And what did he denote by ‘the hole of the asp,’ and ‘the cockatrice den,’ saving the hearts of wicked men?  Because our old enemy, whereas he gat himself wholly into their consenting, as a crooked serpent in his own hole, he gathered and wound up the coils of his craftiness; whom he both designates with the title of ‘asp’ as covertly ravening, and of a ‘cockatrice’ as openly wounding.  And so the Lord ‘put His hand upon the hole of the asp and the cockatrice,’ when He took seisin of the hearts of the wicked by Divine power.  And the asp and the cockatrice, being seized, i.e. the devil, he drew away therefrom a captive, that ‘in His Holy Mountain,’ which is the Church, he might not ‘harm’ His Elect believers.


Thus it is hence said in the Song of Songs, on the coming of the Spouse; Thou shalt be crowned from the top of Amana, from the top of Shenir and Hermon, from the lions’ dens. [Cant. 4, 8]  For what else is denoted by the title of the lions but the devils, which rage against us with the fury of the deadliest cruelty?  And because the sinners are called to faith, whose hearts were once ‘the dens of lions,’ when by their confession the Lord is believed to have overcome death, it is as if He were ‘crowned from the lions’ dens.’  For a crown is the recompense of victory.  So often then do the faithful offer a crown to Him, as they confess that He has overcome death by virtue of the Resurrection.  And so ‘the lion is driven from his den,’ because ‘by the midwifery of the Lord’s hand,’ ‘the crooked serpent is hindered from dwelling in the dens,’ which he had possession of.  For he went forth defeated from the hearts of believers, who had aforetime ruled over them with the sceptre of unbelief.


53.  Observe how in a few short sentences the holy man related the order of the Lord’s Advent, set forth its weighty charges, and in admiring described what by His Incarnation was possible to be done.  But He, Who wrought marvellous things when He came in humility, cannot be viewed with all the great terribleness He shall come with, when He appeareth in the mightiness of His Majesty.  The order of His first Advent might be viewed and estimated, in so far as in coming to redeem carnal beings, He abated the greatness of His Divinity to carnal eyes.  But who might bear the terrors of His Highness, when with the power of the Second Advent in exercising judgment by fire, He shall glow in the Majesty of His power?  Whence the holy man describes His first Advent, but is exhausted for the second, saying,

Ver. 14.  Lo, these things have been spoken for part of His ways; and whilst we scarcely hear a little drop of His words, who shall be able to look on the thunder of His Majesty?




54.  What is meant in this place by the designation of the ‘ways,’ but the Lord’s modes of acting?  Hence too the Lord saith by the Prophet; For My ways are not as your ways. [Is. 55, 8]  Accordingly in telling of the Advent of the Lord, he had described the ways of God in part; because His method of acting by which He created us was one thing, and that by which He redeemed us another.  Thus those things, which he told touching the Lord’s way of acting, making light of by comparison with the final Judgment, he says, Lo, these things are spoken for part of His ways.  Which he also calls ‘a little drop of His words,’ for whatsoever thing that is high, whatsoever thing that is terrible, we whilst set in this life are brought to know by the contemplation of Him, from the vast ocean of the secrets of Heaven wells out to us like a slight drop of the liquid element Above.  And who shall be able to look on the thunder of His Majesty?  As though he expressed himself in plain words; ‘If we scarce endure the wonders of His humility, the loud and dreadful Advent of His Majesty with what nerve do we encounter?’  This thundering of His Advent the Psalmist also sounds out, saying, Our God shall come in state, our God, and shall not keep silence, a fire shall devour before Him, and a mighty tempest round about Him. [Ps. 50, 3]  Hence Zephaniah the Prophet tells it out, saying, The Great Day of the Lord is near; it is near and hasteth greatlyThe voice of the Day of the Lord is bitter: the mighty man shall be troubled there.  That Day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of cloud and whirlwind, a day of the trumpet, and of a dreadful sound. [Zeph. 14–16]  The terror then of the Strict Inquest, which Zephaniah calls ‘the Trumpet,’ blessed Job designates ‘thundering.’  Which Joel also viewing saith, Let all the inhabitants of the land be troubled; for the Day of the Lord cometh; for it is nigh at hand, a day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of cloud and whirlwind.  For the Day of the Lord is great, and very terrible, and who shall sustain it? [Joel 2, 1–3]  But how incomprehensible and unimaginable that Greatness wherewith He shall come in His Second Manifesting, in some degree we estimate aright, if we consider with heedful reflection the weighty particulars of His first Advent.  Surely that He might redeem us from death, the Lord came to die, and the impoverishment and punishments of our flesh He underwent in His own Body; Who before He came to the stock of the Cross, suffered Himself to be bound, to be spit on, to be mocked and to be beaten with blows on His cheek.  Observe to what disgraceful treatment He for our sakes consented to come, and yet, before He permitted Himself to be laid hold of, He questioned His persecutors, saying, Whom seek ye?  To Whom they thereupon gave answer, Jesus of Nazareth.  And when He said to them directly, I am He, He only uttered a voice of the mildest answer, and at once prostrated His armed persecutors to the earth.  What then shall He do when He cometh to judge the world, who by one utterance of His voice smote His enemies, even when He came to be judged?  What is that Judgment which He exercises as immortal, Who in a single utterance could not be endured when He was about to die?  Who may sustain His wrath, Whose very mildness even could not be sustained?  So then let the holy man consider it and say, And whilst we scarcely hear a little drop of His words, who shall be able to look on the thundering of His Majesty?